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Friday, 2 September 2011

Grunge: too much flannel

I’ve said before I’m not entirely convinced by Simon Reynolds’ Retromania thesis - no novel music is being made because everyone’s too busy consuming the past stuff on YouTube etc - but I quite liked his recent Slate article on the icky celebrations around grunge. Twenty years since Nevermind, eh? Can you believe it? Momentous album, high point in music, downhill since then.

Nah. OK album, overrated music scene, masses of great music since then, some of it much better than Mr Cobain’s meisterwerk.

Anyway, two quick observations.

One, that Reynolds’ analysis of the heritage-isation of grunge and what that might represent for some people - high-water mark for “rock”, golden age of “authenticity” etc - seems fair (not sure about the internet theorising stuff though, but er, never mind … ).

Two, that actually I don’t recognise Reynolds’ claim that there was comparatively little coverage of Cobain’s death at the time. I thought there was a lot. John Peel going on about how upset he was about it (surprising to me, a regular listener, as I didn’t remember him even mentioning Cobain before), the radio, news programmes, people in bars etc. I was bemused. What was all the fuss about …?

Actually - shocking confession coming - I hardly knew anything about the band at the time. Not for the first time, I’d basically missed out on an outfit that had more or less leapt from a small-band scene to superstar status, condemned to go on endless world tours to horrible over-sized venues reeking of hot dogs and the putrid stench of hype. (Ahem). 

Oh dear, I don’t want to write off the music altogether. I quite like it actually. And plenty of contemporary grunge-inspired bands are really good. So there, tuck your tatty flannel shirt in and stop complaining.  

Meanwhile, at round the same time that Nirvana were releasing that “paradigm-changing” LP, I was I listening to a fair bit of another supposedly "hip" American underground-to-overground artist - Beck. And you know what - Beck was a lot better than Nirvana.

PS: I could be wrong, but isn't this tune itself a parody of the trademark Kurt style and the whole MTV-goes-grunge phenomenon ...?

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