I’m not gonna lie, the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s breakthrough makes me feel a tad old. Just a tad. However once I’m over that thought, the next thing that comes to mind is: wow, this record still holds up remarkably well.
On September 27th, the super-mega-ultra-deluxe edition of “Nevermind” will hit stores and iTunes.
It’s nostalgic, sure, but necessary? I’d venture to say no.
Hear me out.
Nevermind took gritty punk rock and put it in a more mass-appealing package, and was a welcome change from all the hair bands in tight leather pants of the late 80’s. The “grungy” average-joe became the new rock star, and an entire new image in itself. Even now, plenty of bands credit Nirvana as a major influence in their formations and songwriting.
Kurt Cobain had this amazing ability to draw and captivate large audiences with minimal show and flair. In today’s world of backup dancers, crazy lights, crowd sing-alongs, and dance beats, it’s crazy to think that people used to go to concerts to see the band play songs. Absurd! A performer without auto-tune, lasers, provocative outfits, and 30 other people on stage? How boring.
Once, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about cover songs (specifically cover songs that became a big hit for the group doing the cover). He defended the idea of how someone’s take on another person’s song could be interesting, if not better than the original. Then he hit me with this thought: “How many times have you heard a big hit cover of a Nirvana tune?”
I opened my mouth to reply (as I can be a smart ass and usually have some sort of response) but I stopped, and said, “actually, I can’t think of any”.
My friend nodded, and said, “Exactly. Nirvana’s songs weren’t complicated, but no one can replicate Kurt’s presence and sincerity.”
Not to mention that Nirvana had an incredible impact and influence on rock music in a measly 3 years. That’s right, 3 years. From their mainstream break in 1991, to Kurt’s death in 1994. There’s only a handful of artists in history that had an influence of the same magnitude, and most of them had a much longer career to make their impact.
So, given all that, I will now return to my earlier statement that this 20th anniversary of Nevermind is not necessary. The songs sounded great back then, and they sound great now. They are “remastered”, which basically amounts to being louder. Other than that, it’s the same record.
Sure, there are 3 more discs involved, but any big Nirvana fan probably owns all these bonus tracks by now. I did 10-15 years ago. There’s a live disc, but meh. I’m not one for live recordings.
I should also remind everyone that in 2004 they released “With the Lights Out”, a box set that included pretty much all of the b-sides and rare recordings that this collection has to offer. Except the box set had even more material.
The one interesting addition to this new collection is the “Devonshire Mixes”, which are just different mixes of the same tracks on the regular Nevermind record. It’s interesting for a few minutes, but you’ll find yourself saying “oh, cool” and then going back to the actual release.
Bottom line: Definitely celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the most influential rock albums ever created, but you can do so with your current copy of Nevermind. If you’re interested in all the rare tracks and b-sides, then go get the ‘With the Lights Out” box set… you’ll be more satisfied.
Nevermind (1991) – 8.5/10
Nevermind (20th Anniversary Edition) – 6/10