“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the first song on Nirvana’s major-label debut, Nevermind, is a potent, almost mythopoetic rendering of the modern rock ‘n’ roll condition. “I feel stupid and contagious / Here we are now, entertain us,” sings lyricist-guitarist-singer Kurt Cobain with ferocious glee. The song’s shattering attack confirms Nirvana’s status as, finally, a group to justify the “Seattle sound” hype. Nirvana plays around with heavy-metal–they’re heavier, in their own way, than almost anything else around right now–but they’ve leavened their potential ponderousness with the impressive Cobain and a healthy fondness for the pop change-up (“On a Plain”). Sometimes, as on “Breed,” the band just sounds mindless–but then you hear Cobain yelling “I don’t care / I don’t care” and you realize that the song’s about mindlessness. And you keep coming back to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: the way it sounds like the Pixies doing Blue Oyster Cult; the way the chorus picks up steam right when you think it’s going to falter; the sneer in Cobain’s voice at the beginning and the utter loss in it at the end, as he makes everyfan’s statement: “I’m a mosquito / A libido / A denial / A denial / A denial!” Strong stuff: it’s his first record, and he’s already staring into the void. Das Damen opens. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Cuffaro.