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(AFP) – Like a software reset: carried by “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, forever the hymn of post-adolescent disenchantment, Nirvana’s album “Nevermind”, released 30 years, has changed the face of rock.
“This record made hard rock, the popular rock of the time, which was superficial, misogynistic, less intense”, brush for AFP Charlotte Blum, author of “Grunge, eternal youth”, work scheduled for 29 September (Epa).
“Nevermind” released on 24 September 1991 and, indeed, the double album “Use Your Illusion I & II “of Guns N’Roses, published a week before, suddenly takes big wrinkles.
Nirvana shines the spotlight on her melting pot, the grunge scene, branch of rock to guitars badly combed, disillusion slung over the shoulder. But “Nevermind” also casts a “gaping shadow”, underlines Charlotte Blum, on other cousins formations like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden.
Yesterday like today. “Pearl Jam’s + Ten + album is also celebrating its 30 years but we don’t talk about it”, underlines the one who returns from Seattle, bastion of grunge in the United States, where she made a documentary.
We also speak of “Nevermind” for bad reasons: the naked baby in the swimming pool on the cover, become adult, file a complaint and claim his due.
The story will remember especially that the rock planet has never recovered from “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, clip which runs immediately looping on MTV, the music channel and “flagship medium of the time”, as the journalist reminds us.
– “Desperately punk look” –
And Kurt Cobain, the leader of Nirvana, will not come out unscathed . The singer and guitarist, skinned alive with a Christlike physique, despite himself becomes the spokesperson for teenagers who feel bad about themselves and for lost young adults.
An inter-generational audience that identifies “totally with Cobain’s desperately punk look at the world”, as American music critic Alex Ross writes in his book “Listen to this” (Actes Sud).
The costume of the rock prophet is too big for Cobain, the success too wide and his addictions to hard drugs do not help. He will commit suicide in 1994, at 25 years. This reinforces the myth since Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix also disappeared at this age.
Cobain will have time to pass on a few messages. The companion of singer Courtney Love “wears dresses, and openly says + if you are racist, homophobic, we don’t want to see you at our concerts +, he also invites female rock groups on his tours”, insists Charlotte Blum.
– “The HBO of music” –
That’s for the bottom. In form, the explosion is total, with the titles “Come As You Are” or “In Bloom”. “On stage, Kurt was incredibly charismatic and extremely tortured (…) we had the impression that he was always on the verge of a huge implosion”, describes Kim Gordon, iconic ex-bassist of Sonic Youth, close to Cobain , in his autobiography “Girl in a band” (The word and the rest).
Alex Ross portrays songs oscillating “between meditation and the general melee”. This mix of calm and storm was cultivated in the studio by sound sculptor Butch Vig, also known as Garbage’s drummer today.
Vig’s recipe ? “The meeting between Black Sabbath (founding group of metal) and the Beatles”, synthesizes Nicolas Dupuy in his book “Take One, the producers of rock” (Le Castor Astral). Results? “+ Nevermind + debunks the barrel of grunge and takes down the timpani”, unrolls the specialist.
The album indeed dethrones Michael Jackson from the top of the charts a few months later.
“With + Nevermind +, Nirvana is the HBO of music: all those who make TV series have watched HBO, all today’s musicians have listened to Nirvana “, concludes Charlotte Blum. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is quoted in the 2nd minute of “Holy Grail” by Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake.