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 right...you 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.