Admittedly, though I felt progressively embarrassed about it as I grew into my subsequent twentieth decade, I remember feeling affected by Kurt Cobain’s suicide, his way out the splattered manifestation of an obvious disdain for whatever he was and however people perceived him. Nirvana was and is still one of those monumental occurrences, sparking something visceral in my teenage brain, leading me to seek out new life and new civilizations. Once it was determined that Cobain was indeed the faceless burger meat at the other side of the shotgun barrel, Nirvana was no more and the 90s lost its footing.
It’s assumed why he died: his drug addiction, stomach ailments, increasing dislike of fame and his well-publicized depression… ad nauseum, etc. The only certainty around his death was what it signified: This was our generation’s Altamont, a violent event that knocked the wind out of any renaissance and basically marked the end of an era. Candles were lit; albums were played in mourning, the seeming triumph of a decade lasting only three years.
Cynicism set in and ultimately Cobain became a t-shirt, picturesque HOT TOPIC folklore pretending to mean something deeper. It would have been deeper had Cobain not rearranged his face. It’s hard to romanticize the life and death of an artist when the way out was so thoroughly laced with “fuck you; clean this up,” his daughter’s abandonment also lessening any sympathetic or heroic pose.
Fifteen years later, Nirvana’s relevance and actual worth scrutinized in hindsight as the posthumous fruit was bore and picked dry, his genius has become disputable. Was he just of a time and that’s that? Would he even rate these days? Unanswered questions that will remain unanswered, Cobain’s potential never having reached past his twenties, “You Know You’re Right” his LAST testimonial to reach the public’s ears two years after the millennium began, the song used as an enticement to buy a greatest hits record.
It’s difficult not to be cynical about Cobain’s legacy, his art a casualty of either overblown exaggerated sainthood or undervalued by a league of people that were ready to move on after Nevermind made its indelible impression. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has transitioned into “Stairway to Heaven”’s kingdom, exhausted and played out, meaningless now. Unexciting to the now grown and jaded workforce that were once teenagers starving for an inspired fix.
Personally, I don’t really believe Cobain thought any of this would happen, his way out intended to prevent any further escalation of his celebrity. But, at the hands of an industry ready to squeeze the corpse of its remaining blood, Cobain’s physical being denied protest, it was inevitable.
This past March, ex-bassist, Krist Novoselic, possibly sensing there would be an upcoming public bout with nostalgia, claimed that there would be no new Nirvana albums. The well runneth dry, and that’s probably okay. As the struggling artist that died to maintain his street cred, Cobain wound up commercialized at the hands of his own anti-commercial persona. And though three actual albums were all that came of it, Nirvana, despite what some may think, will always be a band that meant something. It’s just unfortunate that their time was so short.
Not long after Cobain’s death, Woodstock became a shill for Pepsi and people pretended to be happy spending too much money to dance in the mud. Maybe it’s good he didn't live to see that happen.
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