SPIN Presents: Newermind – Various Artists
by Nathan Goldman (Computer Science/Cognitive Psychology), published July 21st 2011
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
A tribute album is a tricky thing, so you’ve got to give SPIN Magazine and the group of artists they’ve assembled some credit for attempting to make one in the form of Newermind, a tribute to Nirvana’s classic album Nevermind, which will turn twenty this September. Unfortunately, it suffers from many of the classic downfalls of tribute albums.
Things start off on somewhat shaky footing with a cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Meat Puppets, one of two bands on the album to have been covered by Nirvana back in the day. Though not exactly a bad rendition, the reediness and obvious strain on their singer’s voice during the refrain becomes more grating with each chorus. As easy as it may be to joke about Kurt Cobain’s shortcomings as a vocalist, his voice never actively detracted from their songs.
However, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is nothing compared to the abysmal rendition of ‘Come As You Are’ by Australian band Midnight Juggernauts. While integrating electronic influences with a Nirvana song could have held some promise, the band immediately crushes that hope by using some of the most unbearably irritating vocal effects I’ve ever heard, which I can only describe as ‘off-key reverb-heavy chipmunk voices’. And, disappointingly enough, The Vaselines, the other band to have been covered by Nirvana, repay the favor with a dull, plodding, and lifeless cover of ‘Lithium’.
Newermind is not without highlights; Titus Andronicus and Surfer Blood both possess enough youthful energy to actually breathe some life into their straightforward covers of ‘Breed’ and ‘Territorial Pissings’, Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band pull a nice trick in turning ‘Stay Away’ into a heartfelt bit of soul, and EMA handles the discord of ‘Endless, Nameless’ quite capably. That said, most of Newermind doesn’t leave a good or bad impression as much as it fails to leave any impression whatsoever, an album full of forgettable covers. Ultimately, it falls prey to the most common problem of tribute albums: they tend to be novelties with little lasting value. A first listen may give some insight into the minds of the bands on it. A second listen just leaves you wondering why you aren’t listening to the original instead.
Tasty Tracks: ‘Breed’, ‘Stay Away’, ‘Endless, Nameless’