Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Don't tell me what I wanna hear"; or Loving SPIN Magazine's tribute to Nevermind.

Been cleaning out the red letter bin here at the good old blog... the outline stems from a Tumblr post from mid-late July... and now for something completely different.

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.

Listen free on SoundCloud. Download free from SPIN on Facebook.
I found out about SPIN Magazine's tribute album Newermind from a Tumblogger I follow, Ian Brooks. When I saw his post about a free Nirvana tribute album, well, I was prepared to club baby seals with other baby seals to get a copy immediately. Thankfully no baby seals were injured in obtaining Newermind. I did have to sell my soul on Facebook by Liking SPIN, but well, whateves. It was worth it.

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.

You can listen to the entire album free on SoundCloud and download it for free just by Liking SPIN on Facebook.

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