30 Years of Nevermind: A Track-by-Track Analysis


Photo Credit: Kirk Weddle, Brian Dyer

Edited album art of Nevermind to celebrate its 30th.

Brian Dyer, Reporter

There’s no doubt that many albums have shaped the history of music. And there’s no doubt that Nirvana’s Nevermind is one of them. It brought the grunge genre out of Seattle and into the mainstream and crowned Kurt Cobain as its king.

Although primarily grunge, the album does have a diverse lineup of songs, ranging from hard rock to acoustic ballads. However, these are all connected through a feeling of angst and paranoia. This is the essence of grunge.

The record begins with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which is their most well-known song. Ironically, Kurt has stated in the past that the song is a rock cliche-ridden track. But the song’s unexpected success is part of the reason Nirvana blew up in the first place, much to Cobain’s dismay, as he didn’t care much for the song. The album then moves on to “In Bloom”, which is a hard rock tune about the people who jump on the bandwagon when something becomes popular, while never understanding the meaning. Following that is “Come As You Are”, which was another hit with the 

“Breed”, yet another hard rock song, brings topics of teenage apathy to the table. Following that is “Lithium”. This is a rock song that is a great crowd-inviting tune with the “yeah” chorus. “Polly” is next, which is a dark song about a kidnapping. “Territorial Pissings”, yet again, is a hard rock song where Kurt brings more paranoia from his childhood into the album. “Drain You” is next, which is a love song Cobain wrote during his break-up with musician Tobi Vail.

After that is “Lounge Act”, which is another rock song about Cobain’s break-up to Tobi Vail. This is my personal favorite because it really pushes Cobain’s vocal range when he sings the chorus, emphasizing the contrast between the verse and chorus parts of the song. “Stay Away”, is another hard rock song, but this track dips its toes into metal and themes of alienation. Cobain writes that he would “rather be dead than cool”, which is a clever way of saying that he’d rather be himself than conform to what is trending, or what other people believe.

“On a Plain” takes the listeners back to a slower, classic rock tempo and style. It doesn’t seem to have any particular meaning, which is a running theme throughout Cobain’s writing on this LP, as most of the lyrics on Nevermind were taken from bits of poetry he had written prior. “Something in the Way” is a song based around Cobain’s short period of homelessness. “Endless, Nameless” is another rock song leaning on metal. It was accidentally omitted from early copies of the record, but was later fixed, rendering these copies as collector’s items.

The album is a masterwork that must be preserved as it’s one of the most influential LPs of all time, setting in stone what the grunge genre was and finally moving it out of only Seattle and across the world.