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Music I enjoy #3

Nirvana
“I miss the comfort in being sad”

I remember a mate of mine lending me a copy of Nirvana’s first album “Bleach”. It made very little impression on me. Then they had a big hit with the song “Smells like Teen Spirit” which was quite nice but it didn’t particularly rock my world. At the time I was far too engrossed in The Beatles and The Doors to notice any worth in modern music. Then they recorded MTV Unplugged and their ‘less commercial’ album “In Utero”. It blew me away. Then Kurt Cobain blew his brains out (I still remember the picture of them on the floor in The Daily Mirror) and made it, for me, hard to enjoy his music without a certain amount of moral ambiguity.

The difficult thing about Nirvana is that they helped to define a large chunk of my generation’s experience of growing up. When I think of their music it is inextricably intertwined with other people I knew who loved it and situations which hinge around being part of a ‘scene’ for a bit. That’d be the grunge scene, which was always pretty daft. In fact it did at the time and if you’d have asked me I’d have denied I was part of it.

I’ve still not resolved the moral ambiguity of Kurt’s suicide but these days I understand that the music and the musician should be considered separately. The thing about Nirvana is that they did actually record good music. More importantly it has improved over time. Cobain’s vocal still has the power to shock. The production is nicely layered and provides cheeky extra nuggets with repeated listening. The pace of the albums works well from track to track. In fact I’d even go as far as to say that both ‘Nevermind’ and ‘In Utero’ qualify as that rarest of all beasts: a perfect album.

NM

2 comments:

Hattie said...

I think what was great about Nirvana and the whole 'grunge' thing was the attitude, like- "I don't care, really I just DO NOT CARE!" It's an attitude you can have with pride when you're a teenager, which all grungies tended to be. It's sometimes nice to slip into that again a bit when you're older, and listening to that music reminds you of it. Definitely good cat music.

Murray said...

What I liked most about Kobain was his really eclectic taste in music and the way he selflessly championed other, more obscure artists; He was also so much more sophisticated than most other people/musicians of his age. Thanks to him, artists such as The Vaselines, The Wipers, Daniel Johnston and many more have gained new fans.
Grunge is a much maligned and misunderstood genre; the majority of the music made was deemed too uncompromising for radio, as the music was influenced by the 70's hard rock and metal of Zepplin and Sabbath, but fused with the 'DIY ethic' of early 80's violent American Hardcore punk - another underground music scene woefully neglected, even in the US.
I like 'In Utero', as I feel it was the record Kobain was itching to make. My persoanl faves though, would be Green River - 'Rehab Doll', Gruntruck - 'Push' and the Melvins 'Houdini' (features Kurt on vocals and on production, as they were all good mates).

This a brilliant film which captures the halcyon days of grunge/alternative rock in 1991: The Year Punk Broke, with Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosuar Jr and loads more. If you've 90 mins to spare, give it a watch. It's ace!

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