Stupid & Contagious

The recent demise of R.E.M. and the continuing irrelevance of U2 marks a significant shift in the careers of two of rock music’s most commercially and critically successful bands. In an age when even the most obscure indie band can use the vast expanses of the internet and modern media to build up a significant following, it’s hard to believe that both R.E.M. and U2 both took over a decade before they achieved international fame. They built up that success through college radio airplay, the help of specialist music publications and constant touring at small and medium-sized venues predominantly throughout the USA. Even though there are currently so-called music fans who aren’t sure whether Arcade Fire is a person or a band, the Canadian outfit has achieved their success more quickly than R.E.M. or U2. It is almost certain that bands like The Go-Betweens and The Pixies would have reached a wider audience if they had come along in the last decade. However, an album released twenty years ago today managed to bridge the gap between indie obscurity and chart success, though the medium that helped propel them to stardom was the music video

When I started getting into music over two decades ago, I relied on a number of pre-internet practices in order to discover new music. I listened to The Dave Fanning Show on Irish radio, I bought and read the NME, Melody Maker and Hot Press when they came out and wandered around the many new and secondhand record stores that were quite abundant in Limerick and throughout Ireland in those days. I also discovered a lot of music via the telly and that’s most likely where I first encountered the music of Nirvana. The lead-off single from the band’s second album had been released early in September of 1991 and its accompanying video became a popular fixture on the small number of shows that featured music back then. Even though it was hard to make out what the singer was saying, the song’s title, the shifts from quiet to loud and back again within the song, and the apparent sense of rebellion captured in the simple video all combined to create a buzz around the band from Seattle. After hearing a few more songs from the album, I bought it on CD and went to see the band perform most of the tracks from it at The Point in Dublin the following year. Like many of my favourite albums, I don’t listen to Nevermind much anymore. Nevertheless, it remains a consistent listen that took such divergent influences as the Pixies, punk and pop and mixed them together to form a hook-laden collection that has had a huge influence on music over the previous two decades. Many artists have paid tribute to the songs on the album over the years and here are seven of them, beginning with a storming take on Breed by a country singer and ending with a ukulele treatment of its most famous song

Breed (Nirvana cover) – Steve Earle

Lithium (Nirvana cover) – Pierce Turner

Drain You (Nirvana cover) – Horse Feathers

In Bloom (Nirvana cover) – Hooverphonic

Come As You Are (Nirvana cover) – Laura Love

Something in the Way (Nirvana cover) – Port O’Brien

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover) – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

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4 thoughts on “Stupid & Contagious

  1. Pingback: Le Côté Obscur de la Lune | Town Full of Losers

  2. I just knew you’d include Steve Earle, amazing version. I was working in HMV when that record came out, I used to play it all the time

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