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Cheap Trick “Auf Wiedershen” / Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

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SONG TITLE: AUF WIEDERSEHEN

PERFORMER: CHEAP TRICK

SONGWRITER: RICK NIELSEN / TOM PETERSSON

YEAR OF RELEASE: 1978

————————————

SONG TITLE: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

PERFORMER: NIRVANA

SONGWRITER: KURT COBAIN / NIRVANA

YEAR OF RELEASE: 1991

COMMENTS: Too bad about Kurt Cobain. He was a talented young songwriter. Nirvana was never much of a band per se (they were barely adequate) but there was an exceptional actual melodic talent – the rarest and most critical musical component. The verse gave a catchy and nicely developed tune, though that tune conveys a desperate desire to stave off anxiety and depression. The melodic hooks were all over the place, such as “hel-lo, hel-lo, he-el-lo.” The chord riff that opens and sustains the song gives the whole record a groove, catchy as hell. You could even actually dance to this.

Sometimes the quality of the songs was somewhat lost underneath the distortion and screaming of the whole “grunge” musical movement. Much of the time, grunge is just thick noise trying desperately to cover up the fact that hardly any of these groups ever wrote a real song. Cobain himself was clearly dissatisified with the official movement and looking for other strategies. “Teen Spirit” was their best single song, but other than its absence the acoustic MTV Unplugged recording probably shows Cobain’s work better than their regular albums.

The biggest problem Cobain had in his last days, near as I could tell, was bad philosophy. He had everything else – money, fame, fans, musical accomplishment, a wife and daughter. What do you want? I know he had a bad childhood, but take a fucking number, OK? I don’t want to belittle the very real emotional pain he must have felt, but he is a good example of the worthlessness of nihilistic thinking. Yes, there is wrongness in the world, but you can take the same events often many different ways. Taking everything the worst way possible all the time, and concentrating on that worst way is not cool and urbane, just stupid and self-defeating.

The lyrics of “Teen Spirit” are indicative of an unfocused but obviously very negative and despairing outlook on the world. They are not worked out to quite make a coherent statement, as if no such thing could be worthwhile, but there is viewpoint. According to this view, nothing means anything, particularly sex – one of the top most intriguingly meaningful of human acts. To Cobain, it’s something “stupid and contagious” to distract ourselves from the nothingness of existence. The “mosquito/libido” stuff sounds like he’s bitching about having a small penis. It’s not like I’m John Holmes, but I don’t see killing myself for it. Besides that, there’s just a little group running things always and forever. There is nothing to anything.

Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick are not particularly known for being sympathetic to victims of self-destruction. Nielsen is a homely Midwestern geek with no rich uncles in the business or anything being handed to him. As he expressed it in another song “It wasn’t easy; it was hard as hell. Didn’t get lucky in a wishing well.” It’s not difficult to read between the lines and see that he has little sympathy for those who won’t try to help themselves.He has written distinctly pitiless songs about high school dropouts, and about dumbass druggies.

And he wrote this song wishing a broad and cold farewell to all the legions of suicides. “There are many here among us who feel their lives are a joke, and for you we sing this final song. For you, there is no hope. NOOOO HOPE!” Most of the rest of the lyrics are as many ways and languages of wishing farewell as he could come up with – so long, farewell, au revoir, sayanara suicide.

The opening of the record is especially good. We start with one dramatic and foreboding chord fading up. Then there is a series of slowly rising and rapidly, anxiously strummed bass notes. They really set a nicely creepy tone.

This is probably the hardest song they ever made. It’s a little difficult to explain. I don’t particularly mean the loudest or the fastest – I would describe it as medium tempo. It’s more like this song is the most in your face, the harshest and hardest hitting. It is like being smacked in the face with a big ol’ heavy, unyielding piece of reality. They polish reality into hard shiny hooks you can see yourself in. They kick you in the head with a few syllables, pause to let you feel them, then kick you again. “For you…there is…no hope.” Then they repeat them. Robin Zander also deserves special mention for that nicely measured harshness he puts into the lead vocal.

This song along with related Trick numbers is maybe the best answer to all the stupid self-destructive behavior of the rock era. I don’t want to be mean and uncaring, but there is only so much sympathy and concern to spread around. I just figure I’ll save my social conscience for crack babies, starving third-world infants and such. Grown men who are still torn up about their parents’ divorces will just have to take responsibility for seeking therapy or whatever on their own.

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  • Hamburgerpimp

    Supposedly, in addition to mental problems, Cobain also suffered from an incurable, extremely painful stomach disorder. Just a guess, but I imagine life is not so pleasant under such circumstances.

  • Hambergerpimp

    p.s.,
    Judging by your daily rants, it kind of seems that YOU “take things the worst way possible” ‘nearly’ all the time.

    Lots of luck,
    HP

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    It must not have been a lot of fun being Kurt, unfortunately. I don’t mean to be judgmental about people’s private pain. If it seems like I am in this case, it’s not really Mr Cobain that annoys me, but some of the legions of people fetishising his bad mental states.

    I don’t know why you’d say I routinely take things in the worst way possible, though. I admit to not suffering fools gladly, but I am quite happy to praise people when they do good- and do so frequently here.

    I’m perfectly happy to liberally apply the rod of ridicule, but I’m a sweet guy who loves kittens and puppies. Especially with some good hot barbecue sauce.

  • Josh

    The stomach disorder that Cobain had is called Colitis, and it leaves you in constant pain almost 24 hours a day. I think that even the strongest-willed person would succumb to that, don’t you?

    I STILL hate Nirvana, but it’s not too hard to see why Cobain ended his life.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Again, I don’t mean to be down on Cobain himself. It’s not for me to decide how much someone could take before they decide to check themselves out.

    I object much more to the people who have gone on and on about it ever since his demise. He did some good work till he couldn’t take his pain anymore, then he checked out. I acknowledge his good work, but I tend to think that people who carry on about his suffering are just goddam ghoulish.

  • hamburgerpimp

    I’ll admit, it’s no fun to be around a “gloomy gus”, yet you could say the same about someone who constantly bitches & moans.

    love,
    the hamburgerpimp

  • hamburgerpimp

    …and is a narcissist.

  • Josh

    Hey hamburgerpimp, who was that little comment directed at?

  • hamburgerpimp

    not you

  • http://www.particleman.org/ Particleman

    I say this with all due respect, but is there a point to your article? Your tired analysis of Nirvana beats a horse that is dead and gone and overly beaten.

    “”Teen Spirit” was their best single song” only demonstrates your lack of familiarity with Nirvana. Teen Spirit was a joke song and your analysis of it is nothing short of funny. The members themselves acknowledge that it’s a Pixies rip-off.

    I suggest you read Michael Azerrad’s bio; it was written before Cobain’s death and therefore focuses on the band and the man as opposed to the suicide.

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com/ Bill Sherman

    And to move it away from Nirvana, I love the Cheap Trick song, which you can also hear as the flipside of a more sympathetic self-destructo cut, “Oh, Candy,” a track from the group’s debut elpee. . .

  • Josh

    Hate to admit it, but I used to like some Nirvana tunes. Does anyone remember “Lithium”?

  • Anthony G

    This guy is wack. Oh that comment was
    dirrected at Josh.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Particleman, perhaps Nirvana should have tried ripping the Pixies more often, cause this was their best song. I’ve heard nearly everything they did. They had a few outstanding songs, but nothing else that worked nearly as well. The pop radio marketplace was correct in this case to pick this as THE Nirvana song.

    That song was no joke. I don’t care what you come up with from an interview, nor do I care what some biographer says. As regards their recorded music, this recording was the one.

    In terms of their overall career musical achievements, they weren’t in a league with Cheap Trick, but they did quite well here.

  • Josh

    Thanks, Anthony, for once again insulting me for no reason. You’re such a great person.

  • rock sucks

    You guys rock sucks and josh is a rap
    fan just go to 50 cent vs ja rule #374
    and see for yourself. Dogg.

    Your welcome Josh.

  • Josh

    Yeah, I’m a rap fan alright, that’s why I’m on a Nirvana poll talking about rock music.

    Fucking idiot.

  • Josh

    I touch myself while I’m on a Nirvana poll talking about music. RAP SUCKS, just like I did while I was posting this.

  • Josh

    Yeah, just go ahead and keep making a moron out of yourself and keep impersonating me. I’m done with this nonsense. I’m actually mature, unlike you fake ass posters who don’t have the balls to leave your real name.
    Pussy.

  • Dwaine AKA Scooter AKA D.J.

    I thought you weren’t gonna get angry when people impersonate you. What’s up wit’ that?

  • Anthony g

    Josh are you an idiot you know who is
    posting this. But i aint mentioning no names.

    good job Dwaine, i think we finally ran josh away from all these sites.

  • Josh

    You didn’t run me away from any sites. And stop kissing Dwaine’s ass just because he’s a rap fan.

  • Dwaine AKA Scooter AKA D.J.

    Calm down people. I was just funnin’ wit’ ya Josh. I wanted to see you get pissed off, so I posted under your name for a few comments. If you look at the post closely, you’ll see which one is mine’s and which ones aren’t. Just chill.

  • Josh

    Dwaine, first you admit that you posted under my name, then you expect me to just sit back and not get mad? I don’t think so. But at least you had the balls to admit that you posted under my name, UNLIKE THAT PUNK ‘ANTHONY G’.

  • Anthony g

    Hey Dwaine Josh is gone he hasnt
    posted in two days.

  • dick

    hi peeps nirvana kicks ass.

  • dick

    hi peeps nirvana kicks ass.

  • http://456 lok

    kirk didnt commit suicide he was murdererd by his wife, she never liked the band and was one of the only ppl 2 benefit from his death. also the handwriting changes halfway down the suicide note so the 1st half could easilly have been another depressing song.

  • mememe

    ^^^^ yeah sure……….
    he killed himself
    im glad
    end of story

  • NJ2436

    Kurt Cobain got murdered

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Yeah, I’ma have to go ahead and suggest that some of y’all need to get a life instead of this “Kurt was murdered” speculation. Hmm, he publishes a song called “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.” Then he writes a suicide note, then he blows his brains out.

    Must be a conspiracy in there somewhere.