Nirvana began their career with no illusions about their chances for mass success and ended it by seeing just how abrasive a platinum-selling band could get away with being. But when they got their chance at the brass ring, they went at it with a bubblegum band’s canniness, however much Cobain shit on the shiny final product after the fact. Andy Wallace’s radio-ready mix certainly helped sharpen this potentially no-concessions, indie-to-major leap into an obvious commercial proposition. But even if they’d settled on producer Butch Vig’s slightly less slick mixes– made as a reference for the band and identified on the super deluxe edition’s third disc as the “Devonshire mixes”– Nevermind would likely have fared well in the charts, since these early passes aren’t far from Wallace’s infamous high-gloss version. Listening in hindsight, though, they have the woozy effect of feeling just slightly off, leaving you to focus only on what’s missing.

The box set does make clear that Nirvana honed these songs over a long period. Listening to the various sessions leading up to the one that gave us the album we know– especially the nearly unlistenable “boombox” mixes of early demos– you learn very quickly that these songs didn’t arrive perfectly formed in one sustained burst of inspiration. The hours of rehearsals and the expensive time spent tinkering in the studio shaped them into classics. It helped that there are songs on Nevermind that might appeal to people who’ve never heard a hardcore album in their lives, who might have even (gasp!) kinda liked the glossier hard-rock bands whose era largely ended with the rise of grunge. Moving away from the heavy-at-all-costs sound he’d always been both enamored with and suspicious of, Cobain worked diligently on his big hooks and decided to stop smothering his natural melodic gifts under so much self-conscious sludge.Pitchfork


Wilco Whole Love
Blink-182 Neighborhoods
Mastodon Hunter
Sonia Leigh 1978 December
Chickenfoot Chickenfoot III
Dum Dum Girls Only In Dreams
Frankmusik Do It In The AM
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa Don’t Explain
Knux Eraser
Machine Head Unto The Locust

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