by Tommy Werner
The Deal: After 20 years and thousands of copycat attempts, Nirvana's Nevermind is still getting kids to flannel up and rail against popular music. The August issue of SPIN reflects on the last two decades and offers a treat to disaffected fans. Today through July 25, friends of SPIN's Facebook page can get Newermind, a track by track tribute for free.
The Good: The artist line-up knows what made Nirvana tick. In fact, some of them even helped Nirvana tick. After being covered on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged set, the Vaselines and Meat Puppets turn the tables with their own versions of "Lithium" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," respectively. Amanda Palmer, usually a cabaret singer, makes a haunting "Polly" even creepier with discordant harmonies and xylophones. Meanwhile, soulful Charles Bradley gives us an idea of what Motown grunge would have sounded like on "Stay Away." Also, for any one who's complained that Kurt Cobain's vocals are hard to understand (Weird Al?), the vocals are clearer throughout.
The Bad: Though it's never a bad thing to hear a band's remake rather than a retake of a song, some of the covers on here don't work in either way. The Midnight Juggernaut's version of "Come As You Are" doesn't sound like a carbon copy, but the tingling electronic noises and filtered vocals don't stand on their own well. For some reason across the board, the choruses of the songs are the weakest part of the songs. Butch Walker & The Widows' tribute to "In Bloom" sounds updated with a darker and more sinister back beat, but the glam-like chorus is more of a nod to Electric Light Orchestra than Nirvana.
The Verdict: Even though it gets warbled at some points, this tribute record has the angsty volume and the intimate moments that made Nirvana make different music. If a tribute album gets measured on catching more than just the sound, then this is a solid salute to the classic album.