Twenty-five years ago this month, Nirvana released their second album Nevermind — a record that ushered in an era of mainstream grunge and changed rock and roll forever. Below, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace — whose band just released a new album, Shape Shift Me — reflects on the album’s lasting influence on her career.
Nevermind literally changed my life. And obviously, it had a huge influence on it going forward: making two records with Butch Vig, who produced Nevermind, and doing three months of touring with the Foo Fighters in 2008. That to me is the Nirvana connection.
I was an Army brat growing up, so I lived overseas without MTV and moved back to the U.S. when I was about 12 years old. It was right around then when they were playing Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” all the time. And then they played “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and that was just so different than anything else on there. At first it was hard to even understand it: Do I like this? Why do I like this? It was just so hard to take sandwiched between all those other things. And buying that record? For most people my age who are musicians, if you hand them a guitar, they can play at least five songs off of Nevermind because they knew how to play it in 1991. Everyone knows how to play the riff for “Come As You Are.” Everyone knows how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Polly.” I can pick up a guitar and from memory still play those chords and those songs. That album has had a huge lasting impact for me — it will forever be one of my all-time favorite records.
It is a different experience when you take away the visuals. Obviously the videos are so ingrained in our memories, but when you just listen to the record, what always really strikes me is how much of a Pixies influence there is on that record. You can really hear it when you listen to it. I also get really frustrated and indignant when people talk about Nirvana like, “Nah, In Utero is the better album.” F—k you! You know that Nevermind changed your life. You know there couldn’t have been anything after that album that had as big of an impact as Nevermind. That record changed the face of music in a way that will probably never be done again.