“Classic Albums: Nevermind” by Nirvana

Artist: Nirvana
Title: “Classic Albums – Nevermind”
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 2005
Genre: Alternative

A welcome addition to Eagle Vision’s “Classic Albums” series is this DVD documenting the creation of Nirvana’s 1991 Number 1 charting album “Nevermind”.

In its time “Nevermind” hit a nerve with listeners across generations that immediately and effectively filled a gap in popular music of the day. The beauty of the album is that it offered a unique soundscape that drew in teens as well as older rock fans and provided music with more “real teeth” than all the latex makeup “Thriller” zombies MTV could screen in the early 90’s.

To put the album’s creation in historical context Director Bob Smeaton uses interviews with biographer Charles Cross, Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke and Sub Pop Records founder Jim Poneman. They discuss the burgeoning Seattle music scene of the late 1980’s, Nirvana’s Bleach album and the earliest sessions for the songs that comprise “Nevermind”. Poneman’s good-natured admission of Sub Pop’s musically enthusiastic but financially inept “business style” sets the stage for Nirvana’s jump to Geffen Records. In addition, archival footage (including video of “Smells Like Teen Spirit’s” first public performance) and photographs from Nirvana’s early days are used to give viewers a feel for a time before “grunge” was coined as a musical genre.

Anecdotes from surviving band members, drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic, reveal two surprisingly unaffected personalities who still seem in to be awe of their achievement. Like a kid who just tied his shoelace for the first time, a wide-eyed Novoselic relates his astonishment on hearing the initial to playbacks at Sound City Studio. “Wow, did we do that? How did we do that?” Grohl explains that Kurt was about “the music first, lyrics second” and that the goal was to keep things “simple as possible” like “children’s songs”.

Recording studio segments that are a fun and revelatory trademark of the Classic Albums shows introduce the record’s producer Butch Vig. Using the multi-track master tapes, Vig deconstructs some of the songs and demonstrates how the gritty but melodic vocal lines (influenced by Kurt Cobain’s idol John Lennon) juxtaposed with post-punk buzz-saw guitars (The Who meets Sonic Youth) became a combination that lead to Nirvana’s nearly instant mass appeal.

Classic Albums presentations often reveal how a seemingly banal series of events, involving the right combination of talents at a particular moment in time, can create a lasting (even timeless) piece of art. That the speed and enormity of Nirvana’s success, along with the pressure to maintain its musical integrity, ultimately weighed so heavily on Kurt Cobain that he chose to take his own life is a sad subtext to this story but not it’s point.

The DVD’s main feature is broken into 13 chapters for easy navigation and is expanded with a solid set of bonus features unique to the Eagle Vision disc. In particular the full-length performance of “Polly” is a treat as is the segment detailing the anarchic finale of the twelve -hour video session for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The video transfer is crisp with no visible artifacting and is formatted for 16:9.

Not just for Nirvana fans, this disc will bear repeated viewings and should be in your collection.

Official Website: http://www.nirvana.com/

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