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endless, nameless
nirvana's eternal fandom
by jon kristian rossum

Last night I listened to some illegally downloaded Nirvana songs. A few things struck me as unique, mostly because there are qualities to the music of that band that are missing from current music that some people qualify as 'indie rock.' Indie rock has now become its own specific genre, and while I listen to a radio station that plays this form of rock music ( the current 89.3 - much love ) I find Nirvana to be a cut above much of the tagged music heard on college radio. Nirvana is consistently referenced as a significant source of all of that. An argument could be made for a return to that form, not for nostalgia, but because perhaps a more obvious link to uplifting heavy music rather than bringing it down.
Nirvana had noise on their side. Loud feedback provided a layer of noise, and the song structure would flow in and out of the noise, weaving together a rolling thundering cacophony that was the purest sound of rebellion. Rock n roll is rebellion and in much of Nirvana's music the rebellion is in the non -structure of the song, and rebellion is what much of the current glut of music on indie rawk stations seriously lack. Many bands can put up new wave beats and it sounds fresh to listeners. I don't have a problem with that but it doesn't rock quite as much as a band like Nirvana did. Without getting into information that is widely know about this artist, I do think that Kurt Cobain took what he could from the Beatles, and indie bands-of-the-day: Sonic Youth, Dino Jr. were doing their thing, other Seattle bands, ad nauseum...he absorbed qualities of that music and simply made it his own. He expressed his pain, and it wasn't clever, it wasn't ironic, it wasn't a tossed off nostalgic trip - it was blues - straight up. Specifically, the Leadbelly song "where did you sleep last night," and "all apologies" were essentially blues songs. When I listen to the versions that are on the box set, it becomes even more apparent to me.
I didn't hear that when I was 16 and hell bent on destruction. When I heard Nirvana for the first time, I was with three of my best friends from adolescence. We were staying in a hotel room in Minneapolis, watching MtV, pounding stolen booze and waiting to go to a Metallica concert. On that night MtV would play Red Hot Chilli Peppers followed by Lenny Kravitz, followed by Ozzy, next Ac/Dc. Before 1991, Metallica had made one! Video. Exactly one.
Four boys became men that night. True warriors of metal. The combination of Metallica and Nirvana caused a Rockalypse. Metallica was our band night but less than six months later, Nirvana was our band.
Music from that time period still rocks me. I am still digging in used sections of Cheapo looking for that elusive Savatage or Leatherwolf wax palette - because I collect vinyl now. Point being - Nirvana didn't set out to destroy that 'type' of music - sure bands like Warrant and Ratt - who also have their place - were in trouble- but that is only because the music of Nirvana was so real, and the other shit was just built on pretension and posing.
Nirvana has a grip of songs that begin with dissonant, off-key, out - of -tune feedback. The songs often start there, and like i said before, they develop into tuneful songs - with harmonies that stick. No irony - no packaged rebellion. The rebellion was in the song.
When i hear indie rock, it just doesn't do the same for me. Its jangly and it is better than anything the top 40 has to offer but I’m not feeling it because it just doesn't rock. It just doesn't have that grrrghhaarrrargghhh! - That screech that Kurt had.
I miss Nirvana. I've seen Foo Fighters three times - and they rock in sort of a Motley Crue meets Cheap Trick type of way - great songwriting - great lyrics. I'm so glad Rock has Dave Grohl as its patron saint. On the other hand - Foo Fighters don't really have that much of a musical link to Nirvana. Nobody around nowadays does, nobody's trying. The experiments in sound are now with atmospherics and texture. Nirvana used feedback, reverb, and tones from the pits of hell.
I never felt that Nirvana could be "my band," in the same way that Metallica was or Testement or Slayer or Sepultura. They weren't extreme. Still, they were far from a passing taste in the way that even the best ‘eavies were. I wore through some bands, specifically bands that I got into when their best record was out. Eventually, I would get the band, and two years would pass and you would check ‘em out again; repeat, turn – over repeat.
Nirvana represents such a sliver of time, its easy for them to maintain their power in my mind, in my fandom. Even in their dissonance they were understated - the mumbled lyrics with one foot in the blues. I’m sure teenage music fans continue to discover Nirvana for the first time everyday. They instantly become loved and never fade away.


more about jon kristian rossum


ken mohnkern
11.14.07 @ 6:06p

I heard Dave Grohl interviewed on Fresh Air the other day. Before that I hadn't realized that the primary Fighter of Foo had been in Nirvana. It was a very good interview, and included a clip of Smells Like Teen Spirit and for the first time I payed close attention to the great drum part on that song.

Yeah, I'd stopped paying attention to noisy rock by Nirvana's time. I'm old, okay? The moment when I and my three friends "became men" we were sitting around the record player on the floor of a bedroom, hearing Runnin' with the Devil for the first time ever.

tracey kelley
11.17.07 @ 8:49a

Not that I like to make comparisons to bands simply for comparison, but Incubus is the closest to Nirvana for me. Edgy lyrics, experimental sounds, and a solid rock testimony.

But did they strike the same messenger chord as Nirvana? No. Few will. It was a simple case of being in the right place at the right time. Cobain's death sealed it.

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