Monday, July 12, 2004

A Comment on Nirvana: Only a Band, Not a State of Mind

I was just informed that the tenth anniversary of the passing of "the voice of my generation" had passed. In fact, it was quite a while ago, and I missed it. Of course, I'm talking about former Nirvana frontman, Courtney Love lovin', Kurt Cobain. If your looking for a sorta-maudlin, genuflecting piece, go here. If not, read on.

I never got the Cobain thing, I was at the time, and still am, a much bigger fan of Pearl Jam than Nirvana. To my ear (which is definately not TIN), Pearl Jam had more talent, better lyrics and better musicianship. Given that, I always considered them as the 1A and 1B of the Seattle grunge sound. But you see, Cobain, despite being a legit bad boy, also new how to market himself, and wanted to. He kept the MTV ties going while Pearl Jam, for the sake of "authenticity," forsook MTV after their first multi-platinum album. Hence, Cobain had more widespread exposure and was more "popular", even though, in my opinion, his music wasn't as good nor as socially and culturally informed as Pearl Jam's. (I don't agree with most of the politics of Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder, but they wrote some pretty good songs with their social gripes as main themes.)

I think Cobain's death was reminiscent of the "Lady Di phenomenom," whereby people wanted to be part of the story. This is especially because Cobain's fan base was mostly comprised of a generation that had nothing to REALLY get upset over (like in the past with "The Bomb" and "Vietnam" or now with "Terrorism") so they focused on those aspects of Pop culture that made them feel like part of a larger "movement." The cynicism and "reality" espoused by Cobain, et al spoke to a generation that really didn't have much to b-i-t-c-h about. The Berlin Wall had fallen down, Communism was kaput, Clinton was president and believed in a place called "Hope," etc. Self-righteous angst influenced by postmodern relativism became the new "it" thing. (And this was after The Cure was in their heydey!)

Anyway, I guess I chalk the Cobain thing up to a generation desperate to find something with which to identify themselves. Cobain was the man of the moment, and his tragic death was a perverse ending, and ironic justification, of the postmodern, media imposed "Gen X" ideology.

Now we have something real with which to concern ourselves, and I think we are stepping up to the plate. Perhaps this is reflected in the music on the airwaves. If the predominance of teen pop and rap are an indicator of what sells, could this mean people of my generation, the old looking-for-a-reason-to-be-angst-ridden Gen Xers are simply not paying attention? If not, what are we paying attention to? I would hazard that we may be, especially those of us on the web and within the blogosphere, the most information-centric generation ever. Music is fun, but if we want our politics, we'll take them in the paper, on TV or, increasingly, online. Not from some heroin addict who says he can offer us "three chords and the truth."

No comments: