Released September 24, 1991 this album wasn’t expected to have much commercial success but with the popularity of its lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and in part with the culture shifting away from slick adult-rock, it ended being certified Diamond in the U.S. (10 Million+ sold) and more than 30 Million worldwide. Nirvana is responsible for launching the grunge era of the 90s, influencing countless other bands, and defined a sub-generation. Nevermind is on almost every “Greatest Albums of All Time” list.
Jason: Let me tell you my Nevermind story. Shortly after this album came out, my friend Jen and I decided to sign up for a weekend soap opera acting workshop in Cleveland. We had no aspirations of being actors we just thought it would be funny and assumed that we would just be reading scripts from Guiding Light and learning all the gossip about the actors. So we drove the two-and-a-half hours from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, checked into the hotel and went to the evening mixer with the other teens. It was immediately evident that everyone else there was very serious about breaking into daytime. I’m talking head shots, resumes, monologues, lots of local experience. We were in way over our heads. So the next morning we said that Jen’s aunt died and we had to leave. We even conjured up some real emotion. It was true acting experience! We got a full refund and went to Sea World instead. Then entire drive home we played this album on repeat and rocked out.
Brad: Ha! I can totally picture young Jason doing all of that
Jason: I think we laughed about it for years but listening to Nevermind really gave us this weird energy. It was such a driving force at that time for a lot of people.
Brad: Definitely! It came out during my first month away at college. My first time living away from home and it had such a rebellious energy that fit in perfectly with my new found independence.
Jason: It holds up really well. Even now as a middle-aged cubicle monkey it still has the power to lift my mood and make me feel kind of young. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s the music.
Brad: Yeah, it still sounds great. Such great songs and the sound doesn’t sound as dated as much of the music released around that time. I think the producer Butch Vig had a lot to do with that. Butch is incredibly talented and you also know him from Garbage
Jason: Butch is in Garbage or produced them?
Brad: He’s a member of Garbage and also a pretty great producer for bands like Sonic Youth, L7, Smashing Pumpkins, and many others
Jason: Cool. That’s a pretty good legacy.
Brad: I’m a little surprised that you like this album.
Jason: Hey, I am Gen-X how can you not like it? I usually lean towards synth-pop or new wave but I have soft spot for good grunge rock. “GOOD” being the important designation because shortly after Nirvana hit there was a wave of pretty bad one-hit wonder copy-cats that I am sure don’t hold up well today.
Brad: That is very true! I remember when Stone Temple Pilots first came out they were thought to be grunge rip-offs
Jason: I like a good STP jam. There isn’t a bad song on this album. Except for a hidden track called “Endless, Nameless” that should have stayed hidden.
Brad: That’s funny! Once again, I was thinking “I bet Jason really hates Endless, Nameless”
Jason: I do. But since it’s technically hidden I won’t hold it against the band. I think my favorite song is “In Bloom” and in fact, Sturgill Simpson, does a really amazing, heartbreaking cover of it.
Brad: Yes, that cover is amazing and so different than Nirvana.
Jason: I love “Breed” too. The hook is pretty amazing. How about you, a favorite song?
Brad: “Lithium” or “Come As You Are”.
Jason: What I like about this album is that so many of the songs have an instantly recognizable opening riff. If “Name That Tune” was still on I bet most people could name them in one note.
Brad: That is very true. Plus, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is such an incredible opening track to an album.
Jason: Definitely. Plus, you know you’ve made a dent in the zeitgeist when Weird Al parodies your song.
Brad: That is a pretty big achievement. Nirvana is one of my biggest concert regrets. I had the chance to see them once in college but I couldn’t go because I had a job interview for a Residence Hall job. It was one of those really annoying group interviews with ice-breakers and problem solving group projects. It lasted for hours. And the worst part is that I didn’t even get the job. I was so upset the next day when I walked around campus and saw everyone in their Nirvana t-shirts. Not to mention, 6 months later, Kurt died.
Jason: Ugh. Yeah, that’s a pretty tragic story. FOMO to the nth degree. Obviously, we know what happened to Kurt and we know where Dave is now but what is Krist up to these days?
Brad: He is involved in politics in some way. Something to do with music and politics.
Jason: Good for him, I guess. So what grade do you give Nevermind?
Brad: Definitely an A.
Jason: The thing about Nirvana for me is that you can tell there is so much talent there. They definitely have a point of view. The music is rock but it’s still melodic and dare I say, catchy. For that it’s an A from me as well.
Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.