Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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71 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I never really got into them. They had some good songs, but there was far too much phenomenon. They were a solid band that got far to much press and adulation. I was never even really sure what grunge was supposed to be. It seemed like a lot of the same style of music that had been around the college scene throughout the 80’s. If they had popped up in 83 they would have been just another good college band that AOR radio ignored.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to greginak says:

      Obviously, I am ambivalent myself. They were tuneful and abrasive, a combo I normally like (and they were one of the best bands of their scene, and leagues better than the ones that followed them), yet they never *quite* clicked for me either. A lot of catchy songs (seriously, I was surprised about how many I remembered, and remembered well), but maybe a little bit same-y overall.

      But I’m not sure how much of that is my own resistance to their oversaturation; maybe I would have grown to love them, if they’d stayed at the exposure level of their inspirations (well, their most proximate ones; they kinda reached the exposure levels of their more distant inspirations: Beatles and Black Sabbath) and kept making records. It’s not like Replacements’ or Sonic Youth’s first few records were all that – in fact, I’d say Nirvana hit their stride much earlier than those other bands. Who knows where they would have gone?

      And I did have a bit of an emotional reaction to his death, despite my best efforts not to give a crap. Shortly after his death, I was in a club and the DJ closed the night with “All Apologies” (I’m sure this was happening all over America, if not the world), and it was undeniably haunting and moving.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I know i suffered from the Quentin Tarantino effect with them where the over hype and adulation of their fans along with their apparent lack of knowledge of all the many predecessors made them difficult to listen to. The brooding tortured soul pop archetype is not something i was ever really into. That Cobain was really tortured and not just acting the type or just whiny made the entire thing even more unappealing.Report

  2. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    In Utero is the album I’d be least likely to revisit. Rolling Stone‘s review called it a record only a famous band could make, which I take to mean that a lot of the songs, like “Serve the Servants” (Teenage angst has served me well/Now I’m bored and old) don’t hold up without the Biggest Band in the World context. I have more respect for Kurt Cobain’s songwriting that you, maybe, but if that record had been a book, I woulda slanged it across the room at I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad.*

    Their live compilation was really well done. It was a really effective way to tell the story of a band, using songs from festival extravaganzas together with board tapes of gigs in England with no one in the audience, and weaving them together into one “live” show. You really hear what was good about those songs that way, too (“Nirvana started as a live band [don’t all bands?]”). And the wordless, un-liner-noted “Intro” is a chilling encapsulization of the band’s appeal.

    * I really hate people who announce that they’ve hurled a book across the room. It’d usually be more honest just to say “I shall now preen.”Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

      It held up a lot better than I was expecting, but I like an Albini recording, so the sound of it was just pleasing to the ear.

      When I talk about his songwriting, I should be more specific – catchy melodies, he had in spades. But lyrically, he didn’t have (to me) the wit of a Westerberg, for example, or the sheer WTF-ness of Black Francis. And without that, so much naked self-pity is kinda hard to take.Report

  3. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    Bitchin post. I resisted nirvana when I first saw the teen spirit video, but couldn’t say why. I could instantly tell it was ushering in a new era in music, and maybe I wasn’t sure I liked it yet. If not before, I was certainly hooked with Incesticide. The only tape I ever played more times was Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. I doubt anyone has ever listened to one album as much as I listened to Diary.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      SDRE was pretty good, I saw them twice. I liked How It Feels To Be Something On quite a bit, though parts of it sounded *a lot* like Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual to me (but that was OK, because JA wasn’t making records, so I figured someone might as well).

      Then the one after that started to tread into Yes territory or something, and that wasn’t as great.

      But I kinda liked Return of the Frog Queen (the Enigk solo record).

      Hey, did you ever listen to Knapsack?Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal in reply to Glyph says:

        I loved the pink album almost as much as Diary, but lost interest with each subsequent. To keep it topical, their drummer, Will Goldsmith, a big influence on my drumming (hey, he was easier to emulate than Neil Pert), was Foo Fighter’s first with Dave Grohl. All the guys I played music with back then were heavily influenced by SDRE when everyone started playing “sad man music,” as my wife calls it, Mineral being my favorite post-SDRE sad man band of them all.

        I totally forgot about Knapsack. What are you, the emo whisperer? Trying to remember the songs — just remember the bald head…

        Speaking of obscure emo bands, I thought Jejune was really good.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal in reply to Glyph says:

        And yes, I quite liked Enigk’s solo stuff. Saw him play in LA, must’ve been around 1996 or ’97. He had just become a Christian, and I talked to him outside a little, told him I thought it was great he had found his faith. I was very deep into my own faith in those days. My wife was wearing a ROTFQ t-shirt when I met her in ’98.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal in reply to Glyph says:

        By the way, I’m listening to Knapsack now….Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I toyed with trying to work Knapsack into this post; they sort of strike me as one of the few followers of Nirvana (or, like a slower Superchunk, or a less-weird Archers of Loaf) that were any good.

        Again, real sturdy melodies and a way of slipping into a melodic scream.


    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      Holy somethingorother! That Knapsack song is the most Nirvana-like song I’ve ever heard by a non-Nirvana band.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        I don’t want to oversell them – the lyrics can be a little poesy here and there, and they can be a bit same-y.

        But they had a lot of really catchy songs, and if you liked Nirvana – or like I said, the ‘Chunk, or AoL (with whom they shared a label) and are looking for some comfort food in that vein, you could do worse.


  4. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Great post, Glyph. It touched on a time in my life I don’t really think about all that much and brought back a bunch of memories. I was living pretty much out in the wilds back then – I recall a winter Olympics (1992) coming and going without my realizing it until months later, if that’s any indication of what I mean – and how much music was a part of the whole experience. In particular, your post made me recall in vivid detail how I leaned about his death. I’d just gotten off an 8 day river trip in Utah and on the back from the takeout we hit one of those little in-the-middle-of-nowhere gas stations for fuel and ice cream, and I read about it on the cover of People magazine. I was numb. I bought the magazine and read the whole article. Couldn’t make sense of it. Still can’t, really. It seemed like such a big loss for us and whole lot of personal pain for him. I remember thinking the way he killed himself was indicative of the pain he was living in. Pretty damn violent. It’s a shame he hurt so many people choosing to go out like he did.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

      I wasn’t sure then, and am not now, why his death affected me the way it did. They weren’t anywhere near my favorites, then or now.

      Maybe it’s just because, from all the interviews, and the cover songs, and the age we were and the age he was, we felt like we *knew* him (or at least, we knew guys *like* him).

      Sure, he was a rich and famous rock star; but only scant months or years before, he’d been your neighbor who was always blasting Black Flag at four in the afternoon through the too-thin crappy college apartment walls.

      There’s also the creepy factor – the way, after it was done, everybody realized clearly how long it’d been coming. The white lilies on the “Unplugged” stage, and all that.

      A good friend of mine attempted suicide by gun. He failed, but he isn’t the same. A couple weeks before he did it, he and I went to see a show; I was trying to get him out of the house, and also make sure he understood that his girlfriend was leaving him if he didn’t do something about it; she’d told him he needed to get help, that she couldn’t just stick around and watch him waste away, but she didn’t know if she was getting through, and I told her I’d talk to him.

      He’d been through down phases before, but nobody thought he’d ever do anything to hurt himself. She moved out. We know from his internet search history that he started looking for guns soon after that.

      Both she and I (and I’m sure his family, and his other friends) wonder what we could have said or done differently. Should we have had him committed? Was there some combination of words or actions that would have prevented him from doing what he did?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        Just to throw this in regarding sad deaths, but D. Boon from the Minutemen was a far greater loss in terms of music and what he likely would have created. The Minutemen would never have been widely popular but they were a great band, raucous outsiders and had a real spark of originality. Nirvana were edgy in the way that fills huge venues and sells millions of records.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        Nirvana were edgy in the way that fills huge venues and sells millions of records.

        I have to admit that I’ve never really understood viewing an artist’s edginess as a somehow inversely proportional to their popularity. Sometimes artists gain a huge following precisely because they’re edgy, but in a way that has wide appeal. That’s one of the things I’ve always viewed as incoherent with parts of the punk-as-an-artistic-pursuit view, one that apparently really worked on Cobain’s psyche: by having wide appeal he was criticized for selling out. And apparently the argument is that an artist is only true to his principles if most (or lots, or too many, or…) people don’t like their work. That makes no sense to me. An artist can’t control how people react to their work and certainly they can’t determine whether or not “the wrong people” end up buying their records and going to their shows.

        Edginess is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Glyph used a phrase in the OP that struck me as reflecting that view pretty clearly – something about not being hip enough as a teenager to appreciate a particular artist’s contemporaneous work. I get that sentiment, for sure, but it’s not inconsistent with the view that artists just do what they do. I mean, to take a pretty obvious example, lots of people thought U2 sold out when they made the Joshua Tree album because everyone liked it!. I guess the criticism is that they were supposed to keep making records intentionally designed to only appeal to a limited or niche audience. That seems like a strange way of looking at the creation of art, and the motivations of artists.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Still, I actually meant that slightly differently – it’s possible I wouldn’t have liked or gotten Wipers then, but what I meant was that I was not “hip” to the fact they even existed.

        I vaguely remember Nirvana and SY both name-checking them in the early 90’s, but I didn’t bother to go find their records then either. They just somehow kept eluding my consciousness. I think their records may have gone out of print for a while, maybe around that time? And obviously the internet wasn’t the song-finding machine it is now.

        They even eluded the consciousness of my friends who were way more into punk and hardcore than I was.

        But your central point stands. It’s weird to use the popularity (or obscurity) of something as a metric to either indicate or dismiss its quality.*

        But we all do it, I’m as bad as anybody else.

        *I mean “quality” along a good-bad axis. I think it’s generally pretty reasonable to use it along a conventional-less conventional axis. If you have a taste for novelty, then seeking out and giving preference to that which is off the beaten path just makes good sense. But the fact alone that something is less-popular doesn’t automatically make it good.**

        **Except, in certain ways it sort of can. BP was kvetching about too much recycling on my last electronic music post, and certainly we see someone who’s more willing/able to push the envelope (said envelope-pushing often being likely to reduce mass appeal) as more of an “artist”, whereas someone who does good work (even extremely good work) well within already-established parameters without really surprising us in any way, is considered more a “craftsman” at best.

        So what I am trying to say is, Wipers rule.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        Yeah to all that. And all apologies about misunderstanding your comment in the OP. People gravitate to music for all sorts of reasons, one of which is the culture certain types of music is embedded in. I certainly got no problems with that. What puzzles me is the view that after a band has a few albums under it’s belt that wider appeal constitutes selling out or a lack of edginess. I mean, edginess is a relational property in some sense, yes? So after they’ve hit the scene with their edgy sound or edgy lyrical approach or whatever, any subsequent album that follows along that same path will almost by definition be less edgy. It’s a bit of a catch 22 in some sense: edginess gets dulled unless the artist intentionally tries to be edgy, and trying to be edgy for its own sake seems inconsistent with the creation of good art.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I don’t disagree with anything you wrote Still. However i still believe there are different sorts of edges, neither are better or worse. The Plasmatics, or Black Flag or Dead Kenedeys were on an , ummm edgier edge that was never going to lead to filling stadiums. Rock in general was dangerous in the 50’s and maybe the 60’s. Since then most rock has not been paradigm challenging or to put it another way, its been safe. That isn’t bad at all. It doesn’t have to push boundaries to be good to listen to. Most rock bands play at being dangerous or scary but mostly they are just sort of KISS. Of course KISS is objectively terrible but if people like their act then thats just fine.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, sure. My view is that people just want to rock and roll all nite, and even tho I don’t have a problem with folks calling Dr. Love I think it’s ridiculous to demand that he answer.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        Well as long as the doctor will give me the news about that bad case i have, i’m fine.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        For sure. He’s got the cure your thinking of.Report

  5. Avatar D Clarity says:

    I don’t hear any Replacements influence in Nirvana’s music. Beatles, Stooges, Wipers, Melvins, Pixies. Some Sabbath and the Vaselines. But no Replacements.

    And I don’t think wit is some great quality to have in rock music. It’s not standup. When I hear someone say they like music that is witty it makes me think of atrocious junk like They Might Be Giants or other college type garbage. No thanks. I do love the Replacements, but not for the wit.

    I agree with the commenter who said that the live stuff was best, From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah is the place to start. I saw them live right after the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit came out. It wasn’t really my type of music at the time, but it has aged well.

    I remember back then hanging out with some friends and hearing a report about some Nirvana drama/gossip and remarking that if they were following the rock and roll script, it was time for one of them to commit suicide. The next day I saw in a news report that Cobain was dead.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to D Clarity says:

      Eh, if you don’t hear throat-shredding echoes of “Unsatisfied” in Cobain’s songs, I’m not sure what I can tell ya. They even had the flannel first. Minnesota’s cold!

      And of course the ‘Mats weren’t witty in that bookish way – I mean more in the sense that they looked into the same lonely abyss Cobain did, but still managed to crack drunken jokes about it.

      Cobain never learned to do that, more’s the pity for him.Report

    • Avatar Krogerfoot in reply to D Clarity says:

      Wit, like sense of humor, is an often-misunderstood concept in the English-speaking world. I agree that people who use “wit” to mean “always with the jokes,” usually have terrible taste in everything.Report

  6. Avatar Krogerfoot says:

    Not to commandeer the topic at hand, but speaking of live-document-as-band-history, can someone Google for me why I haven’t heard The Name of This Band is Talking Heads since I had it on cassette in the late 80s? Did it never make the transition to digital?Report

  7. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Nirvana’s Bleach appeared in my daughter’s collection, first. Heard it in the basement a fair bit, where my kids’ friends hung out. Beasties’ Paul’s Boutique and Nirvana’s Bleach were then in heavy rotation. For some reason I identify one with the other. When Nevermind went big, I sorta rolled my eyes: aw shit here comes the next big thing, I sure hope fame doesn’t let the lightning out of the bottle for these boys. I sure did like Bleach a lot, everything on it was great. About a Girl, Negative Creep.

    Just a bunch of kids stripping down rock and roll like a classic Cadillac, which really is a fine, fast engine. People sorta forget just how beefy and powerful a Caddy engine really is. All people usually see is the deluxe interiors. That’s kinda what rock had become. Nirvana and bands like Mudhoney were pulling off all the extras and running their beast around the track, and boy it sure did sound good in my ears after all those wretched early 80s haircut bands.

    They were just kids. Earnest, well-meaning kids. Kurt Cobain was by all accounts a decent guy, a bit standoffish and his skull was about two sizes two small for his brain which kinda pinched him in there and that pain came out in his music. Krist Novoselic, the Melvins, all those guys, no big attitudes but a lot of ambition and a lot of heart.

    The lightning stayed in the bottle but the problem inside Kurt Cobain’s cramped skull only got worse. Fame ate him alive by giving him what he wanted, in a way he couldn’t have expected. It’s easy to see why my kids loved him so much. And when he did himself in 94, I watched my kids weep over him. And I stood there, not sure how to feel. I’d cried bitterly over John Lennon. Kinda knew what they were feeling. But grief over such things can’t be shared.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Their Unplugged album featured a number of covers… some from bands/artists you knew (David Bowie) and some I otherwise probably never would have heard from (Meat Puppets).

    I was introduced to Nirvana via my stepfather. Which meant I came to know about them after Cobain’s death. Only I didn’t know that at the time. I was 10 or 11 or 12… somewhere in there… so I didn’t know a lot of things. But I liked the music. It sounded good. I didn’t know if Nirvana was a big deal or not… but them and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were all bands I came to know at that time and really liked. I remember thinking, “Oh, these guys must be a big deal,” when “Heart Shaped Box” was nominated for a VMA. I remember being very upset when they lost video of the year to Aerosmith’s “Crying”, easily the worst of the four nominees (the other two were “Sabotage” and “Everybody Hurts”).

    I was too young and too late to the game and too ignorant to really feel one way or another about Cobain’s suicide. In retrospect, I struggle with the canonization. Besides music, Cobain chose probably the worst outlets for dealing with his demons… alcohol, drugs, destructive relationships, and, ultimately, suicide. He is not someone we should look up to, least of all young people who might be struggling with the very same issues.

    I more or less understand what Nirvana meant from a cultural standpoint, both musically and with Cobain’s death. They still rank as one of my favorite bands ever (though I’m sure some of that is the nostalgia of them being one of the first bands I really got into). But whenever I see a list of the greatest songs ever and see “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the #1 slot, I have to tilt my head just a bit. Really? I don’t even think that was their best song and certainly is not my favorite. It’s a great song, no doubt. But best ever? How much of that is a function of overstating Nirvana’s influence and/or the canonization of St. Kurt? It always seems curious to me.

    To those who are interested, there is a pretty good documentary on Netflix about the making of Nevermind. They explore pretty deeply the creative process, which I’m sure would be of interest to the more musically-inclined people here.

    And while it might be sacrilege to say this, I do sometimes wonder aloud on whether we should consider Grohl’s work with the Foo Fighters to be better than Nirvana’s work, if you look at the entire catalogues. Crazy, I know… but wrong?Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      I remember being very upset when they lost video of the year to Aerosmith’s “Crying”, easily the worst of the four nominees (the other two were “Sabotage” and “Everybody Hurts”).

      “Sabotage” is CLEARLY the best video, Cochese. Hands down.

      I do sometimes wonder aloud on whether we should consider Grohl’s work with the Foo Fighters to be better than Nirvana’s work, if you look at the entire catalogues. Crazy, I know… but wrong?

      Crazy, and wrong 🙂 Still, Grohl is a great drummer (he hits them HARD – you can always tell when it’s him on a Queens of the Stone Age album), and seemingly a genuinely nice person (and, he’s funny as hell). I’d rather spend a day with him than with Cobain anytime.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I’d probably agree with you on “Sabotage”. 11-year-old Kazzy might have argued for HSB. But no one sane would have argued “Crying” over either.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        “Sabotage” was one of the best videos of the 90s, period! That video rocks.

        I kinda wish I’d come to Nirvana after Nirvana. Hearing them in their moment, particularly in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moment made it really difficult for me to like them back then. It’s not just that songs from that album played constantly, everywhere, but the big Nirvana fans — the one who thought Cobaine, and this is pre-suicide, was the greatest American poet or something (he got the Jim Morrison-style worship) — were surpassed in their annoyingness only by the people who replied to them by saying, “Yeah, I liked Nirvana when they were just Bleach, but then they sold out.”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I’ma let you finish, but “Sabotage” may be one of the best videos of all time. Of all time!

        Maybe Nirvana really were as good as Wipers or Replacements, and if they had remained relatively unknown like them, I’d always be gushing about this criminally-unheard band “Nirvana”, that had all these catchy songs and should have been huge, if people had had any sense.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I think part of the genius of Sabotage was lost on 11-year-old Kazzy because I didn’t really understand the visual references they were making. I mean, it was funny because they had mustaches and dressed like that… but I didn’t really get it.

        Now? Now I get it. Or at least get it more than I did then. People with actual knowledge of the 70’s (read: you old farts!) probably will always appreciate it more and differently than I.Report

  9. Avatar dhex says:

    this was quite a post. the last time i heard nevermind was a few years ago (whenever the remastered version dropped) and it was still enjoyable. i was 13 or so when it came out, so it’s a comfortable part of my mental background noise, as it were.

    what i’ve never gotten, honestly, is the pixies comparison. while not as severe as my ramones allergy, i’m pretty hateful towards frankie’s voice, but even accounting for all that i think your replacements comparison is 10,000x more accurate, though all i know about them is from reading your stuff.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

      We seem to be about the same age then. I was 11 or 12 when Nevermind came out.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      Honestly, the post is kinda muddled. I’m not exactly sure what my point was, except to see if after all this time I could make any better sense of my feelings about them.

      Apparently not. I dunno.

      Maybe that’s appropriate for a band that was so contradictory; it seems like everything they did was both ambitious and self-destructive, emotionally naked to the point of listener discomfort and intentionally alienating/obfuscating.

      The Pixies thing is mainly the bass-led loudQUIETloud dynamics thing, though I do occasionally hear Cobain seemingly striving to emulate the intentionally perverse/off-putting abstract lyrical imagery of Black Francis, and IIRC Cobain himself once described “Teen Spirit” as his attempt at a Pixies tune. Play “Gigantic” and “Teen Spirit” back to back and squint your ears, and you can kinda hear it.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

        I have a cheapo Pixies retrospective DVD that includes a number of not very interesting interviews with musicians talking about the Pixies’ importance, and one of them was David Bowie, talking about the LOUDquiet thing like he was reading off cue cards. I’m pretty sure Kurt Cobain said explicitly that this was what he was emulating with “Smells Like,” but it occurs to me that there’s not a whole lot of Pixies songs that match this tired description. “Gigantic,” “Tame”—what else?

        I’m not saying this is a totally idiotic way to describe Pixies’ music, but it always felt to me like a lazy journalist’s shorthand. Then again, the Pixies documentary was called loudQUIETloud, so I’m probably, as I so often am, utterly alone with this cranky opinion.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Huh. I guess I’d put “Gouge Away” (and maybe “River Euphrates”) there too – but looking over their songs, you’re right, they didn’t use that trick as often as you’d think. Often they started loud, then got louder (“Rock Music”, “Planet of Sound”). Still, that drastic shift in dynamics style was pretty associated with them; if you’re a lucky rock band, you only need to hit upon a good trick once.

        And lyrically there’s not a million miles between instructions to “Bloody your hands on a cactus tree, wipe it on your dress and send it to me” and “throw down your umbilical noose, so I can climb right back”. Both are mixing up imagery of death/violence, bodily functions/fluids, and love/sexual desire, into one big sticky Freudian mess.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

        “Gouge Away,” true. I somehow missed that you’d made the same point that I was jabbering about w/r/t “Teen Spirit.”

        The lyrics you juxtaposed are a good illustration of the difference between doing something interesting in a rocknroll song and, I think, trying too hard.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        totally idiotic way to describe Pixies’ music, but it always felt to me like a lazy journalist’s shorthand

        I reiterate the promise I’ve made from the beginning – these posts will be more idiotic, and less journalistic, than anything you’ve read in the past.

        100% fact-free specious opinionating, padded out with regurgitated common wisdom, that’s my motto!

        Also, thanks for giving me an excuse to listen to Pixies songs with my coffee. “Planet of Sound” sure shakes those cobwebs off, and “Letter to Memphis” is lifting my mood. OOOH, “Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons” kinda does the dynamic shift too….it’s like a less menacing, more optimistic “Gouge”…Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

        To continue my bloviating, though, Nirvana made a lot of interesting, to me, overt attempts to sing rock songs from a first-person feminine perspective. “Pennyroyal Tea” would have made no sense to me if I hadn’t known someone who’d put herself through the experience of using that as an abortifacient. The details, like the “cherry-flavored antacid” that you need to have on hand to get through poisoning yourself, are well drawn.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

        . . . it always felt to me like a lazy journalist’s shorthand

        This was absolutely not referring to you, by the way.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Oh, no worries, I wasn’t taking offense. But seriously, I don’t really research these in advance except maybe to check release years and such, and I definitely do the lazy ‘x crossed with y’ comparison thing. A lot.

        Here comes Kurt, he’s wearin’ a skirt / Here comes Jane, you know she’s sportin’ a chain

        RE: the “feminine” aspects of Nirvana – I think there’s no question Cobain considered himself a feminist, and he obviously felt a kinship with the riot grrl scene from the Pac NW (his wife remains a nutbar, however). I commented above that there is something (to me) “feminine” about his features…I really do think he was “beautiful” (more than “handsome”). I don’t know if I would have switched teams if he’d asked me to, but I would have thought about it for a minute or two.

        I don’t know much about his childhood so I don’t know if he was always so delicate-seeming, or if that’s the adult drug abuse that made him seem that way; but if he was a skinny, “pretty” young boy, he probably came in for a fair amount of abuse at the hands of other boys (again, this is all speculation, he could have been class president and captain of the football team for all I know).Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        “I’m not exactly sure what my point was, except to see if after all this time I could make any better sense of my feelings about them. ”

        i’d say you succeeded along these lines. i’ve been hearing the pixies comparison since i was a wee one and this girl in my hs* who i had a crush on was all huge into the pixies. i did eventually work up the courage to say “i just don’t hear it” but it took a few months.

        * blue hair, introduced me to mbv, etc. she was impossibly cool.Report

  10. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Excellent post, Glyph.

    Nirvana and other Seattle bands were formative to my musical experiences.

    I was not really aware of music when I was an elementary school kid and really just listened in the car with my parents or when they took me to Young People and the Orchestra concerts.

    I went to sleep-away camp for the first time between 7th and 8th grades and got massacred by the other kids for not knowing anything about music. When I got home, the first thing I did was turn on MTV and educated myself. This would have been the summer of 1993 so the Seattle Grunge movement was in full bloom of being really cool, Dr. Dre just released the Chronic. I gripped largely onto the indie rock with some brief experiments in heavy metal (Metallica, Ozzy Osborne). So for me it became: Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., U2, etc. Through these bands I discovered The Ramones, The Talking Heads, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, The Smiths, The Cure, etc. Now I largely listen to indie rock, jazz, and classical, with some classic stuff like The Kinks, The Band, Sam Cooke, The Beatles, The Stones, and others thrown in.

    So Nirvana made my musical tastes in many ways. In Utero was one of the first CDs I owned. I can remember where I was when I heard Kurt Cobain committed suicide and remember seeing the MTV unplugged and having the CD. I still like the unplugged CD a lot.

    Thanks for the intro to the Pastels!Report

  11. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Though I always hated Soundgarden.

    And I was an impressionable, precocious adolescent who thought that Singles and Reality Bytes would be indicative of my life as a young post-college adult.

    Though being born in 1980 puts me in a weird spot generation-wise. Depending on who you ask, I am either the last year of Generation X or an early member of Generation Y/Millennials. Most people born between 77-81 would tell you that we feel like the purgatory between generations.

    Personally I feel much more kinship with people born between 68-73 than I do with people born between 1985-1989.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

      You know, I HATED Soundgarden at the time (Cornell really bugged me – the voice, the image/persona – he was REALLY annoying live); but weirdly, have since warmed to Badmotorfinger which is actually a pretty kickass mildly-psychedelic rock record.


      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

        It isn’t so much his persona as much as I dislike his singing voice.

        Just like I dislike Rose Tyler from Doctor Who because I think Billie Pipper can’t act.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

        I have a grand unified theory that the Gen X/Grungers just morphed into Hipsters/Indie Rockers without really changing too much. They just got a bit more expensive. A lot of hipsters basically seem to dress in a way that would not be out of place in the grunge era.

        You see some Gen Xers from the era have basically morphed into hipsters.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Have you read Hornby’s “About A Boy”? Cobain’s death is a major plot point in the novel. The movie changed that because it would have dated it. A fantastic read in general but might stir something for those for whom that was a critical time for.Report

  13. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    I was an impressionable middle schooler when Nirvana came on the scene, and they were one of the first bands that I was into when I started to develop my taste in music. I have not listened to their stuff in years, with the exception of their Unplugged album a few weeks ago. Foo Fighters manage to make it into my rotation fairly frequently, on the other hand. Every now and then I think about listening to Nevermind or In Utero, but I just never get around to it.Report