Like millions of angst filled teens, Nirvana defined the first half of the 1990's for me. Overnight the halls of my middle school were filled with ripped up jeans, Converse All-Stars and flannel shirts. Lyrics to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come As You Are" were scribbled in the margins of every textbook and on every bathroom wall. While I still prefer the rawness of Bleach, there is no denying Nevermind is the quintessential album of 1991. Perhaps of the early 90's or even the 90's as a whole.
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Meat Puppets - Smells Like Teen Spirit
When I sat down for the first listen I was honestly a bit put off by the Meat Puppets cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", but Butch Walkers "In Bloom" completely turned me around and I settled in to listen cover to cover. Once through the album. Twice. Thrice. Then a dozen times. Then Fifty times more. I think it was basically the only thing I listened to for the whole week. Seriously, this has to be one of the best tribute albums I've ever heard. Ever. With Honors.
I've completely changed my view on the Meat Puppets track. What I had missed that first time was them wonking up Nirvana's breath through hit. This is no longer a pop song. They reclaimed it in the name of the freaks, the outcasts and the self-made rejects.
Midnight Juggernauts - Come As You Are
It's hard to pick just exactly what I love about each song, but I know that I love them all. Some songs are straight forward, faithful tributes, like Titus Andronicus' "Breed" and Surfer Blood's "Territorial Pissings" while others are radical diversions, like Foxy Shazam's "Drain You" and Midnight Juggernauts' "Come As You Are".
Hands down my favorite is Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band's take on "Stay Away"; it seriously challenged me - I just couldn't hear the original in my head. Bradley completely owns this track, laying thick James Brown-esque vocals atop a sick funk groove. It's old and it's new at the same time.
Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band - Stay Away
After listening to it basically non-stop, I appreciate this album as much for the differences as for the similarities. There is something charismatic about Nevermind and this tribute really recaptures that magic. Even though it's thirteen artists performing thirteen songs in different styles, it still works as an entity.
Ultimately I wonder what Kurt Cobain would think about this if he was still alive. Would this tribute album even exist if he hadn't committed suicide? Ultimately, I'm just grateful that SPIN and each artist didn't ruin my angst filled teenage years.
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