People can say some pretty stupid things online. Maybe it’s the anonymity, maybe it’s just a spur-of-the-moment thought immortalized forever on a message board. Some of them are understandable, given circumstances. OK, your brain farted and spat out that retarded statement, and now you’re feeling better. Alright.
But sometimes, the things people say can cause great need for release of frustration. Some of them can make you want to steal a car and ram it into a shopping mall, or grab the next person to walk past you and shove his face into a tree trunk. For example, I’ve heard, more than once, someone who is supposedly into rock music say they hate Nirvana, and that Nirvana sucks. This is utterly berserk. Listen up, pinhead.
First of all, the words “hate” and “sucks” are oversimplified ways to express discontent with something. People use them when they don’t know how else to identify or explain what they don’t like about something. And don’t get me wrong, there is much not to like about Nirvana. (Big hint: It’s designed that way.) But to say Nirvana “sucks” and that you “hate” them is entirely missing the point, like saying “man, Casablanca is so damn sappy,” or “why does Van Gogh paint so many sunflowers?” Let me explain.
Why people don’t like Nirvana:
- Kurt Cobain’s voice is so craggy
- Kurt Cobain’s such a junkie
- Their music is so basic and “raw”
- (Or: their music is so candy-ass-pop)
- Man, flannel is so “out”
Why they’re wrong:
1. Kurt Cobain isn’t Lady GaGa, and that’s the idea. Cobain was a real guy, with real emotions that came through in his music, exposing his audience to actual human feeling. Since that is the ultimate goal of music (not “to help you look cooler”), it’s a huge part of the appeal. And since he happened to be the tormented sort, his voice conveyed that, very effectively. In fact, he used his voice as a way of separating the fans who understood his music from the ones who were just coming to shows because it was cool – and the result was heartfelt songs that sometimes sounded quite ugly. Some people who claim to be into rock don’t like that, which is fine. In that case, you can go back to the cushy drivel you’re tricked into buying by fake guys who drive Land Rovers and have no reason whatsoever to actually feel the music they make. Your loss, smart guy.
2. Kurt Cobain was indeed a junkie. This wasn’t good for his health, but the ironic side of it was that his drug habits made his mind go places people don’t normally go, and his songwriting brought it back for everyone else to see. Because, as unfortunate as it is, junkies actually tend to write better songs. Doubt it? Go ahead and listen to “Come Together,” “Space Oddity” and “Something in the Way.” Now go listen to Jet. Or the Jonas Brothers.
3. Nirvana is indeed simple and raw. It was the ’90s, and simple and raw was a reaction to pompous and flamboyant (like Guns ‘n’ Roses). And since Nirvana was so raw, basic and new, everybody else did what they do with anything — they copied it and made it prettier. Hence Pearl Jam, Silverchair, Bush, Filter, and all the way up to the pretty-boy, fake “grunge” bands that are around now, like Seether and the screamier parts of Linkin Park. (Don’t even get me started on them.) (…Wait, I’ve already gone there.) Those bands took the same idea, made it cuter and more produced, and added stuff like extra testosterone, Abercrombie-Fitch fashion and hip-hop tendencies, so it could become much more popular. And it did. So, when you go back and hear the original version of all that pretty noise, on the surface it can be underwhelming — like how Joy Division’s version of “Dead Souls” isn’t quite as hard-ass as Nine Inch Nails’, or how Donnie Darko doesn’t have quite the same level of drama as its sequel, S. Darko. (If you haven’t seen the sequel, don’t bother.)
4. Nirvana preserved pop, despite everything aforementioned. This is probably the biggest reason they were successful, and probably one of the reasons Cobain hated his success. He was able to wrap his angst and rough-edged, emotional outbursts in a nice, listenable candy shell that made it extremely popular with his fans. He probably could have made it even more poppy, if he wanted to. (I’ve read that he’d even talked about adding orchestration to his next album.) The problem was, it tended to make people assume the band was candy all the way through. So the people who liked Lithium came to shows and were utterly perturbed by songs like Milk It.
5. Flannel. People in Seattle probably wore it because it’s cold there. And not that it was ever supposed to become the world’s coolest ‘90s skater trend, but for what it’s worth, it’s all over the place in vintage stores banking on a full-blown revival. Hey, you bought into the ‘80s revival, right? Nice ass-huggers you got there.
Addendum: I recently ran into another reason why some say Nirvana sucks, which is that they put an end to the hairband era. And the only appropriate response to this would be the same response I received the time I ordered two Irish car bombs at a trendy bar on Melrose: (hands splayed outward) “REALLY?” I’m done here.
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