"Nothing bothers me more than when groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana whine and moan and complain about life and being famous. Let me tell you, being famous is great! The feeling when someone asks you for an autograph, unbelieveable! I just think Americans are tired of people telling them how crap their lives are. I think when people listen to our music, we tell them how good their lives could be. I guess I just can't understand the thoughts of Eddie Vedder or that whole bit... I mean, lad, if you hate your job so much, why don't you fuckin' go work at a car wash or McDonald's or something?" (Noel Gallagher)
Couldn't have put it better myself. So, let's get to Nirvana, the most famous and influential band of the 'Grunge' movement from the early nineties, a band who were a musical and cultural phenomenon apparently. To me they just seemed more like homeless drug addicts who had stolen some musical instruments.
Seemingly overnight, Kurt Kobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic transformed the music scene, from the endless hair metal bands of the Eighties, to a harder, punkier Pixies/Black Sabbath/Mudhoney meets the Beatles sound. The whole landscape of Rock was changing, nothing wrong with that I guess, it repeatedly does, but what was going on? Where were the Rock Stars? Why was everyone wearing lumberjack or plaid shirts? (Very cool.) Why did nobody smile? Echoing Noel, you're a fucking Rock Star, you don't have to work in a factory, you're rich and famous, was it really that difficult?
Rock and Roll, in whatever permutation you want to classify it as, is basically the same. Nirvana were no different to anybody else
The real crux of the problems lying ahead for Nirvana seemed to be that after their first album 'Bleach,' which suited Cobain's punk aesthetics, i.e. tuneless drivel, 'Nevermind' their breakthrough album put him in a negative spiral, as it was deemed (by him) as too commercial. This perception of 'selling out' lasted until his death. 'Smells like Teen Spirit,' 'In Bloom,' 'Come As You Are' all great songs, even to an ardent non Nirvana fan, but it wasn't re-inventing the wheel; again image, albeit in a different form, was overtaking the music, as is often the case, but they caught the imagination of a generation. For the 'In Utero' album, they went back to a less mainstream sound and then came MTV Unplugged, with a stage based on a funeral theme, at the band's insistence.
Going back, for all the band's protestations about keeping with the 'Punk' ethic, that must be why they signed up to a major label for Nevermind and moved into big houses.
Before Nirvana got rich, the attitude seemed to be reminiscent of John Lydon starting wars against the likes of Pink Floyd and Sid against Keith. Now it was Kurt against Axl (to be fair Axl Rose was a complete prick), but history was boringly repeating itself. Who had the last laugh? The Floyd and the Stones having made classic albums (and I don't even like Pink Floyd that much) over the decades, and were now relaxing on their fruits of their labours, hmm, whilst Kurt and Sid were dead, and our Johnny was now spending time appearing on utter shit like 'I'm a celebrity...' (Even Steve Jones is more successful nowadays.)
Rock and Roll, in whatever permutation you want to classify it as, is basically the same. Nirvana were no different to anybody else, ok, they had the quiet then loud dynamic sound down pat. Anyone with a distortion pedal can work that out, they stole that off the Pixies anyway. Nirvana did make some great tunes, but are they worthy against the pantheon of classic immortal songs out there? They will be forever remembered for the big hit, ‘Smells like Teen Spirit'. As to be expected the band grew to hate it, a common band occurrence; think Robert Plant and 'Stairway to Heaven' and Radiohead with 'Creep' amongst others.
Nirvana recorded average songs, played by an average band who looked like dustmen
As for being hailed a “Spokesman for a generation?' My arse. If screaming obscure songs by the Meat Puppets and a Leadbelly song on MTV ('Where Did You Sleep Last Night?' (in a fucking rubbish bin by the looks of it), generally depressing most of the non 'alternative' world, and prompting impressionable young people to look like tramps is what's considered spokesman worthy, then so be it. Of course his demise is a crying shame, to millions of fans, his band and naturally his family, as is the utter waste of a life of a 27 year old.
The real point is, why are Nirvana so revered? Think about it. Their songs will live on of course, the soundtracks to parts of many people's lives, as most people tend to wallow in different musical nostalgia from time to time, myself included, but why are Nirvana considered 'sacred'? Why can't we slate them? Is it against the law?, Nirvana recorded average songs, played by an average band who looked like dustmen, enough said. Maybe we will have to wait thirty years before anyone will actually dare to say anything negative, as now it seems fine to take the piss out of the likes of Elvis, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison etc.
So before all you Nirvana diehards get on your high horses, sitting at your 9-5 job then going back to Surbubia, 2.4 children, your Mortgage, daydreaming about your lost youth back in the early nineties, think again about it, was it really that amazing? Or were you just swept up in the (undeniable) maelstrom surrounding the whole 'Grunge' movement that Nirvana spearheaded for a brief period?
To conclude, Dave Grohl of course has gone onto bigger (and better??) things with the Foo Fighters, and Krist Novoselic-whilst still dabbling in music- is involved in Politics and is wheeled out for interviews occasionally. Kurt Cobain would have been 45 this year, I'm sure it won't be forgotten.
I just don't get it....
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