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The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds [Album Review]

Wouldn’t It Be Nice / You Still Believe In Me / That’s Not Me / Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) / I’m Waiting For The Day / Let’s Go Away For Awhile / Sloop John B/ God Only Knows/ I Know There’s An Answer / Here Today / I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times / Pet Sounds / Caroline No

This is a record that embraces adult themes of love and spirit. It embraces you the listener – inviting you into its world of love, beating hearts, lost relationships and resting a head upon the shoulder of a loved one. Its an album with impeccable state of the art production. Well, by twenty first century standards the production is no longer state of the art, but given the studios in which Brian, Mike, Al, Carl, Bruce and Dennis worked with at the time– this is the state of the art, unsurpassed even today. Brian didn’t use studio trickery in so much as he simply knew how to different varieties and combinations which he could create using a studio. He knew where to place a microphone and which microphone to use. Well, all good record engineers do know these things of course. Brian wasn’t unusual in that respect. What was unusual is how all of his choices were just ‘right’. And, bear in mind, Brian wasn’t really a producer or an engineer. He’d not taken any college courses in sound re-production or record production. Everything was learnt cutting those simple early Beach Boys records, watching trusted lieutenant Chuck Britz in the control room and beating off the overbearing advances and attempted domineering of his father.

Right maybe i should talk about the actual record…. I’ll get round to it in a second. The impact of ‘Pet Sounds’ deserves some discussion first. Upon release, people within the music industry – the actual musicians, producers etc recognized Brian had put his heart and soul into ‘Pet Sounds’ and that it was indeed something very special. They fell in love with the record and people such as Glen Campbell, producer Terry Melcher even John Cale of The Velvet Underground are responsible partly for ‘Pet Sounds’ never being forgotten. The fans of ‘Pet Sounds’ spread the word, spread the message around everywhere. Capitol Records famously were lukewarm about the whole thing and quickly released the first of many greatest hits packages and generally treated ‘Pet Sounds’ without any respect whatsoever. Hence it ‘only’ charted top ten in the US, ‘only’ spawned two top ten singles, but  it managed to become  a huge hit within England where Brian and The Beach Boys still have a very loyal and loving fan-base right through to today.

From this record i believe personally that Brain was talking about his doubts many which are common for people  to share, I’ve had doubts about religion and also showing  different periods of discovery . This isn’t a religious record as such but Brian and Carl reputedly held prayer sessions concerning the success of the album and one song, ‘God Only Knows’ in particular. Before all of that however we have ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. Two and a half minutes in length, the lyrics written by advertising man Tony Asher and directed by Brian are a step away from previous Beach Boys material and different. Basically ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ if we were older, if we were in love, if we were married. It’s a fantasy and the fantasy is supported by those wonderful Beach Boys harmonies of course(which they are so obviously famed for) Musically the most notable aspect of the song is the section where it slows down, the track is stripped back and the singing just soars upwards to the heavens. After that, the song pretty much just ends. It hardly matters as you are still awestruck by what’s just happened. Everything in the right place – an up-tempo, impossibly sophisticated pop song. The next three songs are something of a sandwich. We have ‘That’s Not Me’ a simple song on the face of it that is transformed purely by the playing and production, the sound of the bass guitar like a heart beat. Together with the drums it’s a sound used especially well on ‘Don’t Talk…’ Its actually used to follow a particular lyric and reinforces the idea of ‘Pet Sounds’ as a loving emotional album able to present the emotion of love out to the listener, rather than just stories and songs about love. ‘You Still Believe In Me’ was reworked from an earlier song called ‘In My Childhood’. Its all double lead vocals from Brian ( on the mono version of the album at least ) and he showcases his heartbreaking falsetto very well.

You may be thinking at this point, ‘this Pet Sounds’ doesn’t sound very, um, Rock n Roll!’. You’d be right. This is hardly Rock and Roll, this isn’t early Beach Boys influence Chuck Berry. Brian’s Idol Phil Spector, now, you can hear his influence. The same musicians that Phil recorded with were used during the ‘Pet Sounds’ sessions after all. The nearest we do get to rock music as such is ‘I’m Waiting For The Day’ and ‘Sloop John B’. Sloop features exciting piano, rock rhythms and impossibly simple sounding yet complicated melodies that send me giddy from top to bottom. ‘I’m Waiting For The Day’ again is a fairly simply song, but simple isn’t bad. Its only actually simple in sound. The melody and chord changes, the production and mixing are far from simple. Every effort was made to get the right sounds, Brian’s ‘Pet Sounds’ – hence the albums title.

‘God Only Knows’ is of course one of the most beautiful records ever made and probably the most popular of the album. Oh, but of course! Well, I say that myself and I believe that myself. Many other people believe it to be true and Brian has been playing the entire ‘Pet Sounds’ album during recent solo concerts. ‘God Only Knows’ was sung by Carl, chosen by Brian after he rejected himself for the lead and deciding something wasn’t quite perfect. Remarkably, it was only brother Carls second ever lead on a Beach Boys record. He’d provide many important and great lead vocals the years after 1966, but never really would match that first ( well, second ) love of his ‘God Only Knows’ vocal work. ‘I Know There’s An Answer’ has lyrics that were re-written by Mike after he expressed doubts concerning Brian’s original ‘Ego’ lyrics. The importance of the musical tracks on ‘Pet Sounds’ – the fact that they turn a great record into a masterpiece genius record is emphasised by ‘I Know There’s An Answer’. The new lyrics are slightly clumsy, slightly corny. Fortunately the musical backing is one of the most exotic on the entire record, full of strange noises and held together by wonderfully melodic bass-playing.

I’m  suppose i  better finish this review now. I haven’t even mentioned ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’, the two instrumentals and the beautiful solo Brian ‘Caroline No’. The instrumentals provide variety and a change from many of the comparison tracks from the era. The title track is ridiculously joyously silly and really should raise a smile – ‘Let’s Go Away For Awhile’ matches its title in its musical description of places to achieve a state of joy and relaxation. ‘Caroline No’ fades out with the sounds of a train going past behind dogs barking. Pet Sounds, indeed. We are all fortunate Brian shared these sounds with us all. One of the greatest albums ever made, as simple as that. No, it’s not rock and roll….not really. It renders categorization difficult, actually. Just forget everything I’ve said. As the song goes, ‘listen, listen, listen….’

The Beatles – Revolver [Album Review]

Taxman / Eleanor Rigby / I’m Only Sleeping/ Love You To / Here There And Everywhere / Yellow Submarine / She Said She Said / Good Day Sunshine / And Your Bird Can Sing / For No One / Dr Robert / I Want To Tell You / Got To Get You Into My Life / Tomorrow Never Knows

Aswell as being the first overtly psychedelic album and also the first perfect album The Beatles made. You can literally poke a finger at the sleeve and pick a winner of a track every single time(in my own beatlemaniac opinion) The genius is everywhere though, from George’s fine and influential ‘Taxman’  (ahem The Jam anyone?)  right through to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, which honestly sounds like a future dawn of tomorrow even today! We have ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with its appropriate yet dramatic string section which works to enhance the beauty of Paul’s original composition. ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ follows on from the likes of ‘Girl’ and ‘The Word’ on ‘Rubber Soul’ but the production touches are a leap forwards. Misty is the word – the music really matches the feel of the lyrics down to a tea. Following the Sitar moments in ‘Norwegian Wood’ (Rubber Soul) George builds an entire song around the instrument with ‘Love You To’. Now this. This! Is One of George’s finest moments for me(compared with every other George piece) The sound of the drums with the sitar combined and the way the vocals are stretched at the end of each section – just perfectly wonderful! The whole thing is daring, brave, experimental yet comes across as perfectly natural and grin inducing. The move into the next song ‘Here There And Everywhere’ is a great transition and this is such a lovely song. The cooing of the harmonies, the beauty of the melodies and vocals, the way the bass gently beats – rising and rising ‘Pet Sounds’ style, a wonderful song. ‘Yellow Submarine’ is a children’s song but with more production tricks and effects than almost any other song here and weirdly perhaps pointing the way forwards to ‘Sgt Peppers’. Well, we get a big fat joyously happy bass line, voices and actual samples, etc and so forth. Plus the singing inducing “Innn the toooooown” gets me every time.

Two excellent guitar songs appear in the middle of ‘Revolver’ both written quickly by John. They sit either side of ‘Good Day Sunshine’ which is another song arguably pointing the way towards ‘Sgt Pepper’.  Anyway Back to John’s guitar tunes, ‘She Said She Said’ features the line ‘I know what its like to be dead’. The lyrics are great then, but the best thing apart from that and Ringo’s drumming is the guitars which almost seem combine. The interweaving duelling guitar effect here is just such a great sound and perfect, its an effect repeated on ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ which somedays is my favourite Beatles tune of them all(even though this regularly changes funnily enough) How does it sound so damn great? Its the guitars! Those guitars! That happy happy guitar sound! Have I made my point? Lets just say I love ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ and leave it at that. The final third section of the album really just continues the genius of everything that’s gone before. We have the beautifully sad ‘For No One’, another quality George song with the wonderful sounding ‘I Want To Tell You’ with the strangest piano note i have ever heard. We’ve got variety with the brass of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ and the title shouted out in the chorus always raises a smile in me. ‘Dr Robert’ is probably the nearest ‘Revolver’ comes to a weak track but its saved by the ‘well well well, you’re feeling fine’ vocal section which is psychedelic, and pretty damn great, actually.

After all of that we have ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ with its dense wall of noise built from samples and tape loops. Nobody knew what they were doing, it was pure experimentation but John had an idea in his head and out comes this. Many groups even today try to repeat the sound and feel of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and they simply can’t do it. Even with computers and samplers it can’t be easily done. How the hell The Beatles did it is a thing we’ll never quite know, it seems almost superhuman that such a thing could exist in 1966. It closes the album in fine style, whatever the methods behind it turn out to have been. ‘Revolver’ overall then is hailed by many as The Beatles masterwork album and is likely as close to perfection as music gets. Well it does it for me and perhaps it will for you, too.

The Beatles – Abbey Road [Album Review]

 

Come Together /Something /Maxwell’s Silver Hammer/Oh! Darling /Octopus’s Garden/I Want You (She’s So Heavy) / Here Comes The Sun/ Because/You Never Give Me Your Money /Sun King /Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window /Golden Slumbers /Carry That Weight /The End /Her Majesty

As the last recordings The Beatles made and as the last album they recorded together there is an understandable emotional reaction among hardcore Beatles fans and even music fans in general. Well, to simply be overwhelmed by ‘Abbey Road’ and to be unable to view it at all objectively. The snatches of songs on side two are occasionally very enticing, the two George songs on side one are the finest things on side one(which honestly makes me so happy) true classics. ‘Abbey Road’ gives off a deceptive unity which was of course the entire point. The ‘Let It Be’ sessions had been fairly disastrous, all things considered despite a few hits here and there. The Beatles were clearly not much longer for this earth as an ongoing concern yet wanted to leave a better taste in peoples mouths than ‘Let It Be’ would have apparently provided. Still…. let’s talk about ‘Come Together.’ Well, why not? Let’s see. It has a great groove and great vocals but imagine it sung by somebody else or played by somebody else. Is this a great song? Maybe i’m undecided? Can I hear it played on acoustic instead? I like it a lot as a rock performance but I don’t love the actual song. This isn’t the sound of genius just the sound of good performance and a good McCartney bass groove what makes the track. The two George songs possibly are the sound of genius, although bordering on solo Harrison rather than Beatles but these tracks are honestly masterpieces, beautifully written and preformed in every way. But then ‘Maxwells Silver Hammer’ and ‘Come Together’ are bordering on solo McCartney and solo Lennon respectively. The Beatles as a unit, with playing and vocal flourishes, make these group songs rather than solo efforts. These group performances are important on ‘Abbey Road’, the first side especially. The vocals harmonies on ‘Maxwells Silver Hammer’ rescue the song from utter mediocrity, add in ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and you start to wonder about all the claims to greatest album ever made.

‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ shares some of the darkness in tone that surrounded ‘The White Album’. ‘I Want You’ is rambling compositionally, yet together as a performance. John is on excellent form here and this near eight minute song is unlike anything else The Beatles ever did, it demonstrates potential blues/progressive directions that The Beatles could have taken on in their never to be future. As for the suite of songs taking up all of side two, we have one lovely McCartney number in particular, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ which has been split up into two parts to aid the suite concept. This suite also contains the utterly gorgeous harmonies of ‘Sun King’ and the rocking coda of ‘The End’. ‘Mean Mr Mustard’, ‘Polythene Pam’ and the heart-breaking ‘Golden Slumbers’ come across as snippets of larger songs and create a yearning within you that they acually were larger and longer songs. Frequently gorgeous is this second half of ‘Abbey Road’ but you have to ask yourself how it really connects to the first half, if at all. McCartney reputedly wanted the entire album done in the style of ‘the suite’ but was voted down. Considering ‘Abbey Road’ as a whole piece is therefore quite difficult for me because of this. Well, Side one is a collection of unrelated songs and side two is a mood piece with brilliant and touching melodies along the way. This lack of cohesion mean I’ve marked down ‘Abbey Road’ just a notch, yet it remains an excellent album and a good closing chapter in the career of The Beatles.

Weezer – Blue Album [Album Review]

My Name Is Jonas / No One Else / The World Has Turned and Left Me Here / Buddy Holly / Undone – the Sweater Song / Surf Wax America / Say It Ain’t So / In the Garage / Holiday / Only in Dreams

Does the world really need another review of Weezer’s debut album? Well, not really, but the world could use some more albums  like this particular one, and not because it’s mind-blowing in any way or a revolutionary statement or a detailed musical summation of how moronic some of our world leaders are (which it isn’t), but just for the sheer enthusiasm, the self-deprecating sense of humor, and the fact that the bands seems to know what its limitations are. Essentially, the basic ingredients of Weezer’s melting pot aren’t that hard to discern either: you just grab a big bag of Cheap Trick, add some Orange State melodies, throw in some stylised mammoth riffs (preferably reminding of a stupid hard-rock band that never made it outside of the US), get yourself a notorious hook-producer (Ric “I refuse to use a ‘k’” Ocasek), and finally: a nerdy high school image. Concerning that last aspect: I bet they weren’t nerds at all (although they look like 50’s sci-fi geeks on the cover of the album), but they were smart enough to create that image, while their colleagues in Seattle were openly indulging themselves in rock ‘n’ roll’s less refined excesses. Anyway, it should be clear by now that Weezer turned in an album of chunky and muscular, but also highly hummable and accessible power-pop tunes that will be stuck in your head for a while as some of the better semi-disposable pop out there.

In fact, as I play this album, “Say It Ain’t So” still appeals to the 15-year old riff-fanatic in me, so it must be a great song. And I think it is: that melody is just so catchy, the harmonies are positively silly and cheesy (the octaves of the backing vocals to be persific) and the chorus is as simple as it is effective. Combine all of that, and you have one hell of a pop song. The rest of the album betrays about the same ingredients: BIG melodies, BIG hooks (and more than you’ll see during the annual Trout Fishing Competition, I bet wehey), BIG lyrics of being misunderstood, and a BIG production. But it works, take the pounding album opener “My Name Is Jonas,” for instance, with those loud and fuzzy (but harmless) guitars, or the adolescent-existentialism of “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” that has a melody and vocal delivery (finding the right balance between optimism and melancholy which is just so sweet) it’s so good it completely camouflages the fact that the guitar parts are very monotonous and dragging. Likewise, the album’s biggest hit, “Buddy Holly” (with the funny clip that would eventually lead to the Happy Days-series) isn’t anything special on paper, with those predictable chords and accents, but somehow they turn it into a winner that succeeds in combining Brian Wilson’s sugar-coated melodies with the hooks of (surprise!) The Cars and the simple muscularity of 70’s Kiss. Not all the songs on the album are as impressive, though, as I’ve really grown tired of the silly “Undone – The Sweater Song” as its started to bore me and furthermore never really got into the mediocre “Holiday.” That’s why as much as i love this album i still have little bones to pick with it, of course: it has its share of really excellent tracks, which are kinda balanced by lesser ones, which can be quite enjoyable at times, like “In the Garage,” with its kitschy guitar/harmonica-intro and so uncool-it-becomes-cool-namedropping (Ace Frehley!!). A special mention also goes to the lengthy album closer “Only in Dreams,” which seems to be disliked, even among Weezer-fans (what do you call those people, then? Über-geeks?), but I thought it was a delicious track about the appeal of falling in love, the unavoidable disappointments that come with it, ah let’s just call it the pains of growing up. Anyway, if you’re into sophisticated art-pop with world music-leanings that wants to make philosophical statements about the here and now, this might not be your cup of jasmine tea, but if you’re just on the lookout for a big portion of fun(consider broken hearts as ‘fun’ for a second, will ya), this is exactly what you’re looking for.

Nirvana – In Utero [Album Review]

Serve the Servants / Scentless Apprentice / Heart-Shaped Box / Rape Me / Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle /Dumb / Very Ape / Milk It / Pennyroyal Tea / Radio Friendly Unit Shifter / Tourettes All Apologies

Everyone knows the story by now, the updated version of “rags to riches,” the American Dream becoming true. Before the release of their sophomore album, no one predicted these scruffy guys would become one of the biggest bands in the world, selling millions of albums, selling out all the venues they played and leaving their mark on the pop culture (remember how even all those pop acts and 80’s hair metal bands suddenly restyled themselves?). But it did happen, and it probably wouldn’t have been such a problem, had not Kurt Cobain loatheed himself so much because of his superstar status. He had always admired (and supported) independent and idealistic rock acts, and I guess he hated himself because of becoming bigger than many of them. This, combined with his self-deprecating nature, of course. Well, I’m not trying to claim I was a personal acquaintance of the guy, but that’s pretty obvious, right? Anyway, like so many other people, I do think that Nirvana’s third studio album, In Utero, was an attempt to alienate the largest part of their public and to regain some ‘indie credibility’.

Produced by Steve Albini, In Utero is a much harsher and a more emotionally draining album than Nevermind, with a far less polished production, and less accessible songs to match. The album starts off with one of the best tracks, an unsung Nirvana classic. A mid-tempo rocker that seems to drag itself lazily along, “Serve the Servants” is nevertheless a fine track with a semi-mumbled chorus, ragged solo, and (oh, surprise) self-deprecating lyrics, that also ridicule the band’s status (“Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old, self-appointed judges judge, more than they have sold”). “Scentless Apprentice”, which takes its cue from Das Parfum by Swiss author Patrick Süskind, is one of the first loud tracks on this album, with noisy drums, concrete riffing, and Cobain’s mad screaming voice. It’s weird, but initially these songs didn’t seem interesting at all, but gradually I had to admit that they rock. “Very Ape,” “Milk It,” and “Tourette’s” are dominated by seemingly chaotic musicianship, alternations of soft, loud and very loud sections, and disgusted vocals, but in the context of this album, they work well. For some reason (overdose?), the album’s most famous tracks, “Heart-Shaped Box,” and “Rape Me” have become somewhat of a drag to listen to, but they remain very good tracks that combine the melodic elements from the previous album with the rawness of the current. “Rape Me” has an introduction that reminds me of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but I can’t imagine “Rape Me” on Nevermind. That can also be applied to “Frances Farmer,” which has quite accessible parts, but also contains reminders of Bleach’s heaviness.

“I’m not like them, but I can pretend” are the first lines of “Dumb,” In Utero’s very own “Polly”. It’s a gentle track, sung with controlled intensity by Cobain, containing once again depressing lyrics. By the time you’ve reached this song, the message’s probably clear: this guy really ain’t too happy. The album’s crammed with lines such as “I think I’m dumb,” “I am my own parasite” (“Milk It”), “I’m a liar and a thief” (“Pennyroyal Tea”), “I love you for what I am not” (“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”), etc. Even more painful than this is the obsession with bodily decay (references to sores, burns, cancer), bodily fluids (semen, shit, laxatives), and life/death (birth, abortion, afterbirth), which makes it obviously clear that Cobain no longer seemed to believe there was anything to enjoy in this life any more because everything ultimately leads to death. “All Apologies,” one of the album’s highlights, and, like “Dumb” a moving song with an awesome guitar melody and oddly intense atmosphere, is a final negative note. “Everything is my fault, I’ll take all the blame” sounds a bit weird in the light of his suicide the next year.

An album that is quite a bit uneven and contains some disappointing songs (“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” is monotonous and boring, while “Pennyroyal Tea” is no match for a later version they’d record), In Utero is hard to take in. However, it may very well be the quintessential Nirvana-album, capturing their complicated essence. Nevermind may be a better sounding and more consistent album, but it doesn’t have this album’s gut-wrenching honesty and emotional resonance. On the other hand, Nevermind is probably the ideal way to get acquainted with Nirvana, as this album really sounds as if they were on the verge of a breakdown, and it is a bitter chapter in a tumultuous and harrowing book.

Motörhead – Ace of Spades [Album Review]

Ace of Spades / Love Me Like a Reptile / Shoot You in the Back / Live to Win / Fast and Loose / (We Are) The Road Crew / Fire Fire / Jailbait / Dance / Bite the Bullet / The Chase Is Better Than the Catch / The Hammer

I’m gonna keep this short and snappy because that’s what the album deserves. As It’s Bad-ass, tough, dirty, mean, rude, lean, aggressive, dangerous, greasy, sharp, energetic, fiery, scorching, blistering, sizzling, blazing, searing, burning, strong, foul-mouthed, crude, callous, foul, elemental, archaic, unremitting, vulgar, cold-blooded, uncouth, coarse, bad-mannered, pre-historic, grimy, iniquitous, roaring, nasty, frantic, malevolent, tough, unadulterated, harsh, dedicated, hard-hitting, sturdy, classic, confrontational, soiled, obnoxious, powerful, thumping, trouncing, fast, ruthless, brawny, death-defying, relentless, merciless, anachronistic, hard-rocking, unadorned, single-minded, nasty, dishonest, misogynistic, bluesy, wicked, punk-ish, shameless, fucked-up, brash, depraved, demented, immoral, hammering, notorious, pounding, thrashing, striking, criminal, insane, hilarious, riotous, stubborn, manic, rudimentary, filthy, boasting, unabashed, deafening, deaf too, silly, belligerent, destructive, simple, mentally-challenged, up yours, stubborn, feisty, glorious, bloodless, brandishing, heavy, potent, possessed, grimy, macho, straightforward, careless, brainless, strapping, burly, robust, loud, cantankerous, fetid, vicious, violent, uncontrolled, defiant, powerful, seminal, degenerate, bad-tempered and also fookin’ great.

 Probably the essential Motörhead studio album, and with reason, as it not only contains several of their (and, by consequence, rock) classics, such as the everlasting testosterone shot of the title track (“That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”), the hard-hitting “Shoot You in the Back” and the supremely and strangely poetic “The Hammer,” but basically succeeds in one giving you one hell of a 12-song ass-whupping. Granted, it’s repetitive, rather tuneless and devoid of any finesse, but hey, if you’re looking for those things, you better get your kicks somewhere else. This is primal noise for misfits, bearded bikers, maniacs, perverts, decibel-freaks, machos, honest democrats, Jews, frustrated adolescents, maltreated stamp-collectors, transsexual preachers, trailer park trash, surgeons, postmen, Rastafarians, punks, hillbillies, Peruvians, factory workers, math teachers, mayors, Japanese, Okies, spacecake-munching Dutchies, long-haired scum, glue-sniffing teenagers, pitiable cousins who got stood up, Hispanic gangs, tattooed criminals, and other assorted people who like their rock ‘n’ roll exciting, warted and in your face. Bad-ass titles with bad-ass songs to back them up. Classic.

Nirvana – Nevermind [Album Review]

Smells Like Teen Spirit / In Bloom / Come As You Are / Breed Lithium / Polly / Territorial Pissings / Drain You / Lounge Act / Stay Away / On a Plain / Something in the Way

The band had early on made quite an impression at the annual Pukkelpop festival (Belgium) and a month earlier, got quite some buzz, and I wanted the album ASAP. And I liked it a lot. I thought it was a masterpiece, until I’d had enough of it suddenly, and didn’t play it for a few years. Now, a dozen years later, I still like the album, but with more reservations. It is probably a common enough story in music history that albums that appeal to almost a whole generation (like London Calling 24 years ago, or Sgt. Pepper’s 36 years ago), don’t seem to be able to live up to their reputation. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a winner, though. The guitar that introduces the song still gives me a weird feeling that sends me back to my first listen (too bad I get this feeling less and less). It’s the ideal (teen) anthem: it rocks, it has great hooks, and it’s memorable. People have said parts of it were directly stolen from the Pixies’ “Debaser” or Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” or partly influenced by Hüsker Dü and The Police.

Well, I’m not convinced. I guess some comparisons could lead to a “Yeah, it does resemble…” but it’s no more the case than loads of other songs that are influenced by their peers’ accomplishments. Also, the rest of the songs show that the band had moved much more towards ‘mainstream’ rock since Bleach: “In Bloom” has some catchy verses and a loud, sing-along verse (“Heeeeeeeeee’s the one who likes all our pretty songs…”). All this suggests that the band not only had notorious indie bands like the Wipers, Flipper, and Dinosaur Jr as prime examples, but also more melodic rock acts such as Cheap Trick and the Beatles. Another great track is “Breed,” which has some great greasy bass work, crunchy guitars, propulsive drumming, and a killer chorus. The album’s other energy-blast is “Territorial Pissings,” which is about the only song on this album that could qualify as ‘punk’ (using the clichéd definition of “fast and aggressive rock song that speeds ahead so fast you’re ruining the seat cover”). Some mighty guitars (the galloping part could very well come from that band’s “Turn On the News”), a drum assault by Dave Grohl, and some riveting vocals by Novoselic introduce the song.

“Come As You Are” and “Lithium” are, besides the first track, the most well known songs on this  very album, and rightly so. However, I have really heard these two tracks too much. Certainly “Come As You Are” seems a bit  annoying to me now. It has become somewhat of a drag to listen to. “Lithium”, however, has that “Yeah yeah yeah”-chorus that does the trick, but it could have been shorter. Or maybe I’m just forgetting we’re dealing with an anthem, and they’re supposed to go on for too long. A song everyone seems to like is “Polly”, and I can see why: the song offers a nice contrast to the powerful stuff at the beginning of the album, the lyrics aren’t very lightweight (and seem to be dealing with rape), there are some spooky backing vocals, etc., but somehow it doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Instead, I prefer the even more drugged-sounding “Something In the Way,” which is more subdued, moody and enigmatic, and is a great album closer. Perfect Nirvana.

The rest of the songs on the album (tracks 8-11, the song order could definitely have been better) are not that impressive. “Drain You” is catchy and has a great middle part with a cool climax, “Lounge Act” has some nice bass work and leans more towards the folksier guitar-pop of the Lemonheads (or is that far-fetched?), “Stay Away” is raunchy, features some cool call-and-response verses, but an annoying chorus, and “On a Plain” is good, but nothing more than that. Than why the hell is this considered a classic album? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it was probably a good example of “the right album at the right time”. The album is loud enough to annoy those who hate rock (an important factor when you’re 15). At the same time it has loads of pop hooks, and an overall attitude/message of disillusion that appeals to kids looking for answers even today. Although the band took its energetic conviction from listening to lots of punk music, it replaced idealism with indifference. The amount of self-hatred on this album is massive, but whereas someone like Henry Rollins (whose obsession with pain, hatred and solitude must have influenced Cobain) would turn it into a life force to feed on, Cobain seems to celebrate its fatality and uses the  uselessness of trying to change anything (we’re dealing with an album called “Nevermind”, right?).

An album that is guaranteed to appeal to music fans all over the world, because of its clever mix of almost-noise (although the album sounds very ‘clean’ a dozen years after its release, leading to the presumption that the guys at DGC knew they’d just found something new) and catchy choruses, Nevermind is a very good, but somewhat uneven album that has become a classic, but not only on the basis of the quality of the music, since certainly the second part of the album suffers from some unremarkable song-writing. On the other hand, it’s not the hugely overrated album some people claim it to be now (a common backlash). Just try to forget the stories, the hype, all those delirious reviews and enjoy it for what it is: a very good album by a very good band.

Note: Most copies around (not mine) seem to have a hidden track at the end, “Endless Nameless.” I heard it, and I’m glad my album ends with “Something In the Way.” just saying.