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'Nevermind' deluxe edition offers insight into classic album

When Kurt Cobain screamed “Here we are now/entertain us” in 1991, he wasn’t exactly looking for a hit. He wasn’t looking for accolades; he wasn’t looking to make some grand statement.
Flash forward 20 years later, and comedian Jon Stewart is hosting a townhall-style forum with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Butch Vig.  
Cobain’s private journals are available for purchase at your local bookstore, a grand total of four live albums by Nirvana (one more than actual studio albums) are available and Grohl is making radio-friendly arena rock with the Foo Fighters.
And so it is natural that Nirvana’s landmark album “Nevermind” should be re-released on its 20th birthday with a remastered album, B-sides, rough cuts and live tracks.
Admittedly, not all of it is that necessary (who really needs five versions of “Drain You?”), but Nirvana diehards will appreciate the historical value of the unearthed tracks.
The remastering job on the original is superb.  
It improves on the original album by cleaning up Grohl’s drum sounds and pushing the bass further up in the mix, while not sacrificing any of Cobain’s vocal presence. The songs still hit as hard as the first time I heard them (admittedly not in 1991).
“Drain You’s” Sonic Youth-esque noise freakout is still as pounding as ever, and the chords of the eternal anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” still resonate even after the 100th listen.
If you’re interested in this at all, it’s not because of the remastered album.  
The real prizes here are the other three-and-a-half discs of assorted rarities, and these discs are a mixed bag, but most of it is worth at least a few listens.
The B-sides range from pretty good to great. While “Even In His Youth” feels like a throwaway punk tune, the cover of The Wipers’ “D-7” stands as one of my personal favorite Nirvana tracks, and “Aneurysm” is absolutely essential.
What’s puzzling about this half-disc (tacked onto the end of the actual album) is the repeats: most of the studio tracks have been compiled and are readily available elsewhere, while half of the live tracks are available on the fourth disc of this set. I understand keeping these songs together for posterity’s sake, but it’s a little ridiculous.  
The only place this disc really falls short is on the final two live B-sides, taken from the “In Bloom” single, which suffer from poor mixing and just lazy performances.
Disc two is where the fun starts. The Smart Studios sessions are legendary among Nirvana fans due to Bleach-era drummer Chad Channing playing on these songs, many of which would end up on “Nevermind.” Of particular note is this version of the future hit “Lithium,” which features soft acoustic guitars in the verses that contrast well with the crunchy guitars in the chorus, serving as a great metaphor for the song’s subject matter.  
The boombox tapes, however, feature Grohl behind the kit.  
These takes, while of low quality, offer up new lyrics and melodies to old hits like “Teen Spirit.”  
It’s an interesting look at Cobain’s songwriting process, even though this is not something you’ll want to spin that often.
I’m honestly conflicted over the third disc, which consists of producer Butch Vig’s original mixes before the band called in Andy Wallace to give it a cleaner sound.  
I felt it would be more like Bleach: more grunge-y and more punk rock.  
Instead, it’s just less polished. The drums have more reverb to them at times, and there are little tweaks here and there, but the disc is the least interesting of the bunch.  
The mixes just feel “done” before.  
It’s fun to listen to what could have been, but when it comes down to it, these are the exact same songs that are on “Nevermind.”
There’s no real reason to listen to these above the original (or remastered) album.
The live disc, of course, is amazing. Nirvana puts on a great show, and it’s a rare treat to hear a performace of “Teen Spirit” in which Cobain cares enough to play the guitar solo correctly.  
The band seems very into the performance and even busts out an early version of the In Utero classic “Rape Me.”
It almost feels like you’re in the studio with Nirvana, following the album’s creation from demo to the live show.   
It’s Nirvana at its most punk and at its most pop. It’s the three-piece group rocking someone’s basement and the seasoned band playing in arenas.  
It’s one of the greatest albums of all time deconstructed and put back together again, and it’s definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the band.