I still remember listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind all the way through the first time and wondering why there was all this empty dead air after “Something In The Way.” Then, after about 10 minutes of silence “Endless, Nameless” begins to play and it all makes sense. The song itself is an interesting one. It’s a very Sonic Youth inspired song with all the noise but, it also has this really cool vibe that acts as a precursor of sorts (all be it probably indirectly) for what would become the raw sound attached to In Utero. It’s also worth noting that this is the only other song on Nevermind credited to all three members of Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being the other.
While I was digging around the other day through Cave In live shows and assorted songs, I came across a cover that I totally forgot about. A few years back there was a tribute album dedicated to Nirvana’s Nevermind entitled, Whatever Nevermind. On it bands like Cave In, Young Widows, Touche Amore, Torche, and many others took on the songs from Nevermind. Cave In did “Breed” and knocked it out of the park. Everything about their version is top notch, especially Caleb’s bass tone. Holy crap is it good!
There is a debate that has been going on for quite some time about Nirvana. There are many out there that consider Nevermind to be the holy grail of their brief catalog. Then there are those who hold In Utero in higher regard. I tend to fall in the In Utero camp. Not to take anything away from Nevermind, In Utero is just the better album in regards to the production, and songwriting. Sure “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “Drain You” are all good songs. Those songs while meaningful just don’t connect as much as the ones on In Utero. There is more desperation anguish, and suffering in the In Utero songs. The production of the vocals really show that as well. Steve Albini’s engineering skills trump Butch Vig any day. Not to take anything away from Butch, his work on Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, and all the Garbage albums are great. Nirvana just needed someone like Steve Albini to really get at the raw nature of the songs. Songs like “Scentless Apprentice,” “Heart Shaped Box,” “Rape Me,” “Milk It” and “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” have that hard edged roar to them and the way they were produced really captures that demand to be noticed. The softer side of the album with songs like “Dumb,” “Pennyroyal Tea” and “All Apologies” embrace the very delicate nature of the band. The only song to really capture that on Nevermind was “Something In The Way.” The drums thump in more of a way that captures the true essence of how Dave Grohl plays. The bass sound has more of a dirty yet balanced sound that attaches itself to the rhythm in a clearer way. The guitars have more edge to them. They cut through the songs with an abrasive razor sharp dynamic. Vocally you can hear all of Kurt’s pain in every syllable he sings. His screams reach new heights since Steve Albini refused to double track Kurt’s vocals. It’s quite noticeable at the end of “Rape Me.” There is something else that has always bothered me about Nevermind. The way Nevermind turned out sort of has a very controlled production and compressed radio-friendly mix.That is something that is not very flattering to a rock band like Nirvana.
Granted this is all just my opinion, but I think this makes for a good debate. Sure we will never know what the next step for Nirvana would be. Though the indication of “You Know You’re Right” which was done by Adam Kasper shows that they were continuing in the direction that Steve Albini steered them in.