Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nirvana :: Nevermind...Well, Whatever (Unmastered Reissue Butch Vig and John Peel Mixes)

Nirvana :: Nevermind...Well, Whatever

The reissue of Nevermind in 2011 was an event that almost went unmarked for a few reasons.

As the band's major label debut, the album was what gave the band global infamy thanks to Geffen's hype machine, and almost assuredly started Kurt Cobain writing drafts of his suicide note. The album bears the marks of something built for the mainstream, the hit single first, close on the sad song, flawless production, and isn't as artistically constructed as its successor, In Utero. However, it's the production of the album that was always the most bothersome. For a punk rock inspired thrash metal band, the glossy production that excised the grunge from grunge of Andy Wallace's mixes never made sense and were markedly different from that of their first, Bleach.

So, when the news came out that the reissue would include Butch Vig's Devonshire mixes and Smart Studio Sessions, as well as John Peel's incredible live BBC sessions, it became a bit more interesting. It seems the most work was put into "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as it is the opener, and it sounds like it could fit right onto Bleach. Other most notable alternate mixes are the "Breed" demo "Immodium," the Smart Sessions "Lithium," and "Drain You" from the BBC. "Immodium" has an energy not present on the already insanely energetic Wallace mix. Cobain messes up the lyrics towards the end, as he often did on stage, but it seems to fit with the already switched around and jumbled words of the confused narrator. "Pay to Play" is a much grungier version of "Stay Away" and although it doesn't have the classic last line "God is gay!" the title and chorus become very ironic and indicative of the band itself. The line is a reference to the fact that the band had to pay some venues in order to put on a show, making it impossible to turn a profit. It's ironic as a commentary on the payola state of the music industry, because the corporate entities behind Nevermind dropped a lot of bills to get it play on the radio, MTV, etc. The "Lithium" version is incredible because the verses feature an acoustic guitar which slides with poor production into the electric chorus. The John Peel sessions all feature well rehearsed live material and are worth searching for on the internet. Particularly, "Drain You" has a fanatically romantic intensity and even features jangling pocket change and an air compressor or something in the bridge. It's a feat that is hard to figure how they were able to pull it off live. Along with the 'secret track,' "Endless, Nameless," which is a dark botched piece of debauchery also from the BBC sessions and not included on the reissue, these tracks form a different vision of Nevermind that is more consistent with the punk rock Nirvana that preceded and followed it.

Nirvana :: Nevermind...Well, Whatever
Get the tracks here

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Live on Top of the Pops 28 November 1991)
2. In Bloom (Smart Studios Session Take)
3. Come As You Are (Butch Vig Devonshire Mix)
4. Imodium (Smart Studios Breed Demo)
5. Lithium (Smart Studios Session Take)
6. Polly (Smart Studios Session Take)
7. Territorial Pissings (Butch Vig Devonshire Mix)
8. Drain You (BBC John Peel Sessions)
9. Lounge Act (Butch Vig Devonshire Mix)
10. Pay to Play (Smart Studios Stay Away Demo)
11. On a Plain (Butch Vig Devonshire Mix)
12. Something in the Way (Butch Vig Devonshire Mix)
13. Endless, Nameless (BBC John Peel Sessions)

Check out other posts about Nirvana:

 Nirvana :: I Hate Myself and I Want to Die

Nirvana :: I Hate Myself and I Want to Die