Just recently, I got a small taste of something everyone is going to have to come face to face with as they get older—realizing that something that you can still remember like it was yesterday actually took place twenty fucking years ago. For me (and I’m sure many others) it was Nirvana’s landmark, breakthrough album Nevermind turning twenty. 1991 was famously declared “the year punk broke” by a documentary of the same name, as it was when Nirvana burst onto the mainstream, bringing with them a hype around “grunge” and the “Seattle Sound” that really captured my imagination as a young kid. I probably looked like a real dipshit in my flannel shirt, but so did everyone else at my school and at schools around the world.
No matter what people might think of them, Nirvana brought a lot of attention to some really cool bands and record labels coming out of the Pacific Northwest at that time. Those who decided to seek out bands that Kurt Cobain praised in interviews might have discovered a gem that turned them onto punk rock/ indie rock/ metal etc., for life. This book really was the perfect reminder of how much of a rich history Nirvana came from and how their impact is still being felt to this day, two decades later.
Jacob McMurray’s Taking Punk to the Masses is the photographic companion to Seattle’s Experience Music Project exhibition, where hundreds of rare artifacts from the Seattle scene—many to do with Nirvana—are on display. Shots of old fliers, iconic guitars, classic records, and familiar articles of clothing accompany an oral history of the scene with testimonials from many of its most important players (including members of Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden, as well as Sub Pop founders Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt). The book also comes with a DVD that contains footage of some of the interviews. From the Wipers to the Melvins, Pearl Jam to the Shins, this book covers a lot of eclectic ground and you’ll find a new treasure on every page. While I might not be able to adjust to stuff I liked when I was a kid being old enough to be “classic rock,” I’m really glad it was what I listened to then. This book is a really awesome trip down memory lane. –Andy Conway (Fantagraphics Books, Fantagraphics.com)