'Nevermind' Turns 20

By Michael Chanay
TFW Contributing Writer

With the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” having come and gone last month, it seems that now is as good a time as any to review the actual re-release itself. The anniversary version comes in a two-disc Deluxe Edition and a more expansive 4CD/1DVD Super Deluxe Edition.

Originally released in 1991, “Nevermind” was the band’s debut album on a major label. “Bleach”, their first album, had been released by the independent Seattle label SubPop Records in 1989. “Bleach” grabbed enough major label attention that frontman Kurt Cobain and his fellow band members found themselves with a plethora of choices and eventually signed with DGC Records. Produced by Butch Vig and mixed by Andy Wallace, “Nevermind” was one of the first albums to be certified Diamond (over 10 million copies shipped in the US) and it’s sold close to 40 million worldwide.

A track-by-track analysis of the original album seems pointless. It’s been out long enough that if you haven’t already heard it in its entirety then you should stop reading and go download it right now. Better yet, buy an actual physical copy, any copy, and listen to it while you finish reading this review. We’ll wait. Got it? Good.

“Nevermind” spanned 12 songs with a hidden jam about 13:50 into the last track. Both anniversary versions sport a completely remastered album along with all the extra goodies one comes to expect from a retrospective musical release. For example, on the original album, to access the hidden track — a strange, heavy and mostly instrumental jam —  you must wait ten minutes after the last track of the album ends before it plays. On the deluxe versions, you have to skip ahead a minute or so, only to miss the beginning of “Endless, Nameless” by a few seconds, and then go back for the hidden song to start.

You should already know, and could be a little sick of, the first track, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” This song and its accompanying video were played endlessly on MTV — back when MTV still played music videos — and were almost entirely responsible for the enormous popularity of “Nevermind” and Nirvana in general.

Nirvana is remembered for its relatively simple melodies, mostly unintelligible lyrics, and loud-soft-loud dynamics. One of Cobain’s greatest strengths was the way in which he put his music together, making “Nevermind” one of those increasingly rare musical experiences — a good album. There’s a reason people are still talking about “Nevermind” and Nirvana 20 years later.

As to the actual physical packaging of the re-release, most will be more than content with the Deluxe Edition, as it’s easier to find and much less expensive. It’s got the original album remastered, all of the B-sides, the demos that got them signed to DGC, and the boom box rehearsals the band recorded just prior to working on the actual album.

The Super Deluxe Edition is definitely for the hardcore fan. It’s got everything previously mentioned, plus a third disc of an early mix of the album. The fourth disc is the audio from the Halloween 1991 show at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle. There is also a DVD of the Live at the Paramount show, which  includes the four music videos from “Nevermind”. Add to that a beautifully bound book with tons of photos and articles from the time around the album’s release, and you’ve got a mighty fine package.

As a fan, I knew I would be buying the Super Deluxe Edition as soon as I heard about it. While I don’t regret the decision, I do think it was a bit overpriced. The packaging and the content is great, they’re just not quite worth the expense. I already have some of the extras from the 2004 box set “With the Lights Out,” other official releases, and some bootlegs.

Categories: Legacy Archive