Sunday, October 2, 2011

20 Years? Nevermind!

It was September 24, 1991 when Nirvana's Nevermind was released. Has it really been 20 years? I've been enjoying listening to the tracks and some great covers on Minnesota Public Radio's The Current this past week, in celebration of the anniversary of its release. For some reason, I haven't listened to the CD in ages. Maybe because for some reason it never got imported to my iPod. And you know what? With the possible exception of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which was played to death on commercial radio, all the tracks still sound fresh and relevant.

I remember the day I got the record 20 years ago. I used to frequently stop by a great little indie record shop on my way home from work, the now defunct Vinyl Fever (R.I.P.). I can't remember what prompted me to buy it... I think I may have heard it playing in the shop. It was right around the release date, and it was the freshest, coolest sound I'd heard in a long time. It so raw, and honest, and so... rock n' roll.

I remember playing the CD for my then-bandmate, now-husband. I said, "You've gotta hear this band!" He listened, and said that all the songs sounded the same. (I will never let him live that comment down, by the way!) But within a week or two, he was playing that CD every single day when I got home from work. Every single day. We ended up covering a couple of the songs with our band, and Nirvana really influenced Mr. Remarkable Monkey's songwriting. That record was a game changer not just for us, but for the entire music world. It ushered in the "Seattle sound" of the time, later known as "grunge". Unfortunately, as with all musical genres, commercial success brought with it scores of mediocre copycats. Grunge eventually became a watered-down shadow of itself. But dust off that old Nevermind CD, or listen to it for the first time... it still shines!

While you're at it, pull out your copy of Pearl Jam's Ten, another great frontrunner of the grunge sound and 20 years old this year, released about a month before Nirvana's Nevermind. It was also played to death on commercial radio in the early 90's, but if you haven't heard it in a while, you'll be surprised at how great it still sounds.

Want to explore the original Seattle sound a little more? Try these:
- Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger
- Mudhoney's SuperFuzz BigMuff EP
- Mother Love Bone's Apple

Or pick up an old SubPop Records compilation CD if you can find one. And don't forget Nirvana's earlier release Bleach, and subsequent CDs, Incesticide and In Utero. Explore some other non-Seattle alternative bands of the time, like Dinasaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Check out some early Jane's Addiction, early Smashing Pumpkins, early 90s Red Hot Chili Peppers, maybe even a little early Radiohead. That music was a big part of the soundtrack of my somewhat misspent youth, back in the days of my early adulthood, when the world was still wide open in front of me and my youthful dreams were still a possibility. And after all this time, they're still damn fun to listen to!

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