As you might have read in my review of Live at the Paramount, Nirvana is my favorite band. And if Nirvana never recorded Nevermind I doubt I would have had ever heard of them. Nevermind was their big breakthrough and the waves they made with that album ended up reaching the 9 year old me a couple of years later. And with me tons of people around the world. People always talk about albums that shaped their lifes. Nevermind is one of them. Not because of a million dollar advertisement campaign (Geffen Records didn’t expect sales like this at all, the first pressing sold out in no time, as did the second etc… They’re still talking about ‘Post-Nirvana’ in the music scene for a reason), but simply by sheer impact. Everything came together, they were the right kinda band, at the right time and the right place. Nevermind is damn powerful and pretty much a perfect rock record. Let’s just all agree on that. So with that out of the way, what’s up with this 2011 reissue?
Maybe you already looked at the rating below and you might have been surprised. You would have expected me to give a 100% score right? It’s Nevermind… and then some! Well, let me try to explain. Nevermind in itself is an amazing album. A classic. A 10/100%/A, whatever. But we’re talking about the 2011 reissue here. And while there’s a lot of good stuff to say about it, there are some problems with this one.
While I have no doubt the general pop rocker out there will love this Deluxe edition, the ‘hardcore’ Nirvana fans (While I hate the word ‘fan’, it’s safe to say I’m one of them) are pretty split up over the Super Deluxe Edition. Why? Let’s see:
- It’s missing some songs that just had to be there. How about Sappy from the Nevermind sessions? I know the Smart Studio sessions version is on there, but it was already circulating. The one from the Nevermind session is still missing in action. There’s really no excuse to not include it. And where’s Song In D? (It does exist right?) This would have been the perfect time to include it. Even if it’s an instrumental, it should have been on there. Same goes for the Nevermind sessions outtakes Verse Chorus Verse and Old Age. I know they were on With The Lights Out, but to be complete, they should have been on here too. You want to create the perfect Nevermind right?
- While it’s missing songs on one hand, there’s a lot of repetition going on too. Aside from the repeating Nevermind songs/mixes and the CD/DVD Paramount thing, 3 songs of the Paramount show (Been A Son, School and Drain You) appear 3 times. Yes, 3 times. The same exact 3 songs. Once on CD 1, once on CD 4 and once on the DVD again. I know about the power of repetition, but this is a bit much. I’m sure they could have been omitted on the Super Deluxe Edition, replaced by the missing songs for instance. If room on the discs was an issue that is, because it isn’t. Disc 3 (a different mix of the same Nevermind songs) is only half filled…
- And then there’s the mastering. Ever heard about the loudness war? Labels are pushing and pushing the mastering of their releases to sound louder and louder, in the process they’re distorting the actual recordings. While the average listener will not hear it, it’s not how the music should be heard. Dynamics aren’t a bad thing. Sadly, the Nevermind reissue has to deal with this crap too.
There’s more to complain (you can talk about the price too, but there’s always to option to pick up the 2CD set and the Blu-Ray instead of the boxset for instance), but that’s more or less what I feel are valid points. So what about the good stuff I hear you think, there’s good stuff too right? Of course there is.
- For me the biggest highlight of the Super Deluxe is the Paramount DVD, but I’ll keep it at that, because I spend enough words on why I think it’s great in my review already. To be honest, I would have payed the price of the Super Deluxe for the Paramount show alone if that was the only option to get it. That’s how high I rate it. Oh and on this version of the DVD you’ll be getting music videos for Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Lithium and In Bloom too.
- Aside from the Paramount DVD, it’s the Boombox rehearsals on CD 2 that are my personal highlight. It’s cool they kept it raw and didn’t cut the banter between the songs. You can hear em arguing on how to play the song and Dave saying “Sorry Butch” (probably apologizing for the quality of the recordings) and stuff like that. But the best part is a great version of Old Age (finally we get to hear more than the 1:10 clip that was circulating since ’97 to prove Nirvana wrote the song before Hole recorded it). And a new version of Verse Chorus Verse, a great unreleased song. These boombox versions are both a lot better than the outtakes on WTLO that only had guide vocals. The raw version of Something In The Way (with an extra verse) needs a mention too.
- It’s also interesting to hear the Devonshire mixes. The mixes Butch Vig made for the band, before Andy Wallace got to work on them. As polished as Nevermind sounds, I gotta admit I prefer the final version a lot over these Devonshire mixes. I don’t think I’ll listen this mix a lot. They’re not a lot rawer, they just miss a bit of the power that the final mixes have, It’s cool to hear the differences though. Territorial Pissings without the ‘Come on people now… Get together…’ intro by Krist Novoselic, some filter/synthesizer effect added to the end of On A Plain… Little differences like that.
- I gotta mention the artwork too. When I unwrapped the package and saw the artwork for the first time it felt strange. You know that release so well, you’ve had it in your hands a zillion times that it just looks way off. It’s done well though. They took the old design and updated it to this day and age, adding new pictures etc. The difference is even bigger with the Super Deluxe Edition. Literally. The 90 page booklet is HUGE. A bit pricey (if you compare the price to the Deluxe edition), but nice. It includes lots of nice photos and the bills for the recording, the marketing plans and touring costs etc. Nice to flick through once and then it will probably end up in your closet.
So all in all, it’s not bad. But when they announced that the Super Deluxe edition for the fans was going to be 4 CD’s and a DVD (without announcing what was going to be on it exactly), expectations were just way too high. People were expecting the moon and in the end the ride just didn’t went that far, but we might ‘have floated around and hung out at some clouds’ (I should have kept this terrible forced reference for a possible In Utero deluxe…). You get an amazing album plus some great new stuff. Take the (valid) complaints in account and you might understand my 80 now. Maybe you don’t. Doesn’t matter.
I know that’s quite a lot of words on a record… but when it comes to Nirvana I can go on and on and on and.. you get the picture. But let’s keep the closing thoughts short: I know I like this release a lot. Could it have been better? Yeah, for sure. Is it terrible? Absolutely not. It also shows Nevermind didn’t age one bit, even after 20 years it’s still valid and better than most releases out there today.
Let’s hope they evaluate this release, learn from it and make In Utero‘s Deluxe edition in 2013 (Let’s not doubt such a version will be released) all that it can be. Complete Live Loud show maybe? If you want to stretch it a bit, how about a soundboard recording of You Know You’re Right at the Aragon Ballroom? Yes, thank you please.
I’ll leave you with some videos to show Nirvana were a punk band, they didn’t play by the rules. They’re all Nevermind related (and if you ask me, they should have been included in this box some way or another), so they fit right in with this review:
They were supposed to playback Smells Like Teen Spirit, the band wanted to play live which they were not allowed to. So they went all over the top with this version.
This time they were supposed to play Lithium (as announced by the host), once again, they had other plans.
They were supposed to play Smells Like Teen Spirit if I’m correct. The band wanted to play Rape Me, but that wasn’t really what MTV was looking for. Can you imagine? So they agreed upon playing Lithium. Not before playing the opening chords of Rape Me though. Also note Krist knocking himself out with his bass at the end and Dave calling for Axl Rose haha.
In this review I talk about both the 2 CD Deluxe edition as the 4 CD + 1 DVD Super Deluxe edition. There are also 4 LP vinyl , 4 Picture Disc LP and Nevermind (Remastered) 1 CD versions available. So pick your poison.