Tuesday, September 24, 1991

Nirvana's Nevermind was released

First posted 9/24/2011; updated 3/31/2019.

Nevermind

Nirvana


Released: 9/24/1991


Peak: #12 US, #7 UK, #110 CN, #2 AU


Sales (in millions): 11.0 US, 1.81 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: rock > grunge


Quotable: “Nirvana planted the alternative flag on the Iwo Jima of American consciousness.” – Clark Speicher, The Review


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Smells Like Teen Spirit (9/10/91 #6 HT, #7 AR, #1 MR, #7 UK)
  2. In Bloom (12/12/92 #5 AR, #28 UK)
  3. Come As You Are (1/18/92 #32 HT, #3 AR, #3 MR, #9 UK)
  4. Breed
  5. Lithium (2/8/92 #64 HT, #16 AR, #25 MR, #11 UK)
  6. Polly
  7. Territorial Pissings
  8. Drain You
  9. Lounge Act
  10. Stay Away
  11. On a Plain (1/18/92 #25 AR)
  12. Something in the Way

Review:

Nevermind was stuffed into enough stockings over Christmas of ‘91 to boot the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, from his roost at the top of the Billboard album chart. The album went on to sell over 10 million copies domestically – a feat accomplished by less than 100 albums in the history of music. Nirvana were “scrappy garageland warriors setting their sights on a land of giants.” IR After their “undistinguished 1989 debut, Bleach, [which] relied on warmed-over Seventies metal riffs,” IR Nirvana made the leap to Geffen because frontman Kurt Cobain “wanted the group to be popular, and could see them maybe selling as many records as Sonic Youth.” AD

“The production team of Butch Vig and Andy Wallace ‘tidied’ up the sound of the early Nirvana” AD while still emphasizing the “guitar-heavy blend of bubblegum punk” SK the band crafted on Bleach. “Nirvana…created precisely the sort of record…Sub Pop [strove] for with bands like Mudhoney and Tad since its inception in 1986.” SK

Nirvana displayed a knack for “evocative wordplay” AMG and “crisp pop melodicism.” BL The songs “exemplify the band’s skill at inscribing subtlety onto dense, noisy rock” IR that was “positively glistening with echo and fuzz-box distortion.” AMG “This is hard rock as the term was understood before metal moved in – the kind of loud, slovenly, tuneful music you think no one will ever [make] again until the next time it happens, whereupon you wonder why there isn’t loads more.” RC

What lifts Nevermind to the status of one of the greatest albums ever made is how it defined a new genre. “Nirvana planted the alternative flag on the Iwo Jima of American consciousness when Nevermind erupted onto the music scene.” CS “Few albums have occupied the cultural consciousness like this one.” DW It “served as the antidote to the musical holocaust of the ‘80s.” CS “This is now an omni-present all-time classic” AD “and just may be compared in the same breath to albums like Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” CT

If the sound of grunge feels overly “familiar now, it’s only because thousands of rock records that followed it were trying very hard to cop its style.” DW The album served as a “foundation for most of the rock…of the ‘90s…loud, distorted guitars; raging, sometime screaming vocals; and lyrics that range from the pessimistic, to the positive, and to the apathetic.” JC “Like a meteor crashing into earth, Nevermind left a lasting impact on music and won’t soon be forgotten.” CS


Review Source(s):


Awards:


Tuesday, September 17, 1991

Guns N' Roses release the Use Your Illusion albums: September 17, 1991

Originally posted September 17, 2012.

image from iamexpat.nl

Following up a monster debut is no easy task. Guns N’ Roses exploded in 1988 with Appetite for Destruction, making them the biggest rock band in the world. After the 1989 GN’R Lies interim package which slapped four new songs together with GNR’s Live Like a Suicide EP from 1986, they released not one, but two albums. They were packaged separately, but with the names Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, they were generally treated as a double album.

The general consensus has been that the pair of albums was a bloated, over-the-top follow-up. This is “a shining example of a suddenly successful band getting it all wrong and letting its ambitions run wild.” E1 A nice argument has been made that a single-disc album not only would have reigned the band in, challenged AC/DC’s Back in Black as the biggest and best hard rock album ever, and, most importantly that it might have kept the group from splitting apart. DF

However, it didn’t happen that way and from a chart and sales standpoint, the general public didn’t appear too disappointed. The two albums have sold a combined 14 million in the United States and 35 million worldwide. Nine of the albums’ songs charted on the album rock charts from 1990 to 1994.

“Tensions between Slash, Izzy Stradlin, and Axl Rose are evident from the start. The two guitarists, particularly Stradlin, are trying to keep the group closer to its hard rock roots, but Rose has pretensions of being Queen and Elton John, which is particularly odd for a notoriously homophobic Midwestern boy.” E1 “Conceivably, the two aspirations could have been divided between the two records, but instead they are just thrown into the blender.” E1

“Stradlin has a stronger presence on IE1 which makes it the “harder-rocking record.” E1Use Your Illusion II is more serious and ambitious than I, but it’s also considerably more pretentious.” E2 “It can be a chore to find the highlights…amid the overblown production and endless amounts of filler,” E1 but “grandiose epics” E2 such as November Rain and Civil War make for “ambitious set pieces” E1 and there are some songs with “a nervy energy.” E2


Awards for Use Your Illusion I and II:

Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, September 10, 1991

Nirvana charted with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

First posted 7/12/2014; updated 4/20/2019.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nirvana

Writer(s): Kurt Cobain/Nirvana (see lyrics here)


Released: 9/10/1991


Peak: 6 US, 5 CB, 7 AR, 11 MR, 7 UK, 9 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 3.84 US, 1.2 UK, 8.0 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 898.72


Streaming *: 200.0


* in millions

Review:

The song that sparked the grunge movement of the ‘90s owes its inspiration to perspiration. Kathleen Hanna of punk band Bikini Kill scrawled the phrase “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit,” a reference to a deodorant, on Nirvana singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain’s bedroom wall. However, he interpreted it as her suggestion “that he could incite teenage rebellion” LW-170 and crafted an anti-commercial message in what became an ironically monstrous commercial success.

As producer Bruce Vig said, Cobain “had the dichotomy of punk rage and alientation…but also this vulnerable pop sensibility.” RS500 Upon arriving at parties, Cobain used to utter the song’s chorus (“Here we are now/ Entertain us”) to break the ice. RS500 Much as the public and critics had embraced punk fifteen years earlier, they now took to this new form of music which would revolutionize the industry.

The sound wasn’t completely new; the classic sounds of garage rock and arena rock were built on the same four-chord sequence. Cobain himself compared the guitar part to “Louie, Louie” RSP and shared “more than a hint of the chord changes” of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” TB-246 Cobain said he was inspred by the loud/soft dynamic of the Pixies. CR-503

As artist’s masterpieces often do, “Teen Spirit” haunted Cobain; he felt obligated, but tortured, to play the song at every show. As he said, “there are many other songs that I have written that are as good, if not better.” RS500 However, his demons weren’t restricted to a distaste for his career-making hit; he committed suicide on 4/8/1994.


Resources and Related Links:

  • Nirvana’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Creswell, Toby. (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time.
  • LW Lewens, Alan (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY.
  • RS500 RollingStone.com “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • RSP Rolling Stone (September 8, 1988; Issue 534). “The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years.” New York, NY; Straight Arrow Publishing Company.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 205.

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

Awards: