8 Reasons Nirvana's 'Nevermind' Is The Most Important Rock Album of All Time
Continued from previous page
2. 'Corporate Magazines Still Suck'
But sometimes you don’t want to be on top. The interminable slogan Cobain wore on the cover of Rolling Stone to protest the personal-political concessions his own weary fame demanded of him, “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” represented the antiestablishment attitude of the band—and the crucial disconnect between his desire for people to hear his music, and his disdain for the tactics he took to get there. Still, Nirvana released its music on major label DGC—and now, in the split-income Internet era, it’s rare for even punk-rooted bands to have anti-corporate attitudes (evidence: every car commercial featuring your favorite music). Nirvana was the first to really grapple with this ethical conundrum, and ultimately opened the doors for “that one Volkswagen commercial” (read: every ad featuring your favorite music).
3. The Rise of the Working Class
Working-class rock music is the best, at least when it’s lefty (apologies to my fellow prog rock fans)—two words, Bruce Springsteen. But Nirvana did it different: they didn’t aspire to be within the system, ideologically speaking, and so they made it cool to buck a system that would hang you out to dry if you let it.
4. The Rise of Working-Class Fashion
In the same way, they made the grunge aesthetic cool—which meant those of us who’d been clothes shopping at Salvation Army out of necessity were finally in style. It sounds banal, but if you’ve been that kid, it’s absolutely important.
The aforementioned seahorse tour tee and Bikini Kill association (Kathleen Hanna famously named “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) were but two aspects of Nirvana’s foray into the F word. Cobain being an astute and thoughtful man, he was quite aware of the white male privilege he wielded, so peppered feminist talk into his interviews. On Nevermind, even his love songs were about not trying to dominate a woman’s body— “we don’t have to breed.” And “Polly”? A dirge about the rape and murder of a young girl. This dovetailed quite nicely with the decade of the third wave, although it didn’t really last—there aren’t too many dude bands representing ladies the way Nirvana tried to.
6. Depression Is Okay
Though it would ultimately claim him, Kurt Cobain’s embrace of depression was, in fact, vanguard; America was barely talking about the disease before the popularization of Prozac, but years earlier Cobain was writing odes to his own sorrow and letting them live. At the very least, he inspired many a kid to research what, exactly, “Lithium” does.
7. The Opening Up of a Scene
In the '90s, people were still snobs about not wanting their precious underground culture exposed—but those of us who lived in crappy places, pre-Internet (Cheyenne, Wyoming, right here) discovered a lot of great bands and outsider culture after Nirvana blew up, through Nirvana. Taping 120 Minutes wasn't cutting it, thank you very much. Nirvana introduced a whole new world to its fans in interviews, bigging up groups like Bikini Kill (saved a lot of lives!), Beat Happening (Kurt's K Records tattoo!) and the Vaselines (the original version of "Molly's Lips" is close to a perfect song). Just like they popularized and made cool fashion that less-fortunate kids could afford, they also helped arty nerds stranded in barren cultural environments find a lot of work they could believe in. That was huge.
8. Rock Stars as Progressive Politicians
They weren’t the first rockers-come-politicians, nor will they be the last, but you can connect Nevermind’s popularity in a straight line to Krist Novoselic’s political platform later in life, when he became an elected state committeeman in Washington. In fact, he does that himself, in a 2004 book titled Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix this Broken Democracy, which discusses how grassroots movements are the way to make a better country—and a bigger rock band.