20 years later, Nirvana's 'Nevermind' reminds music fans of what could have been

From left, Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic released Nevermind on Sept. 24, 1991.

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From left, Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic released Nevermind on Sept. 24, 1991.

Unless you're Dick Cheney or my Uncle Gerry, bad moods aren't meant to last. Perennial sourpusses are a hazard area, a reason why most of us ditch the dour in our lives and move on.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain didn't live long enough to find happiness. He was a troubled 27-year-old who took his life in 1994, leaving behind a beautiful daughter, a legion of fans and a small but intense collection of rock 'n' roll.

This includes, of course, 1991's grunge rallying cry Nevermind, which this week turns 20 years old. A four-disc deluxe edition, complete with rehearsal tracks, mixes and more, has been issued to mark the time, as has a hi-def Halloween '91 concert DVD from the Paramount Theater in the trio's home base of Seattle, Wash.

I never bought what Nirvana was selling for the same reason I found the movie The Breakfast Club cloying. I found no interest in disillusioned youth — not even when I was a disillusioned youth. I understand the outcast seduction of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come as You Are, and yet I never felt the pull myself.

Maybe the problem was that the grunge movement was a response to the glamtastic '80s, a relatively upbeat (and playfully randy) musical decade that happened to define me. Motley Crue made noise to get lucky; Nirvana made noise to get low. If that makes me shallow, so be it. But I wasn't done enjoying life, and I didn't feel like a loser. Grunge turned out to be an ephemeral genre that defined young people for whom flannel is no longer a fashion statement.

Was Cobain a talented guy? Absolutely. No doubt about that. And I can honestly say it's sad that his creativity will forever remain untapped. Who knows what he would have come up with? He had some of that John Lennon light in him, and chances are good he would have switched gears in wild, fascinating ways.

But we'll never know. In related news, Pearl Jam, once Nirvana's chief competition for king of the grunge pile, just celebrated its 20th b-day as an active band. Eddie Vedder & Co. transcended their original mopey tag because they had to. The world moved on from grunge because it was a flat-out bummer, man, and frankly, there were better things to do.

It's also no coincidence that drummer Dave Grohl's next band after Nirvana, Foo Fighters, kept the raging guitars in the music but this time paired the mayhem with newfangled Beach Boys melodies. Grohl couldn't live in the surly vacuum, either. So he embraced life the best he could. That's what survivors do.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.

.fast facts

'Nevermind'

•Nirvana's 1991 breakout album has since sold more than 30 million copies.

•Five months after it was released, Nevermind finally made it to No. 1 — taking over the spot from Michael Jackson's Dangerous.

•The album was produced by Butch Vig, who later formed the much happier outfit Garbage with Shirley Manson.

20 years later, Nirvana's 'Nevermind' reminds music fans of what could have been 09/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011 9:59am]

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