It was the summer of 2007, and I would soon be turning 17. Like so many others that age, I was depressed and felt powerless. I had been listening to music voraciously for the past 20-21 months. My taste was very eclectic and not limited to one genre like most teens. My two favorite bands were Radiohead and Rage Against The Machine, but I was also a huge fan of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Primus, Muse, Brand New, Coheed & Cambria, and Boys Night Out. My passion for listening to albums went beyond mere enjoyment. I felt lost inside my own body. I didn’t know who “I” was, so I searched for my identity in music.
It was during this period in my life I finally listened to Nevermind. I knew about the album since middle school, but the hipster in me hated popular things. High schoolers love few things more than Nirvana.
After spinning Nevermind for the first time, I wasn’t impressed. The songwriting was ridiculously simple. Certain tracks were so repetitive and catchy I had a hard time believing Cobain and not some label executive wrote them. I understood roughly 25% of the lyrics. I liked “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and that was it. So I took the album, threw it in a drawer, and forgot about it for a while.
I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime during my junior year I became obsessed with the song “Heart Shaped Box”. Because I was broke, instead of buying In Utero I decided to give Nevermind a second chance. Suddenly, I understood why so many teenagers loved this album and revered Cobain like a god. He was an incredibly beautiful man for starters, but it went beyond mere looks. He was a sloppy guitarist and vocalist, but made music anyway. No matter what problems life threw at him, he was apathetic. His development was arrested as a depressed teenager, so he understood the anger, pain, and confusion of growing up. Best of all, he wouldn't judge you. “Come as you are/As you were/As you always have been”.
Nevermind has become such a staple of rock ‘n’ roll it’s hard to pick a standout track other than magnum opus "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Even the most perfectly crafted pop song pales in comparason to Nevermind's hooks, "Lithium" being the worst offender. My favorite track has always been “Something In The Way”, but I wouldn’t say it’s superior to any others.
None of Nevermind's thirteen tracks are skip-worthy. Abandoning ambition in favor of passion, the rhythm section's needlepoint accuracy juxtaposed against Kurt’s sloppiness creates a sound that’s very rock ‘n’ roll. Nevermind will be remembered forever as “90s grunge”, but transcends the label.
Like Bob Dylan’s infamous Newport Folk Festival concert, Nevermind is significant for what it represents. Had Nirvana existed ten years earlier they’d be yet another indie band living in their van and sleeping on strangers floors. Instead, they were propelled into super-stardom because they existed in the right place at the right time. It speaks volumes that had Cobain remained unkown, he’d probably be alive today.
The Pixies Doolittle, Meat Puppets Meat Puppets II, and King Crimson's Red are all very similar to Nevermind and far better. However, Nevermind's popularity surpasses those albums because teens can relate to it in a way no other album can match, earning it an overrated but solid three out of four.