LISTEN: Whatever, Nevermind – Various Artists Covering Nirvana’s Nevermind!

It seems weird to put an exclamation mark at the end of any sentence that includes the word “whatever,” but that’s how I’m going to roll on this post title. I feel good about this too, because some of these tracks absolutely slay, like in the best table-flipping way imaginable. So why is this cover compilation of a Nirvana album on our radar given our Louisville-centric approach? Besides the clear impact that Nirvana had on Louisville music,  it’s the inclusion of the mighty Young Widows and the punk-furious White Reaper, of course. Between the two they cover the rather limited spectrum found on this album, which either skews towards an honest reproduction of the original, as is the case with White Reaper, or a wholly divergent reconstruction of the source material, as is the case with Young Widows.

It’s the later that kicks this off, as YW kick into a sublime re-imagining of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which seems like the only way you could logically go for something so fundamentally part of the public conscious; who needs to hear that song exactly the same way again? Their version comes replete with the monolithic bass and drum work, and noisy guitar, here with more than a little Sonic Youth coming through in the final product. The White Reaper cover of Territorial Pissings is a more faithful rendition of the original, adding in some bells and whistles along with their trademark punk tunefulness. There cover is remarkable actually, in coming so close to the original, while maintaining all of what makes WR so unique.

With either approach, the end result is an album that remains tonally similar to Nevermind, without ever losing sight of each band’s strengths. As such, there are some entries here like the crushing shoegaze of Boris with Lithium, or the haunting beauty of Come As You Are by Kylesa. It’s a testament to the coordinators of this comp that they were so successful at cultivating bands that both reflected the legacy of Nirvana in their own ways, while still having something unique to say. I’d like to think this is exactly the sort of thing the band would have wanted had they stuck around, assuming of course that anyone in Nirvana would even be alright with a tribute album. Dealing with those type of what if scenarios though is futile, especially when we have proof that the next generations have so ably learned and evolved from what Nirvana were creating. I think that’s the real spirit here, of creating and making something old new again, and for that this is a high water mark.

You can listen to the entire album below: