This guy has quite a bit to say about music.
How can a band top creating one of the great albums of all time? By accepting that they had captured they had intended to of a particular sound and breaking out with something new, U2 did just that when they released Achtung Baby as the studio follow-up to The Joshua Tree. Bringing a touch of mainland Europe into their sound made all the difference.
“Zoo Station” opens with some crunchy guitar work that is clearly an immediate sonic departure from The Edge’s signature ringing tones. The ringing is still there later in the song, disguised behind some well-placed feedback. The song has a strong upbeat rhythm and still features Bono’s whispered phrases and soaring choruses.
With the opening to the second song, “Even Better Than The Real Thing”, it is clear the new sound is here to stay and, what more, it works. Here, I hear a bit more of the U2 of old, but with a vibrancy not found eon earlier albums. Perhaps it is because Larry Mullen, Jr. is on top of the beat, but there is an aggressiveness to this song that makes it so good.
“One” mellows things a bit too quickly in a “Where did that come from?” kind of way. The song settles into a nice groove, complete with deeper lyrical content than the first two offerings. The conclusion evolves out of the groove with Bono’s resolute vocals. Time has dulled the power of those lines a bit, as I must have heard this song hundreds or even thousands of times in twenty years.
The next song, “Until the End of the World” is darker, with very strong Christian allusions. The song is about Jesus, but told from Judas’ perspective. The lyrical content overshadows the music a bit, partly because the melody is lyrical in itself. Overall, it is another strong offering from a great band still assembling their new sound.I
In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
“Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” is the first song on the album that really sounds like it is from The Joshua Tree era. The song is a heartbroken ode to a free-spirited lover. Its likely inspiration was The Edge’s recent or ongoing divorce.
“So Cruel” is a pretty messed up song with a fantastic sound. It’s subject matter covers a relationship full of infidelity, where the male partner is forced to witness her sexual escapades. It would seem that her idea of love differs substantially from his, a fact that pains him to no end. Yet, he still loves her and she knows this, making each act of deviance one of cruelty for him. I might not have said this when the album was first released, but this may be the best song on it.
“The Fly” throws the album back into new musical territory. Hello, distortion! The song is notable as the introduction to Bono’s new stage persona, but it lacks the compelling riffs that grace “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and the next song.
Oh yes, the next song. I don’t know a music fan who couldn’t name this song after hearing just the opening chord. “Mysterious Ways” was a huge success and that riff was a large part of it. The ambiguous lyrics help as well, the surface lyrics about a woman reveal a song about religious faith at a deeper level.
“Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is about the surrealism of fame and excess. It has a lazy sway about it as if it were not a big deal. The narrator remains resolute that he will return home to the woman he loves in the end.
Illuminating things we could not otherwise see is the theme of “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”. Here we see the curing power that love can bring. The soaring chorus has returned in a style reminiscent of songs like “With or Without You”. Love anthems are clearly well within their repertoire and this one plays well.
“Acrobat” is a song about the mental gymnastics the narrator needs to believe in his religion. He no longer believes, but still cannot let go of what it has meant to him. The idea of dreaming “out loud” is appealing, but he realizes he can no longer follow that path.
The finale is a slower, more atmospheric song shrouded in layers of meaning. The rumbling bass and sharp, dissonant guitar build tension throughout the song. “Love is Blindness” could be about love and sex, but reads just as well as being about depression and suicide. I opt to believe the former, as it fits better with the rest of the album. The song fades away in a subtle manner, so that it evokes the appearance of mist burning off in the sun.
Twenty years have elapsed and Achtung Baby is still strong. When held up against The Joshua Tree, it is amazing that they were created by the same band, a clear testament to U2′s talent. They are both among the greatest albums of my lifetime and Achtung Baby is powerful enough to continue delivering the goods today.
I spent a bit of time reviewing the first of the Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion albums and have put off the latter for long enough.
The album opens with a quote from the warden in Cool Hand Luke that is meant to illustrate the level of cognitive dissonance by the ruling class. The song “Civil War” is just that, an anti-anthem revealing that the rich are the true victors who receive the spoils of war, while the working class fights each other. Despite cultural divisions and ethnic diversity, this sentiment has held across the majority of wars this planet has seen. This song rings with big power chords, a simple verse/chorus structure, and, of course, the Slash guitar solo. All work well here in one of the few GN’R songs with a strong political message.
“14 Years” is another sour relationship song. It was written by Izzy and could be construed as his “leaving the band because I’m fed up with Axl” moment. The other members of GN’R would soon share that sentiment, if they didn’t already. If “14 Years” is a look at the pain of the past, “Yesterdays” is about putting all of that behind. This is another solid song, but not as memorable as some of the others on this album.
For whatever reason, this album also has a cover of a classic songwriter. In this case, it’s Bob Dylan who provides the song, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” It is a far more ebullient version than the original, which ends up diluting its meaning, along with the strong backbeat.
It’s take no prisoners time. “Get in the Ring” is among the greatest rage-filled songs I have ever come across. It is transparent in its meaning, calling out people and publications who have, in Axl’s opinion, wronged the band. I didn’t dig too deep into the back story, but it sounds like Axl is full of it. It doesn’t matter, the song rocks. The opening arena chant brings the energy, as does that killer opening riff. As a kid, I learned that the line between legitimate and gratuitous use of the f-bomb lay somewhere far below the level set by this song.
While the previous song raised the energy level, “Shotgun Blues” is a ridiculous attempt to do the same. Supposedly, it’s about the same fight between Axl and Vince Neil (of Mötley Crüe) discussed by the media in “Get in the Ring”. This song doesn’t have much going for it.
The first low-key song on the album is a good one. “Breakdown” is a bleak look at the beginning of the end of the band. It is written as another bad relationship song, but in my opinion, this is the relationship that makes the band—or at least Axl vs. the band.
Funny how ev’rything was roses
when we held on to the guns
It is worth noting, at this point, that this is the third song on the album that uses quoted material. Both “Civil War” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” do this as well.
If it weren’t for “My World”, “Pretty Tied Up” would be the worst song on the album. In some sense it is, as the former hardly tries to be a song. The song covers a relationship with a prostitute who apparently has a nice little bondage practice going. It also continues the foreshadowing of GN’R's demise:
Once there was this rock n’ roll band
Rollin’ on the streets
Time went by and it became a joke
We just needed more and more fulfilling -
Time went by and it all went up in smoke
It wasn’t long until the band (namely Axl, at that point) had become a joke. The years between The Spaghetti Incident and Chinese Democracy were an eternity for fans. They probably weren’t fairy tale filled for Axl, either.
“Locomotive”, fittingly, gets the album back on track. This is another post-relationship song, but takes a more mature look at life than their others of this nature. In this song, we find the album title:
You can use your illusion -
Let it take you where it may
We live and learn
and then sometimes it’s best to walk away
Me I’m just here hangin’ on
It’s my only place to stay at least
For now anyway
I’ve worked too hard for my illusions
Just to throw them all away
The protagonist wants to move on, but his ex-girlfriend is dragging her heels, causing him to resent her. He wants to forgive her and move on, but he is tempted by the illusion that their love created for him.
This song holds the key to the albums. They center around lost love and the feelings ignited by a painful breakup. Had they stuck to that and cut the songs that didn’t address this theme, we’d have a single Use Your Illusion album that would be among the best of all time, rather than two albums that are both very good.
“So Fine” continues that theme, examining our protagonist after the relationship has ended. He is a broken man, reminiscing about the things he would do for love.
Enter the epic: “Estranged”. In this song, the protagonist sees how things have drifted apart in his relationship. The music and the lyrical context give it the feeling of describing a relationship adrift at sea. He can see it happening, but is unable to stop it or change its course. The lyrics are great with the old/young at heart turn and the three-part segment that concludes the song between some nice guitar and piano work. If the songs on these albums can be categorized by the Kübler-Ross model of grief, this is the only one that might fall under acceptance.
Enough with the ballads, how about some hard rock? “You Could Be Mine” is just what this album needed after a song like “Estranged”. Axl borrows a line from Elton John and proceeds to get it all out. The “rant solo” is all the frustration coming out in a burst and once again shows a level of maturity not reached in songs like “Get in the Ring”.
Now, another version of “Don’t Cry” … really. The “alternate lyrics” are good, even, but the song is completely unnecessary. It’s another “unable to let go” post-relationship song. The song order on these albums could use some serious work.
Oh yes, the WTF of “My World” closes out the album. I’ll go with the crowd that thinks Axl had a message here and did this intentionally as a statement. That doesn’t change that the song blows. (So if it is intentionally terrible, is it genius? I don’t necessarily buy that either.)
“Not with a bang, but a whimper” is perhaps the best summary of the Use Your Illusion albums. For all the promise that they hold and the greatness of some of the songs, there’s still plenty of filler to leave a bad taste when done. The expanse of the albums is a strong contrast to a number of other top albums that year that stayed tight and on point throughout. For better or worse, I was introduced to GN’R through these albums and not Appetite for Destruction. As such, I watched the band in their heyday and quick fall from stardom. I wish I had been old enough to see them play with Metallica—there were two bands simultaneously at the heights of their careers—but concerts of that type were out of the question for my ten-year-old self.
2011 is almost over, but I still have to take a look back at Metallica, Achtung, Baby, and Badmotorfinger. I hope to have some time in the next few weeks to give those some attention. If anyone can think of other great albums from 1991 that I should include, please leave a comment!
In yet another concert showcasing a band I should have seen long ago, I finally paid an exorbitant amount of money for good seats at last night’s Allman Brothers Band show. I’m a huge Derek Trucks fan and have enjoyed a lot of Warren Haynes’ work as well.
On the plus side, the seats were as good as advertised and Derek tore it up, notably trading licks with Warren on “Soulshine”, and completely owning “Mountain Jam” and “Blue Sky”. It was nice to see Derek be aggressive; at times, he even went as far as to grab the spotlight, pointing at himself to indicate he would take a solo. He has a much more laid back style with his own groups, so this was a nice treat. If he ever fully realizes the extent of his talent, the world had better watch out.
On the minus side, the seats were cramped. Who knew that the Orpheum was designed around people who are 5’2″ or shorter? Also, the sound guy was doing a lousy job. For the better part of the first set, Derek and Gregg were difficult to hear, while Warren and Oteil were coming in clearly. Presumably, they were using a stereo mix, as the former pair were on the left and the latter on the right. However, the three-headed drumming monster tended to drown out most of the other music. I am definitely frustrated that one of the most expensive concerts of my life had lousy sound.
Back on the plus side, the band sells their concert recordings online, even offering previews before purchase. I listened, and the recording sounds far superior to the actual experience. On the minus side, it’s $15 per recording! What’s that, you want lossless? That’ll be a $3 surcharge. I’m extremely disappointed by those prices. They’re certainly not in line with actual costs and the capital equipment has long since been paid for.
I’ve had better experiences, but the continued musical maturation of Derek Trucks is always a joy to witness. As the heir apparent to Duane’s throne, I’d love it if Derek were to spend a year tearing through the musical world, playing in any studio session he can, while playing as a special guest at concerts much like Warren does.
Oh yeah, the post title. The second set consisted of Eat a Peach in its entirety!
Sailin’ ‘Cross The Devil’s Sea
Hoochie Coochie Man
Who’s Been Talking
No One To Run With
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Les Brers In A Minor
One Way Out
Trouble No More
When they were released, the Use Your Illusion I/II albums were the first that struck me as having a sense of theatrics that gave Guns N’ Roses a larger-than-life image in my mind. Even as a ten-year-old, I recognized these guys as rock stars, something that stood in stark contrast to the anti-fame image portrayed by Pearl Jam and Nirvana at the time. I ended up working backwards with GN’R, discovering Appetite for Destruction sometime after the Use Your Illusions (I’ll often refer to the two releases as a single unit, as they came out at the same time and were intended to be a musical whole).
The albums are grandiose and sprawling. Looking back, a good deal of the two is filler. Combining the two could have yielded one of the best albums of all time, but instead, both play second fiddle to their earlier work on Appetite for Destruction.
The first album opens with guitar riffs and a pounding snare drum. Axl’s entry is mostly unintelligible, up until the title chorus of “Right Next Door to Hell”. The screeching vocals are nothing new and this song has nothing to make it stand out. Mercifully, it is short.
“Dust and Bones” has a bit of a twang to it and is notably different, as it is sung by rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin. It has a nice instrumental break that fits in well with the feel of the song.
The first cover song on the album is “Live and Let Die”. The song itself needs no introduction to music buffs or to those familiar with the old James Bond film of the same title. McCartney’s orchestral break is replaced by heavy guitar riffs in the GN’R version. The song is remarkably true to its roots and plays well as an update for the hard rock genre.
“Don’t Cry (Original)” is the first song that elevates the album beyond hard rock and starts to get into the orchestration that makes this album worth returning to. It is a ballad, played slowed down, and features hints of vocal harmony. The subject of lost love is nothing new to rock. About halfway through the song, the guitars jump to life. Slash’s wailing solo is prominently featured, leading to the bridge and final chorus. The breakdown is memorable: “Baby … maybe … someday” is a line that I still remember twenty years later, as is the haunting reverb to close the tune.
The next song returns to the unintelligible, screeching verses. “Perfect Crime” plays like cats on speed for the most part, save some weird distorted vocal break about halfway through. There is no breathing room here.
“You Ain’t the First” opens with a count-off. This is not notable in rock, particularly in monster arena rock songs. What is notable is that the count is in 3/4 time and is followed by acoustic guitars. It is as if all of the breathing room removed from the previous song was reallocated here. This is another Izzy Stradlin song and is also noteworthy because it features the late Shannon Hoon (later of Blind Melon fame) on vocals.
The twang is back on “Bad Obsession” and here, it works better than it did earlier in the album. It’s relatively easy to understand Rose’s vocals, which is also a nice surprise. This is one of the non-mainstream standouts on the album, a song that, probably due to a few choice lyrics, I have never heard on the radio. Its content is a retrospective on drug use, something that is nothing new as well.
Finally, a song that could have belonged on Appetite for Destruction (perhaps with a faster tempo). “Back Off Bitch” is a nice, angry, breakup song. The lyrics are trite (“Face of an angel with the love of a witch” is one of the rhyming lines), but real. The guitar solo saves this song, musically.
“Double Talkin’ Jive” is a fun song that is essentially over in a minute and a half, save for the guitar solo, which is a good one. It’s not the cleanest of Slash’s solos, but he uses the wailing high notes to good effect. The song breaks down to a bare picked guitar line in the last minute, giving it one of the stranger endings I have heard.
If it weren’t for the earlier inclusion of “Don’t Cry”, “November Rain” would have truly come out of nowhere on this album. If you watched MTV in 1991, there was no escaping this song. It is a masterful epic that clocks in at almost nine minutes (great for those “just one more song” requests when I was a kid). Having not been exposed to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video until later, this one clearly stood out compared to many of its peers (excepting Pearl Jam’s video for “Jeremy”) and established the music video as an art form in my mind.
“November Rain” knows it is an epic. It is not shy or self-conscious about that fact. Slash’s solos draw attention in the music, but even more so in the video, where he plays them in a dusty church courtyard. This song is near symphonic, with clear “movements” and orchestral backing. As if the Elton John comparisons weren’t enough, GN’R played this song with the not-yet Sir at the MTV Video Music Awards. The song’s conclusion is one for the books: screaming guitar, comping piano, and lyrics that evoke something between a chant and a scream.
The video for “November Rain” was so powerful, that it is almost a disservice to the song itself. I find it impossible to listen to the song without the video imagery in my head. The blues of the bedroom, the orange-brown landscape of the church, the helicopter fly by shot of Slash’s first solo in the church courtyard after he leaves the wedding ceremony, the rain-ruined reception, and the harsh juxtaposition of the funeral, also rain-spoiled, all stand out.
“The Garden” is not a let-down from “November Rain”, something that is fortunate for the album flow. In fact, the remainder of the songs on UYI1 work pretty well together. The song is part hedonistic and part flat-out nuts. The semi-spoken chorus, delivered by Alice Cooper, is one of the creepiest parts of the album.
The previous song is not to be confused with the next, “Garden of Eden”. This song is the first I can recall that required a lyrics display during the video (another notable one that comes to mind is Snow’s “Informer”). The song is a rant in the spirit of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. GN’R keeps it short enough that the tone doesn’t wear away the message.
It’s not a problem you can stop, it’s rock and roll
It’s interesting that “Don’t Damn Me” follows a song that is a pure rant. It’s apologetic in its anti-apology stance. Here, Axl says he doesn’t want to hear any criticism for speaking his mind. Whether or not that is truly right is up to the listener. For “Garden of Eden”, maybe. For something like “One in a Million”, not so much.
“Bad Apples” has an appropriate title and the cliché is carried all the way through. It’s musically unremarkable, save for yet another pretty good guitar solo. It seems like that’s the GN’R formula for saving what would otherwise have been a crappy song.
The final two songs can be taken together as the before and after of a suicide attempt. The album leads us to this point from a path that includes the consequences of fame, the meaning of life, lost love, searching for meaning in empty relationships, drug use and the shady characters that inhabit such a life, then a final lash out at the world. All of this is from the protagonist trying to feel something, anything in this life that is more than fleeting.
“Dead Horse” is the suicide note. The quiet intro absolutely explodes into the hard rock the GN’R is known for. The protagonist feels stuck in the monotony of his life—his relationships, his experiences—none of it changes for him. It is possible that the “suicide note” itself is the bookends of the song, a recorded note. This is reinforced by the tape rewinding sound that concludes the track.
After the suicide attempt by this unknown protagonist, he ends up in a coma. The song documents the character’s internal struggle between the desire to leave this world and his body’s natural tendency to choose life. The setting is very literal, complete with heartbeat and other sounds from a hospital. However, the song also compares the character’s life to a coma as well, something that builds on the feelings revealed in the previous song. “Coma” features an quiet interlude that could be compared with that of “Estranged” (from UYI2), which is interrupted by his resuscitation (and guitar solo, of course).
The song concludes with the character realizing that they are responsible for their actions, including the present situation. The final verse is followed by what feels like a stream-of-consciousness that ends with accepting life.
But if home is where the heart is
Then there’s stories to be told
No you don’t need a doctor
No one else can heal your soul
“Coma” ends with screeching feedback and a single, thudding drum beat, leaving it difficult to tell whether the character actually lives or dies. With apologies to the mainstream and the “November Rain” fans, “Coma” is the best song on the album, and perhaps the best of GN’R's career.
I promised a twofer, but this post is long enough to stand on its own. Stay tuned for Use Your Illusion II.
According to Almost Famous, that is indeed one of rock’s attributes. Whether or not that’s merely hyperbole is up for discussion. What is not, however, is that Dave Grohl might have saved rock, at least for me. I (finally) caught his brand of straight up, in-your-face, rock when I saw the Foo Fighters at the Garden last night. Said Dave, about the number of fans (myself included) who were at their first show, “Where the fuck have you been for the last sixteen years?”
Where have I been, indeed? They’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since Dave rose up from the ashes of Nirvana. Last night’s show just helped remind me why. There was a ton of pure headbanging, screeching guitar solos, heavy-handed drumming, a stage run that split the audience, complete with an elevator platform at the end, and plenty of screaming. I’m surprised Dave even has a voice at this point.
The show was heavy on the new material, which I expected, as it is a tour supporting Wasting Light. Being the last stop on the US leg hopefully counted for something, as the show covered nearly three hours. Personal highlights included “All My Life”, which closed the set and the acoustic-to-electric “Times Like These”.
I’ve been on a bit of a hot streak with concerts. The next one I have planned is
Band of Horses in a few weeks The Allman Brothers, but perhaps I’ll find something to see between now and then. As for the Foo Fighters, they are what rock is about. Go see them.
To continue the theme I started with my review of Ten, twenty years after its release, I listened to another one of the first albums I purchased, Nirvana’s breakthrough Nevermind. While I’m sure it will be difficult to write anything that hasn’t already been said about this album, I hope my perspective reflects the twenty years that have elapsed since its release.
If Ten was thought-provoking, surprisingly mature music, then Nevermind was somewhat of its antithesis—the songs were short, simple, and even repetitive. While the styling was evocative of The Beatles, the subject matter was not, full of self-loathing and the fallout of a terminated relationship.
I suppose there are people out there whose first encounter with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was when they first put the album on. I wish I could count myself among them. As it was, I had already seen the video countless times by the time the album arrived. Even today, the song still carries the weight of a generation. The quiet intro is offset by a pair of drum beats to the primal roar of a guitar. Rapidly shifting dynamics play a large role in Nirvana’s music and this opening track showcases that motif to grand effect.
Now that I am listening twenty years later, I wonder what it was about this song that made it the anthem of choice for so many people. For me, it’s the hook that resonates. That and the fact that Dave Grohl really knew what he was doing.
“In Bloom” became the album’s fourth single and it’s easy to hear why. It’s the only song on the album that is clearly uplifting in mood, though its lyrics are pretty much a smug nod among those who actually listen to them. Kurt Cobain even sounds like he’s having fun here, and he’s clearly comfortable with the quiet verse, loud chorus dynamic.
It’s tempting to look back at “Come as You Are” as bitterly ironic, given the deadpan delivery of the line, “And I swear that I don’t have a gun,” in light of Cobain’s eventual suicide. It worked as a single because of its simplicity. I remember being able to pick out the main riff after about 30 seconds the first time I held a guitar. Here, we hear an angst in Kurt’s voice that is not present in the first two songs.
The first song on the album that was not a single is “Breed.” While it’s repetitive and goes from loud to louder between the verse and chorus, it has the first truly clever line of the album with the following:
Even if you have
Even if you need
I don’t mean to stare
We don’t have to breed
We can plant a house
We can build a tree
I don’t even care
We could have all three
Here, the narrator waffles on the thought of having children, complete with a sort of spoonerism in the concept of planting a house or building a tree.
The last of the singles on the album is also my favorite song from Nevermind. “Lithium” returns to the quiet verse/loud chorus motif, but does so with a purpose. The song’s title hints at its content, as lithium is a commonly prescribed mood stabilizer used to treat bipolar disorder. The references to “candles” and “Sunday morning” point towards a religious allusion; perhaps a statement that religion is the public’s mood stabilizer. The narrator cycles through emotions that may well mark bipolar disorder: happy, scared, excited, horny and affirms repeatedly that he is not going to crack.
“Polly” is an aberration on this album as the song is a lightly played acoustic number buried in the middle of distorted guitars and hard-hitting drums. It is sung in a laid back fashion that stands in stark contrast to its content. Kurt wrote this song after reading the story of a girl who was abducted, raped, and tortured, but who managed to escape and turn in her captor. The song describes the actions of this sick person as being all for his amusement.
And now, the first WTF song on the album: “Territorial Pissings”. It begins with an out-of-tune line from Krist Novoselic quoting the Youngbloods’ “Get Together” and proceeds to thrash and wail. Kurt’s voice must have been shot after recording this. The song also features a quote from my favorite book, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, which is slightly paraphrased here:
Just because you’re paranoid
don’t (sic) mean they’re not after you
Fortunately, the bizarre is replaced by the contemplative as the album’s next song, “Drain You”, is the first of a series of lyrically deep songs that make up the second half of the album. This song is about a needy relationship that is so bad, it’s parasitic. There’s quite a bit of speculation that it’s about drug use, but I think I’d take the slightly more literal stance that it’s (just) about a girl. This song also reverses the dynamic theme set earlier by having quiet verses and an even quieter chorus.
“Lounge Act” is another ex-girlfriend song that features a fantastically woven chorus. Each successive run through sounds increasingly desperate until Kurt breathlessly screams the last one.
An aggressive drum beat opens “Stay Away”, which brings back the quiet/loud dynamic interplay. In one of what might have been Kurt’s more autobiographical lines, he states, “I’d rather be dead than cool”. The song also closes on one of his most controversial lines, “God is gay”, which spins out into guitar fuzz. This is perhaps the strongest anti-conformity song on Nevermind.
“On a Plain” is probably the most disjoint song on the album. It opens with a pretty obtuse drug reference and spirals away from there. One of the phrases talks about “writing off lines that don’t make sense.” This is a somewhat paradoxical statement, considering that, to this point, we can conclude that the narrator isn’t making any sense and that we should write him off … which makes perfect sense.
“Something in the Way” is the official conclusion to the album, at least as far as the track list is concerned. There is one more hidden track to come. This song is the most mellow of the bunch, with a lulling melody and whispered voices. It’s a nice tune, but there isn’t much to it.
This leads into “Endless, Nameless”, which comes up about 14 minutes into the last track, after a long enough pause that you forget there’s still an album playing. It’s spontaneous to a fault and messy. However, it’s an interesting look into Kurt’s mind as we get to hear him improvise lyrics. Death and anger are the main “themes”, if I may even call them that. The song stretches on a bit long and its end is welcome.
To me, Nevermind does not quite stand the test of time that Ten did, if only because the alienation and rage don’t play as well with me now as they did then. I am impressed how well the non-singles held up; I expected the second half of the album to be predominantly filler, as it’s probably been years since I listened to something like “Lounge Act”.
In the end, a comparison to The Beatles is probably the most accurate thing I can say about how Nirvana sounds on this album. The songs are hook-filled and catchy, the song structures are simple and the lyrics sparse and repetitive, and yet just about every song is still a good listen twenty years later. It would have been nice to see how things would have turned out had Kurt decided to stick around. On the one hand, the Foo Fighters might never have existed. On the other, we might still have new music coming from Nirvana or Kurt.