This is an album that nobody gets on the fence about. They either love it or they hate it. To some it is just noise and makes no sence (Polly), and to others it is THE anthem to their lives (Smells like teen spirit). To me it is the best album of all time.
Because ulitmately, it is just a good, not great album. This album is much more about timing and relevance than it is musical genius. In fact, I would argue the band's best "music" came on the following album. I remember this album when it came out and how much it meant to me and mainstream music at the time, but listening to it now (which I am) it is a good album, but certainly not one I would rate as an "A" (4.5 or higher).
Too many people haze on this album. It's such a great album, not just for nostalgic reasons, but the influence Nirvana had and still has today!!! I respect opinions, but some on here are just hazing the album because it doesn't sound like Breaking Benjamin....Nirvana is great. period.
I'll tell you why. I loved Nirvana more than anything in the world when Nevermind came out. Then I found out Bleach was their first album. Halfway through my second listening of Bleach I said "why was this not the best album of the year?" As groundbreaking as Nevermind is, Nirvana is Bleach/In Utero/Incesticide. Those are just so much better.
Kurt himself admitted the album suffered from a too-slick production and that he'd basically ripped off other, greater artists (Pixies anyone?) when writing some of the songs. Interviews show that he was almost as conflicted about his own talent as a song-writer as much as anything else. Bleach showed potential but was ragged and unformed... and Nevermind hadn't quite turned out the way he had envisaged, although the tunes were there... but by the time the band got around to making In Utero, the production and so forth was suitably raw and immediate (like Kurt had always wanted) but he was so depressed and strung out on drugs that some of the actual compositions/songwriting were not up to par.
So long story short, despite the bluff and bluster, I firmly believe that Kurt suspected/feared/knew he'd never written anything of actual GENIUS - and that one day the general music-buying public would discover his (albeit, unintentional) deception and crucify him for managing to fool them all. Hence, the one-and-two-star rating backlash.
A lot of it seems to be the fact that people don't like the "remastered version" of the album.
But yeah, a lot of haters, too. The more popular something is (especially if it's tied to some sort of emotionally-driven movement) the more people like to hate it. Whereas normally it would be fine to just not like it, they see all the people around them raving about it and get all puffed up in righteous anger and convince themselves that it's the worst thing ever.
I personally don't agree when people say it was mostly because of its relevance at the time. I think that was one large factor of its success, but I actually think it's just the best album of theirs. I don't care if it's "derivative" or if people just think its tailoring to "angsty teens". It's my favorite collection of songs by a really great band.
Tangential to the discussion, MY favourite collection of songs by Nirvana has to be the MTV Unplugged album. Sure it mightn't "rock" as hard their other stuff, and includes a number of cover versions as opposed to all-original songs... but in my opinion Kurt's vocal performance (in particular) on these live recordings packs genuine emotional punch, and moreover, the track-list better showcases the band's diversity. Arguably, I believe the Unplugged album stands the test of time even better than Nevermind - which will forever be lumped in with (and limited by its inextricable association with) the whole "grunge" scene, while the live album largely transcends genre labeling.
Pixies are definitely quirkier, their songs are much shorter and more concise in general and the fact that they had another (female) singer adds an extra dimension to their sound. However, Kurt admitted to outright stealing from their work, and I can definitely hear it, especially in the loud/soft dynamics, shrieking lead vocals and guitar sound (compare Teen Spirit with Break My Body for example) and both bands' somewhat bizarre choice of subject matter (as evidenced by Nirvana's Floyd the Barber, Pennyroyal Tea, Polly and Pixies' Crackity Jones or Nimrod's Son).
I get the "loud quiet loud" part, and I know he drew a lot of inspiration, but at the end of the day they're just plain different. They provide two different listening experiences. The similarities are there, sure, but I was mostly just poking fun at the ignorant bluntness of that person's comment.