Generational Slight

The book I’m reading mentions that Nirvana was the voice of the generation that was young in the 1990s, that it expressed our way of being like nothing else.

So I Googled it and listened to a few songs. Now I’m offended on behalf of my generation. The music is soporific. The singer is ugly and scuzzy even for a rock star.

The author of the book and I had very different nineties.

10 thoughts on “Generational Slight”

  1. Not to mention the arrogance and cultural presumption that every member of that generation should/would have been listening to the same music as that generation’s mostly spoilt, privileged and self-entitled American brats.

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  2. On Nirvana…
    I remember going to Poland in the spring of 1991 and returning to the US in late September…. and finding a completely different…. student/youth culture and “Smells like teen spirit” was a major, major, major part of it…. I was familiar with grunge as an underground thing in the Pacific Northwest (esp Seattle) beginning around 1988 or so but then to find it everywhere on MTV was…. weird.

    For those 15-25 in the early 1990s Nivana was absolutely it in terms of ‘voice of a generation’ (meager output only strengthens that like James Dean in the 1950s)

    Had no effect whatsoever on Central-Eastern European youth of course which had a completely different set of cultural touchstones at the time…

    I have no idea about Ukraine, but Western groups in Poland that had that ‘voice of a generation’ feel in the early 1990s for university students included Pink Floyd (?!) Marillion (!??!?) and maybe Depeche Mode (!?!?) Polish tastes in western music have always perplexed me….

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  3. When you change so much you completely forget you had a different reaction several years ago:

    Today I discovered a really phenomenal music group called Nirvana. Wow, people, that’s really good music.

    Of course, 30 minutes later I discovered that the lead singer died a bizillion years ago. And got very sad. I had already started planning to go to a concert.

    Please, don’t laugh. I have a weird relationship with music.

    Grunge or “complaint rock” wasn’t known for great fashion, bathing or musical complexity.

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      1. “videos I saw yesterday were horrid”

        I was never a Nirvana stan, here are the top 5 videos and the order to watch them in and a few words about each one…
        In general Nirvana was mostly about Cobain as a late 20th century young Werther – too frail for the crass commercial world he inhabited, but rather than pine for Charlotte he ended up marrying Lady Emma Bovary Macbeth (a tragic ending but not the one expected).

        Come as you are – Nirvana didn’t last long and that’s part of their appeal, they didn’t have the kind of ups and downs inherent to a longer career. This was from their breakthrough album and sounds like an album track promoted to single because the group was through the roof. Very good not great but almost the single best sampler of what they were about. Cobain’s whiny growl and the dentist drill guitars that no other group could quite copy with imagery meant to paint normie life as grotesque.

        About a girl – from a pre-fame album it didn’t get a video but there’s an unplugged performance. It’s agonized melodic twist and pained romantic defeatism owes a lot of mid-80s demi-punk groups like the Replacements)

        In bloom – Not much melody and that’s the point. This is their foray into the ‘shoegazer’ sound. The wall of almost melodic noise meant to wash the listener into an emotionally refractive sea (the video is a comment on their popularity at the time – a parody of the Ed Sullvian Beatles appearances in the mid 1960s)

        Heart shaped box – My personal favorite video of theirs – the death of religion with the jesus santa claus on life support and a crucifix in a field of poppies (heroin was a big deal in their musical world). And the desperate search for meaning and emotional fulfillment in the lyrics alternating between the lonely verses and screaming chorus. The red starlight room at the ending was another thing that everybody wanted…. as soon as the video let them know that.

        Smells like teen spirit – This was like striking the mother lode in popular music at the time, giving people just what they wanted a moment before they realized it was what they wanted. The opening, immediately iconic guitar riff and the vocals that seemed like a personification of teenage angst, alienation and horniness rolled up into one. The pep-rally video was perfectly pitched to appeal to those who’d been miserable in high school and those who weren’t but wanted to suffer in retrospect because that was the style at the time.

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  4. I was in my mid-20s in southern California when the 1990s began. Nirvana was decidedly not “my music”; techno was.

    A bit after the 1990s began, I found myself discussing the whole “what defines our generation?” issue on Usenet with a number of contemporaries. I think our consensus was that Nirvana was not really the defining music for anybody, but that it did define a significant part of the background of our lives, because so many other people seemed to consider it canonical. But I think it was ‘canonical’ only in the U.S. That was the same period that Douglas Coupland published Generation X and Richard Linklater produced the movie Slacker.

    All of that, now, is like sunken Atlantis.

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