On the music of Kurt Cobain, 20 years after his death

PI_GOLBE_COBAIN_AP_001Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:

Grunge was often defined by its negativity. It was not a rebellious negativity but a passive negation, a cancelling out. If you asked grunge what it was for, the answer was, supposedly, “Nothing.” The same answer might be given if you asked grunge what it was against. This sentiment was encapsulated by Kurt Cobain’s famous – and perhaps most enduring – lyric, “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.” The sullen indifference (sometimes referred to as irony) of grunge – and the generation that produced it – was mind-boggling and infuriating to the generation of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, generations defined by wars and causes. Grunge had no external wars, no causes that felt immediate enough to be worth fighting for. The grunge generation was said to be internal – in other words, self-absorbed. This was true. Grunge looked mostly inward, as its war was with and about itself. Musically speaking, grunge’s most direct influence was punk. But where the full-blown nihilism and shock of punk still had the touch of theatre and play, grunge was all the more desperate for feeling it had nothing really to show. Punk was shredded, ripped-apart, exploded. Punk was dyed in brilliant colors, adorned with metal and combat boots. Punk was furious. “Kick over the wall, cause government’s to fall,” sang The Clash. Grunge was torn, faded, uncombed. It was the sweater your friend found in a thrift store and annoyingly left on your floor for a month, which you decided to start wearing for lack of initiative to get your own sweater. The image of grunge was, essentially, that of a homeless person.

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