Saturday, September 23, 2006

Never mind Nirvana?

Pay special tribute to Nirvana this weekend, in light of it being 15 years since their seminal album Nevermind was released. Opinion on Nirvana is no noubt split, but I'm going to share my views right here. My argument is that the band Nirvana, and in particular the album Nevermind, changed the face of music.

Before Nevermind came out, rock music (and I use the term fairly loosely, to describe heavy, guitar-based music) was largely an ignored genre, having disappeared up its own arse several years previously. It had become a joke to those who weren't entrenched in the scene, and very few bands were crossing over into the mainstream. Not that crossing into the mainstream is necessarily an indication of success, but it is an indication of mass appeal.

Today, though, heavy guitar music is once again a force to be reckoned with. Most weeks there are several such acts in the "pop chart" in the UK, and performers such as Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne, which were all but dead 15 years ago, have now become heroes once more. This is, in my opinion, almost entirely due to the revolution brought about by Nirvana. Not only did old acts resurface, but new ones popped up too, and surely bands like Linkin Park, Blink 182, Sum 41, and Trivium would not even be on our collective radar were it not for Nirvana.

Before Nevermind came out, I'd forgotten how exciting and energetic music could be. Sure, less than one year earlier I'd been rocking out with my own band, which we thought of as punk-metal. But our influences by and large came from the punk era, and most of what my friends and I had been listening to was several years old.

Of course I'd heard the name Nirvana bandied about. I frequented quite a rock 'n' roll pub and similar clubs, and I'd seen the T-shirts blah blah blah. I figured it was just another metal band that would have no relevance to us mere mortals. But then I saw them perform "Territorial Pissings" on TV. It was 6pm, and the show was something hosted by Jonathan Ross. Un-fucking-believable. Three people could do that, make all that noise, and not give a good goddamn fuck that it was daytime and all the lights were on in the studio?

Sure, Nevermind is a bit overproduced and not as raw as In Utero or Bleach, but it's still got some great songs on it. And it changed the world. It changed my world, anyway. Hell, what more can you ask from a record?


Anonymous the cappuccino kid. said...

i suppose it all depends which side of your bread you like buttered! i bought it, but never bought into it. i saw kurt and courtney as a new sid and nancy, always destined to self destruct. but unfortunately it was the wrong one that went! (john lennon+yoko ono?)
got to add that even though i am no fan, iron maiden never went anywhere. album sales can prove that. ok, except for the brief period when dickinson left.
good post.

23 September, 2006 09:20  
Anonymous the cappuccino kid. said...

by the way, seen that this is on tonight? (saturday)


Inspired by the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, but, as the credits make clear, a work of fiction, the film opens with reclusive rock star Blake (Pitt) wandering through his wooded estate, mumbling and stumbling in the manner of the habitually blitzed. He shares his dilapidated mansion with a coterie of severely strung-out kids (Argento, Haas and Green). Their precise relationship to Blake is vague, but they're tapping him for cash and assistance, neither of which he's able to provide.

Somewhere in Blake's background are a wife, a child and a tour, but how he got here and what went wrong aren't the issues. Van Sant's film is located entirely in the moment as Blake drifts from room to room, plays with his gun, fumbles tortuously over some macaroni, and collapses in front of Boyz II Men on MTV. Only an anguished musical sequence, shot through a window as if by a nervous stalker, hints at the imminent tragedy, squalls of noise spreading across the soundtrack in a rare moment of emotional articulacy.

SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD. but knowing you, you'll have seen it already.
clerks 2 out now!

23 September, 2006 09:52  
Blogger Shep said...

I've seen this too. It's great. And has the very saucy Kim Gordon in it, recreating a scene which apparently happened in real life with Kurt.

Very cool.

23 September, 2006 11:19  
Anonymous Pie said...

There's few bands which can claim to have changed the face of music, Nirvana is definitely one of them. Unfortunately music seems to be struggling a little at the moment to find new directions, there's a few exceptions out there though.

23 September, 2006 11:48  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Who, Bowie, Pistols, Siousxie, Nirvana.....I'm still waiting for more....

23 September, 2006 14:10  
Blogger Camie Vog said...

15 years, huh? Well, that explains why I only have Bleach and Nevermind on vinyl.

I was in San Francisco at a record store, and the clerk insisted I buy Bleach and the first Nine Inch Nails album. I gently transported them back to Michigan and wowed all my friends. We liked Nirvana far better than NIN, and many booted cassette tapes were made from that album. We waited at the door of the local record shop to buy Nevermind in the early morning hours. Many of us skipped work so we could listen to it in leisure.
Very good post!

23 September, 2006 14:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was outta touch during the Nirvana years, but still understand their huge contribution.

23 September, 2006 15:38  
Blogger Kate said...

I wasn't a big fan (preferred Pearl Jam) but I did like Kurt Cobain, and I like the Foo Fighters, who wouldn't be around if it wasn't for Nirvana, obviously. They (Nirvana) were an influential band though, and they definitely cleared the way for much of the music we have now.

Iron Maiden were always pants (although a little better before Dicko joined) It seems ironic that of all the 80s metal bands Maiden and Ozzy have made come backs 'cause I don't remember either being taken seriously at the time.

23 September, 2006 15:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a corker of an album and make no mistake. 3 guys??? Just 3? Fantastic, I listen to the foo fighters and tho I love them too, they aren't a patch. Nevermind was my introduction to the band and for me its as significant as 'never mind the bollocks'. If the Daily Mail hate 'em, they must be good.

23 September, 2006 19:05  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Enjoyed this post very much.

Nirvana did change music. Changed the music business too.

Nevermind was crazy. I'm west coast. Mudhoney, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden were always in the mix of everyday listening. I had Bleach. Loved it. Listened to Pearl Jam. Saw Soundgarden in 1989. (I just posted this this morning, before I came here and read this...funny)

Would I have predicted the pounding overnight change of musical tastes when Nirvana's next album came out? Not in a million years.

In the pacific northwest, Led Zeppelin never left radio play since the 70's. Subpop records was the marriage of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. When you wanted to listen to cool underground music, you looked for the bin with SubPop label. It was a rite of passage to visit Hendrix's grave in Seattle, (yep, I made the journey) Sonic Youth was the band that mentored "grunge". We didn't call it grunge. Some journalist made up the name. I still don't call it grunge, unless I'm being ironic about fashion or something.

It was punk. I still have an old video copy of The Year Punk Broke(1991) of the tour with Babes In Toyland, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana and all kinds of cameos Ramones, Courtney Love.(you can see that Kurt actually really loved her, I believe in this movie)

No one was more surprised or taken aback when than me to walk into parties and hear Nirvana. It was crazy. I was dating a guy who was a guitarist in a hardcore punk band in Canada...he was pure U.K. Subs and Ramones and I turned him kicking and screaming onto west coast cool...a few months earlier and we just couldn't fucking believe it.

I was ina taxi heading home when the radio announced Cobain died. I started crying. The taxi driver asked "why you cry when stupid junkie kill himself, another rock star dead?"

When I got in the door and turned on my answering machine...yeah, answering machine! There were four messages all worried about me and his death.

We went out drinking that night, bar hopping and requesting Nirvana. Not one bar we went to had a Nirvana cd in their collection. At that point of the night we were like, oh shit, they will tomorrow and laughed.

I've never listened to Unplugged, nor do I like to see it on tv, I switch channels. It still bugs me. I figure he killed himself because he had sold out and done a lame Unplugged corporate whore game at proving rock bands could sing and were good musicians as a way to legitimize selling alternative music. He was forced into it by the trend at the time, and just couldn't handle being pushed around all the time.

Some say Cobain could never reconcile the idea that people like jocks and lawyers were buying his music. It was like that for fans too.

And hey, get that...Nirvana basically manifested the concept of "alternative" into every home.

I could never be a record or talent agent...I just would never be able to predict what the next "big thing" would be. I saw a little band in New York City once in 2000, and I really liked them. No big deal, they were good. Their name was The Strokes.

And as much as I liked Green Day when they came out...who could have guessed Green Day would make a brilliant transformation and a seminal record so many years later when "punk was dead".

23 September, 2006 19:29  
Blogger _z. said...

One of my favorite albums of all times... You are right. it did change music... at least it did for me.
good post mate.

24 September, 2006 06:05  
Blogger Suze said...

Asterisk, you just made me want to dig it out and play it again!

25 September, 2006 09:47  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Cappy: Thanks for the heads-up on Last Days. I've been meaning to watch it for a while, so I recorded it and will see it ASAP. I'm not sure I can be bothered with Clerks 2, even though I loved the first one and most everything Kevin Smith has done (not seen Jersey Girl, though). We'll see...

Shep: I'll be watching it soon...

Pie: There are some good bands out there, but I think you're right: we're in a bit of a lull at the moment, waiting for the next musical movement perhaps.

4D: That's a good list.

25 September, 2006 12:40  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Camie: Yeah, Nirvana definitely had the edge over NIN. I've never really listened to as much NIN as I should, but I do think Trent's pretty cool and writes some good shit. Nevermind was definitely an "event" record.

Lee: "Out of touch", huh? Is that some kind of euphemism?

Kate: I didn't mind a little bit of Pearl Jam, although I never felt they had much in common with Nirvana other than coming from roughly the same area. Musically very different, I think. Foo Fighters bore me! I like Dave Grohl; he seems cool and fun. But when I put on their music I just want to fall asleep. For me, the only thing interesting about them is their videos. You're definitely right about the comeback acts, though. Maybe the really good ones have too much dignity to do comebacks?

RD: It is just as significant as Bollocks, for sure. And, interestingly, just as overproduced! I love the Bollocks songs, but I do prefer the Spunk demo versions, by and large, for pure rawness. Spunk was the first bootleg tape I ever bought, in fact, back when I was at school.

25 September, 2006 12:46  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: Thanks for your cool comment. I hate that grunge tag too. In fact, I even hate the word punk for US music, because I feel it is so different to what we call punk here. Johnny Rotten has famously gone on record as saying Green Day are not at all punk, and I think that's probably right. Nirvana's spirit, though, was more in line with the Brit punk ethos than perhaps most US "punk" bands. I grew up listening to Brit punk, and frankly a lot of it's a load of old shit: Peter and the Test Tube Babies spring to mind. I haven't watched Unplugged in its entirety since 94 probably. Too difficult. I listen to it once in a blue moon, or catch a song on some music channel or another. I've mentioned to you before about a colleague of mine at the time, whose only thoughts at Kurt's death were getting a refund on the gig ticket she had for later in the year. These are the sort of pricks none of us wanted to share Nirvana with. And I say that as someone who came to the party with Nevermind, so I even consider myself a latecomer!

_z.: Yep. Great album. Life changing. Music-biz changing.

Suze: Go ahead and do it, girl. I listened to mine on Saturday.

25 September, 2006 12:56  

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