Monday, January 31, 2011

January ~ My Month With Nirvana

Wow, that went really, really fast but at the same time I feel like I've learned so much and have been listening to these guys all my life. Now when I started this endeavour it was with a few questions such as could Kurt Cobain be compared to John Lennon in his influence as the voice of a generation and also was his death as tragic a loss for popular culture as the death of Elvis. I had no idea of Nirvana and was kind of confused to their status as rebel leaders. Now that I am more educated I do get it. While I really liked the music which fit perfectly with my punk rock tastes the true measure of Nirvana came to me after listening to interviews with these guys. I was really able to get a feel for Kurt's charisma and the overall appeal of the band as just regular guys. They had opinions on things that echoed my own thoughts, they were emotional approachable, they wore torn jeans like me, were pissed off by politics like me and despite being rock stars and eligible for epic levels of dysfunction they were fucked up just like me too!!! In strong opposition to the lofty demi god Rock Stars that burn and gyrate above the masses as leather clad icons Nirvana was down in the metaphorical mosh pit with the rest of us. That alone set them apart from thier peers and gave them street cred to go along with their commercial success. Do I think Kurt is comparable with John Lennon? No, not really. John Lennon was a political activist/poet who spoke eloquently for peace and social change. His fans followed him as a guide on a political/spiritual path they were learning from him so they could all change the world together. Kurt didn't want acolytes and he hated the world and him self too much to really believe he could change anything. No Kurt wasn't like John Lennon but his social impact may have been just as great. While he didn't offer a path to enlightenment he did offer something even more precious; the simple that that every last one of us is fucked up in some way but that doesn't mean that we're worthless, useless or will go through life not being heard.
 As to his death being compared to Elvis..well, if I recall correctly the King died on the can with a bellyfull of qualudes and bacon and banana sandwiches, a fat mockery of the man he once was and reduced to being a Vegas lounge act. Always seemed to me that he had already left the building and his body was just waiting to retire the way his musical innovation had years before. Nirvana on the other hand was just beginning to find their voice and with Kurt's death they were silenced forever. Who knows what we're missing out on because of that shot gun blast but I can't help we didn't hear enough.
Now, before I wrap it up let me just add a rough things.
 I won't go into detail but being a neutral party with no emotional investment either way after reviewing the facts surrounding Kurt's death I'm convinced that bitch killed him so she could keep his millions and keep pretending to be the rock star her husband was and she'll never be.
 Greg's Top Ten Nirvana Songs
1. Come As You Are ~ Nevermind
2. Molly's Lips ~ Incesticide
3. Sliver ~ Incesticide
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit ~ Nevermind
5. Heart Shaped Box ~ In Utero
6. All Apologies ~ In Utero
7. Been a Son ~ Incesticide
8.Lithium ~ Nevermind
9. Negative Creep ~ Bleach
10. In Bloom ~ Nevermind

Greg's Favorite Nirvana Album
Incesticide or Nevermind..too close to call.

And with that said..January is over and so is my time with Nirvana.

 Next; Polka!!!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Secret Ingredient

So how exactly do three regular guys from way the hell out in the Sasquatch country of Washington State end up being the voice of a generation? There has been alot of speculation on that with theories ranging the gamut from something as simple as good timing to the outside dark horse that maybe Kurt found a magic water bong and conjured up a platinum record genie. Both are possible but neither are see after a month of non-stop Nirvana I got it and believe me the secret ain't 11 herbs and spices. Nope, Nirvana changed the face of punk music, motivated a generation to be more insolent and insular then ever, sold millions and millions of album's all because of..are you ready?....inconsistent and vaguee lyrics. I'll wait a second while you do your double take, think about it and eventually start swearing at me. I'm serious though but first lets establish the fact that Nirvana actually does indeed have inconsistent and vague lyrics. While not readily apparent to the casual fan anybody who has spent any time listening to all the variant tracks and/or seen a few live performances know that the lyrics change ALL the time. Sometimes it's just a word or a phrase here and there or the rearranging of the different verses but on a few notable occasions Kurt was known to change the whole chorus. A musician friend of mine loves this because he thinks it makes each performance special and unique but I can imagine that some folks from the more anal retentive zodiac signs (I'm talking to you Virgo!!) are infuriated by this lack of structure and dependability. Ok, so seasonal fluctuations aside even if sung exactly as is reads on the album cover the lyrics are still sparse and sometimes even incomprehensible. This comes from the fact that the band, Kurt mostly, had little regards for the lyrics often writing them hours before recording and at least for Nevermind they would sit down with books of Kurt's poetry and just patch together a string of lines that sounded good together. Come As You Are is my favorite Nirvana song and clocks at three minutes and forty five seconds. For the last one minute and forty five seconds, yup half the song, the only lyrics are repetitions and rearrangements of "And I swear that I don't have a gun", "No, I don't have a gun", and the word "Memory".  How the hell does that work? Hmm, I'm glad you asked. It works because Nirvana's audience was an introspective, angry generation that felt misunderstood and bereft of an ideology of their own. Along comes Nirvana and through what was erroneously perceived as deep and insightful lyrics echo back to these kids what each and everyone of them is feeling. All of a sudden emotional and ephemeral poetry becomes genius because it offers an interpretation to all of it's hungry listeners that reflect what each of them needs to hear in their wounded Generation X hearts. More structured songs with linear lyrics that had literal meanings would mean what the band meant them to mean...Nirvana's songs meant whatever you needed them to mean. Kurt Cobain became the voice of a generation by feeding us our dreams and hurts and inspirations hidden like Easter eggs amongst songs that were never meant to be words of wisdom but turned out to be anyway.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

B Side Surprise ~ The Fourth Voice

So my lovely wife has mentioned that she would love for me to be more editorial when blogging about my yearly project. That is certainly a great point and I promise more of that as we go forward. I took the track I did because the journey of Nirvana is one of growth and metamorphosis quickly over a short period of time and that can best be seen by how their music changed from the beginning to end of their short career. Because their discography only has three entries it seemed apropos to go from begining, middle to end examining what we found as we did. As we touch other genres that are more open another artists who are more prolific I imagine we'll be all over the place and I'll take a more open handed and expressive path. Hell, my next two posts this month where I plan on revealing what I believe to be the secret of Nirvana's success and then the wrap up of my time with them in my final post should be exactly what Mandy is looking for.
 Until then we have one more stop on our tour of Nirvana's releases. We've already reviewed the three discs they have on their discography but these guys are more talnented then they realized and thanks to unbridled corporate greed we inadvertently have another winner on our hands. Dispersed amongst the path of any bands major releases there are always going to be a wide variety compilation sets, live albums, singles, covers, etc. Nirvana has a whole host of these, including a fantastic MTV Unplugged recording I porbbaly won't have the time to discuss too much but you should see the video if you can. Amongst the bric a brack was Incestidicide which as it turns out is my favorite of all of their releases.
  After Nevermind hit the charts like a tidal wave and even the admittedly crappy Bleach started selling like hot cakes the record company's greed glands started to itch and they decided to milk the cash cow. So between Nevermind and In Utero they released an album with a bunch of songs that were B sides to their previous singles, stuff that didn't make the cut onto the other releases and a few early songs they used as filler for live performances before they had recorded anything at all. The record company threw these together, remixxed a few and rushed it out onto the shelves. Damn I'm glad they did. About half of the CD is full of rejects from Bleach and more of the same thrash mash we've heard before. The first half however is a complete revelation and gave us a voice of the band we've never heard before. The assumption was, mine at least, that with the growth from Bleach to Nevermind they went from punk metal to grunge pop. Surprise, surprise but these sneaky bastards were playing pop all along and just never recorded it. I figure it didn't fit the industrial feel they were going for with Bleach and Nevermind had the a more mature poppy sound and didn't need these tunes so they were almost lost. "Molly's Lips", "Dive", "Sliver"..these along with a few others are amazing songs. Fast, catchy and with an until now unheard vibrancy they sound and feel very much like the Ramones. Also, they have one more magical ingredient. None of these songs were ever supposed to be released. They weren't written with any audience in mind or with any pressure from the studio. These were just old school jams caught on tape and maybe because of that for the first time the band honestly and truly sounds like they are having fun. That permeates these songs and that kind of joy is really infectious. I assume Kurt hated this release too (The dude seriously needed a hug!!) but I loved it and am glad from the jaws of corporate greed we were able to see this side of Nirvana.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In Utero ~ The Last Supper

In Utero was Nirvana's last release and the first they made after becoming super stars. I have to imagine there was alot of pressure on the band to reproduce Nevermind but, much to the satisfaction of it's fan base, the band had other ideas. Instead of just rehashing what worked the last time they took the best of Nevermind melded it with thier punk roots. The catchy lyrics, sophisticated melodies and haunting voice of Kurt were still there but they were melded with the heavy industrial instrumental back-up last seen in Bleach. You might think the two different sounds would clash but thanks to the finesse of Kurt Cobain they actually complimented each other and brought the whole sound to a new, higher, level of maturity that was by all rights a sound of it's own and a third voice for the band.. On a note that's amusing but also sad this was the bands first release that Cobain didn't blatantly hate. In interviews he even said that for the first time he thought that Nirvana was begining to finaly find a sound that was really thiers and not dictated by fan expectation or record company pressure. It makes me wonder just what they would have come up with had Kurt set down that shot-gun and they had a chance to keep cutting albumns. The sheer diversity these three guys were capabale of is really astounding and it makes me think that the world missed out on some amazing music.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nevermind ~ And the Crowd Goes Wild!!!

Damn, I liked Bleach but it didn't prepare me for Nevermind. I was expecting the next level of hard core punk and instead I got sophisticated, multi layered melodies, catchy if ambiguous lyrics and an over all poppy sound that was no where in evidence on thier first release. Kurt's soulful signature sound assured me I was still listening to the same band but it was one much more polished and ready for mass consumption. In fact I was surprised by how many of the songs I actually recognized. I know, I the end Kurt hated this albumn too because he thought it was too comercial but for millions of people it was the gateway into a whole new world of music. Until then punk was a niche genre. Even the Ramones who showed just how poppy punk could be never reached the mainstream audience that Nirvana was able it. Of course it's all the fault of that little ditty called Smells Like Teen Spirit. Funny thing is that the band had no idea that would be thier break out hit. They were putting thier money on In Bloom which is still a pretty damn good song but nothing compared to Teen Spirit. They played it a few times in concernt, released a single to a few radio stations and by the time Nevermind hit the shelves millions of people were already fans. I'm not really sure why it became the anthem of a generation. Maybe because the title sounds like it should be? Really, the true strength is just how catchy and singable the damn song is. Like most of Nevermind I find myself singing it in my sleep. It's alot of fun, really beautifal in spots and as I suspected a siogn of things to come.
Oh, if any hard core fans want to be a part of a little experiemnt drop me a line. I need some help for a future post that should only take a few minutes of your time and will be pretty rewarding once it comes to fruition.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bleach ~ The Best Time You'll Ever Have While Your Ears Are Bleeding!

   Bleach is Nirvana's first release and kind of flew under the radar until they made it big with Nevermind. There's a reason for that. Bleach is kind of..hmm..lets say rough. It isn't bad by any means but imagine getting walloped in the kisser with a sock full of nickles while someone is telling you that you just won 84 million dollars in the lottery. You're excited, this could change everything but at the same time a few teeth are loose and you might have a concussion. Listening to Bleach gives me the same feeling. The end result is gratifying but in a very rough and tumble, unpolished way. I suspect this was done on purpose to fit into the then blooming punk scene coming out of Seattle but while the recording studio may have been trying to get Kurt and the boys to fit in they ended up unintentionally giving birth to a whole new genre. Jesus had a manger in Bethlehem and Grunge was spawned in a dirty, smoke filled garage in Aberdeen, Washington. I remember growing up as a punk fan and watching bands like this play in garages and basements and to hear that again is kind of exciting and nostalgic. Not what I'd expect from the second coming of Elvis but cool all the same. The lyrics are a little light, when they are comprehensible at all and the chugga,chugga,chugga, chugga of the hard core guitar kind of steals the show from the vocals. For me when this album really shined brightest was when I had it on in the background as I came home from a bad day at work. I'm thinking of everything but Nirvana yet as I made my way home I found my head nodding with the bass and little by little my frustration and irritation seeping away. Nirvana has been noted for making angry music but maybe it's really soothing music for angry people, who knows.
As an amusing note Kurt Cobain hated this album because he thought it was too much like other stuff that was already out there.
Next up; Nevermind and the road to Oz.
Reader poll; Kurt Cobain was considered the voice of his generation...what artist or band would you consider the voice of your teenage years and why??

Oh, as a note to my readers...even if you don't have an account please free to respond using Anonymous, just make sure to end your post with who you are so I know who's talking to me!