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Nirvana's 'Nevermind' re-released

By Nash Sanderson
On October 17, 2011

In a world filled with music, how a does a band endure the tests of time and human attention? Why are some albums imprinted so intensely on our social consciousness?

In the case of Nirvana, it seems like quite the anomaly. Three scruffy guys from the Seattle grunge scene became one of the most recognized, celebrated bands of all time.

This unlikely trio has become elemental in the American music psyche; their sound, message, and raw emotion resonates with each generation since their explosion onto the music scene in 1991. To understand Nirvana's genius, it is necessary to turn to "Nevermind," the band's most successful record. Thankfully, Universal has just put out a boxed set including a re-issue of "Nevermind," video performances and more treasure from the Nirvana archive.

Released in 1991, "Nevermind" quickly captured the attention of the nation. In a time of Glam rock and pop music, Nirvana arrived as a voice for the sarcastic, jaded young people sick of plastic and make-up.

From the very first bars of "Smells like Teen Spirit", "Nevermind" appeals to the primal rage and frustration everyone experiences. Led by troubled front man Kurt Cobain, Nirvana's unfiltered, angry songs gave a voice to the teenage angst repressed in American society for too long. Cobain's raw howling became the battle cry for a generation of disenfranchised youths. These were not songs about believing in oneself, but about not knowing what to believe at all.

Like a Shepard of lost souls, Nirvana gave confused and angry teens a place to finally be just plain confused and angry. This sentiment is expressed perfectly in the song "Territorial Pissings." The chorus is repeated like a scared chant, "Gotta find a way, a better way when I'm there. Gotta find a way a better way, I had better wait…" This chant repeats ad nauseum until Cobain is screeching almost incoherently, as if he is expressing the weight of the earth's angst all at once.

Twenty years have passed since the initial release of "Nevermind". To commemorate this anniversary, Universal music released a deluxe re-issue of the classic containing the remastered "Nevermind," never-before heard rehearsals, live performances, and more Nirvana goodies.

Universal released two versions of the re-issue: a deluxe version containing all of the above; and the super deluxe version also containing a dvd of the famed Paramount Theater live performance, along with the entire album remixed by super producer Butch Vig. Packaged along with the CD/Vinyl are special liner notes, pictures, and set lists that speak to Nirvana's history as well as the story behind "Nevermind."

The box set is a gem.

First and foremost, the quality of the original album is superb. Even on vinyl, the sound quality is on par or superior to any digital recording previously available from the band. Every powerful rhythm pounded out by drummer Dave Grohl, every driving note from bassist Krist Novoselic, and every soul-wrenching scream of Kurt Cobain can be felt and heard in astounding clarity.

This is truly the ultimate version of the legendary album. Additonal discs in the set contain insight into the process of how "Nevermind" was shaped. Rare B-sides like the excellently rocking "Aneurysm": an outstanding blend of "Polly" and "Drain You" with strong instrumentals and lyrics, and "Even in Youth": starring a raspy voiced Cobain and unfailingly brilliant percussion backing from Grohl, carry on the tradition of angry excellence found throughout the album.

Along with these B-sides, the listener is treated to early recordings from the Smart Sessions, a set of songs recorded in a very raw format featuring percussion from previous Nirvana drummer Chad Channing. Another disc contains the recordings from the Boombox rehearsals, a demo set of songs featuring the three primary members of the band playing early concept versions of the famous songs found on "Nevermind."

This bonus material is a rare glimpse into the formation of this seminal album, and through its raw recordings, the listener can develop a better understanding of how the album came together so perfectly.

The DVD found in the Super Deluxe package features the band's never-before released live performance at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. The performance is well worth the price and shows Nirvana at their performing best, playing all the hit songs from the album.

For diehard Nirvana devotees, the super deluxe package is a no-brainer, containing everything a super-fan could want.

But in reality, the re-issue of "Nevermind" is not solely for the die-hard Nirvana fan. In fact, Nirvana themselves were not just about the die-hard fans. Nirvana was the mouthpiece for anyone who felt that angst, confusion and anger but could not express it themselves.

The re-issue of "Nevermind" is designed for those to whom music isn't just notes on a page, but an expression of emotion. As important as it was the day it was released, the notorious album rings true in this ultimate package.

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