Better than 'Nevermind'?

To be honest, I’ve never quite seen eye to eye with ‘Nevermind’.

‘In Utero’ and me, well, we get along just fine. ‘Bleach’ – ditto – while ‘Insecticide’ is the sound of the great band just kicking out and having fun. But given the hype, the overwhelming media attention and the general atmosphere of you-must-like-this ‘Nevermind’ has always left me... cold.

Released in 1991, the album was certainly a once in a generation game changer, kicking down the doors of the mainstream and letting in the freaks. But Spin Magazine didn’t quite see eye to eye with the album either. In a controversial move (one which they have arguably never really lived down) the publication overlooked ‘Nevermind’ when anointing the finest album of 1991. In its place lay a little thing called ‘Bandwagonesque’ by the Glasgow band Teenage Fanclub, and you know what? They were probably right.

And here's ten reasons why...

- - -

1. ‘Bandwagonesque’ has a better cover.
It does. Check it out – a bag of money with a dollar sign, like a Lichtenstein painting for the post-Thatcher era. The 60s references are there, but it just seems fun, witty and above all eye catching. It deserves to be painted onto t-shirts and hoodies across the land. The less said about that baby’s schlong the better...

2. ‘Bandwagonesque’ is funnier.
It’s a criminal mis-understanding to assume that Kurt Cobain spent most of his time shooting up, complaining about a stomach ailment and bleaching his hair. The reality is that, for most of his life, the Nirvana frontman was an ordinary, shy guy with a kick ass sense of humour. Sadly, ‘Nevermind’ is not best place to experience this, with most of its lighter moments coming off a little forced. ‘Bandwagonesque’ meanwhile is a barrel of laughs from the get-go: ‘She wears denim wherever she goes, says she’s gonna buy some records by the Status Quo’.

3. ‘Bandwagonesque’ has better influences.
This will prove to be controversial. Cobain’s stated mission –matching Black Sabbath to The Beatles – inevitably means that his music is focussed, confined. Teenage Fanclub though are a myriad of 60s pop, lost Memphis icons Big Star and the underground rock scene of the time. J Mascis jamming with Brian Wilson while John Lennon puts something funny in the tea, indeed. ‘Bandwagonesque’ caused my record collection to become packed full of cool shit OVERNIGHT.

4. ‘Bandwagonesque’ has inspired better groups.
Almost looking for trouble with this one. Sure, ‘Nevermind’ inspired countless kids to take up a paper round and save for a guitar but how many of those starry eyed dreamers ended up crafting something like ‘Lithium’? Nirvana acted as a starting point, but not a sonic template – unless you count Creed and Nickelback. Meanwhile, right now at this very moment in time amazing bands like Yuck, Mazes, Veronica Falls and more are nestling at the teat of Norman Blake, Gerard Love, Raymond McGinley and Francis MacDonald (OK, OK – I know the line up was different for ‘Bandwagonesque’ but the point stands).

5. ‘Bandwagonesque’ is not a definitive statement.
‘Nevermind’ may have pushed grunge into the mainstream but its success meant that the genre very quickly became trapped by formula. Sure, part of this is down to commercial appeal but in reality ‘Nevermind’ is the artistic full stop on grunge as a movement. ‘Bandwagonesque’ though seems to open up as many questions as it answers. The album seems full of ‘what ifs’and possibilities, the sound of a band with more ideas than their fingers can replicate.

6. ‘Bandwagonesque’ has better production.
The story of ‘Nevermind’ is the story of an underground band attempting to retain their credibility within a mammoth corporation. Butch Vig was brought on board, and his production work has remained a bone of contention with fans. Upon hearing the album, Steve Albini apparently opined that it was the worst record he had ever heard. History doesn’t record what Albini thought when he heard ‘Bandwagonesque’ but he was probably playing air guitar, kicking out the jams to ‘Is This Music?’

7. The guitar riffs are better.
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ apes ‘More Than A Feeling’. ‘Come As You Are’ pinches from the back pocket of Killing Joke. Teenage Fanclub however are having a great time rocking out, with ‘I Don’t Know’ bumping along with the kind of riff Mudhoney would’ve given their left earlobe to own.

8. Kurt Cobain said so.
Bit of a trick, this. Kurt Cobain spent the best part of 1991 trying to convince anyone who would listen that Teenage Fanclub were the best band in the world. If you were listening to 'Bandwagonesque', you probably agreed with that. If you admired Kurt Cobain, why would you disagree?

9. The media have not killed ‘Bandwagonesque’.
There. I said it. Years after complaining that the media had unjustly foisted ‘Nevermind’ upon my shoulders I am now attempting to do exactly the same thing with a different album. Does this keep me up at night? Hell no. ‘Nevermind’ has been picked apart for two decades, with countless hacks trying to analyse that once in a lifetime appeal. By way of contrast, ‘Bandwagonesque’ remains frustratingly on the sidelines, with its only role in the wider scheme of things seeming to be yet more evidence against the critical impotence of Spin circa 1991.

10. It just is.
So there.

Follow Clash: