This week marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's magnum opus. Here's why it's better than any of the rest.
The dominant narrative in this country, even now, is that you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and you will be rewarded with great riches, power and popularity. That is, of course, untrue—something that Nirvana explored in its lyrics. But something unexpected happened: they blew up. Their music resonated deeply with everyone who’d been disenfranchised by the voracious, greedy ‘80s, and there was a revolution rooted in ‘60s counterculture and ‘70s punk rock. Anarchist cheerleaders were suddenly on television, moshing. Nirvana were the depressive weirdos, and suddenly the depressive weirdos were the dominant narrative. Even if you’re used to being the underdog, sometimes it’s nice to be on top.
2. 'Corporate Magazines Still Suck'
But sometimes you don’t want to be on top. The interminable slogan Cobain wore on the cover of Rolling Stone to protest the personal-political concessions his own weary fame demanded of him, “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” represented the antiestablishment attitude of the band—and the crucial disconnect between his desire for people to hear his music, and his disdain for the tactics he took to get there. Still, Nirvana released its music on major label DGC—and now, in the split-income Internet era, it’s rare for even punk-rooted bands to have anti-corporate attitudes (evidence: every car commercial featuring your favorite music). Nirvana was the first to really grapple with this ethical conundrum, and ultimately opened the doors for “that one Volkswagen commercial” (read: every ad featuring your favorite music).
3. The Rise of the Working Class
Working-class rock music is the best, at least when it’s lefty (apologies to my fellow prog rock fans)—two words, Bruce Springsteen. But Nirvana did it different: they didn’t aspire to be within the system, ideologically speaking, and so they made it cool to buck a system that would hang you out to dry if you let it.
4. The Rise of Working-Class Fashion
In the same way, they made the grunge aesthetic cool—which meant those of us who’d been clothes shopping at Salvation Army out of necessity were finally in style. It sounds banal, but if you’ve been that kid, it’s absolutely important.
I loved this album when it came out. Plus I was young and full of energy, with 4 year old and 1 year old boys; this album brings back nice memories of invincibility for me, as Cobain was singing about vulnerability, I felt all-powerful as a young mom and a young scientist. This album brings back good memories.
I never really gave this any thought, I never saw Nirvana as a "feminist" band but hey, i think the author of the Alternet article has a point.
The aforementioned seahorse tour tee and Bikini Kill association (Kathleen Hanna famously named “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) were but two aspects of Nirvana’s foray into the F word. Cobain being an astute and thoughtful man, he was quite aware of the white male privilege he wielded, so peppered feminist talk into his interviews. On Nevermind, even his love songs were about not trying to dominate a woman’s body— “we don’t have to breed.” And “Polly”? A dirge about the rape and murder of a young girl. This dovetailed quite nicely with the decade of the third wave, although it didn’t really last—there aren’t too many dude bands representing ladies the way Nirvana tried to.
Eight reasons that have nil to do with the music itself? That might be an incentive for me to look up the lyrics on the net, but not to listen to this album.
It was all about the music. =)
I think they are trying to say that it had more influence on the public than most rock music.
Well, the article is on social issues, not on music. It's from Alternet, not a music or art magazine. I liked the music very much too, but if I had to make a wild guess, I would think you won't like it. But try first the "Unplugged version". I love their version of "The Man Who Sold The World"
Anyway, this is possibly their most famous song from "Nevermind": "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (for the non-US people, "Teen Spirit" is a deorant brand marketed for teenage girls)
One of my favorites from that album, and one of the tunes mentioned in the article.
That is a great song, the one they mention in the article in conjunction with the paragraph about feminism. It's depressing, though. The first time I really paid attention to the lyrics, I was really upset.
Musically it was a reaction against synth-pop.
A revival of the garage-band sound.
Also most of their songs were built with slow melodic parts alternating with full-sound violent outbursts. Cobain had a knack for melodies too.
For me it was a rebuttal of the 80's hairbands, grunge and guns n roses brought me back to a heavier sounding rock.
grunge and guns n roses
I just stumbled upon this:
19. Kurt Cobain on Guns N’ Roses
“They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it.”