I wrote this for a young friend of mine who recently discovered Nirvana and is ashamed to be associated with the generation that brought us Sum 41 and Avril Lavigne. I dediacte this to you, you know who you are. So here:
Well, here’s the way it is. There’s never going to be another Kurt Cobain that comes along and changes the face of rock music for this generation because – he’s not the only thing that is dead. On the heels of grunge, the music labels took the last thing left and made it corporate which is really the very thing that made the mainstream success of Nirvana possible anyway. It was no accident, and Kurt knew that just as much as anyone else. Now, people try to do new innovative things but “alternative” music has become anything but alternative and the sub-genres are so far and widespread that it has all become so absurd and ridiculous that we can’t turn back.
After grunge we had a short ride with Brit Pop, where the media put over bands like Oasis and Blur and fueled that rivalry to the bitter end in an attempt to make alternative music fun again. But even Brit Pop wasn’t too impressive in terms of standing for somehting anti-establishment, and it certainly wasn’t anti-mainstream. So what happnened after Brit Pop? Nothing. Maybe a short lived Girl Power phase that involved everything from the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child to Elastica and Hole to Sarah Mclaughlin and Sinead O’Connor and Ani DiFranco. But really, nothing. None of that was about to “save” music.
Some people got smart and started to check out turntables and some kids (and even adults) started figuring out what was happening in Europe and started wearing colourful clothes and called themselves candy ravers and DJ culture became huge. Even U2 tried it, but ultimately the people with rock and roll in their souls couldn’t accept that hip hop and rave music was more alternative than alternative. Because they still wanted guitars and they wanted to rock out, and that was fair enough. That *IS* fair enough, but what is we think is going to happen? In the 80s, New Wave was possible because casio keyboards were invented and that made new sounds possible. So, what did we get in the late 90s? We got two really weird Radiohead albums that tried *TOO* hard to be alternative. We get art for the sake or art and crap for the sake of crap.
We get nu metal for the younger generation that wants to hear hard stuff. We get emo for the younger generation that wants to hear soft stuff. We get nu punk just for the sake of making bands like Sum 41 and Avril Lavigne look like poser idiots. We get older bands from the late 70s and 80s like U2 and R.E.M. struggling to stay relevant and ultimately they fail but still make better music than a lot of what is out there. All I am saying is do not hold your breath. Over the last few years in Europe, more turntables were purchased than guitars.
What would the Kurt Cobain of this generation stand FOR anyway? Would we even to listen to the Kurt Cobain of this generation because I think the whole probelm is that there is no one punk-ish position that anyone can represent anyway! Kurt, for one, hated selling-out, or claimed to. he hated how money ran the world, or claimed to. He made fun of Nirvana’s very own fans at one point, because that was the point, sort of. You know? It all sort of contradicted itself, but there was still some important honestly involved in the music. It was soul bearing, and people could relate to it. It was the beginning of the end really, because everybody started to “get” alternative music. Sort of. Does that make sense?
What do we expect of our artists? I think too much. I think the music industry is too oversaturated with stuff for any one thing to stand out. That’s just one of the issues. Another issue is that the labels son’t invest in their talent over the long-term, they don’t allow a band to slowly grow up like U2 and REM and The Cure got to do. They want bands that have the right sound right NOW and later doesn’t matter. It’s about cash.
The closest thing I can think of to any sort of alt-rock hero right now would probably be Beck. He’s never afraid to re-invent his sound and puts out many good records. But he’s not David Bowie, let alone Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley or Joey Ramone or Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten or Morrissey or Bob Dylan or Bono or anyone who made a big musical/political difference.
And… if someone *DID* want to be the next Kurt they would have to do it….. wait for it….. on the INTERNET…. for FREE….. to bi-pass the labels and the radio and simply ust expose themselves in the NOW because things move so FAST now. They would have to tour and tour and tour and tour and sell their tickets really really cheap. They would have to fight and fight and fight and never get anything out of it except the joy of making something HAPPEN and making people CONNECT to an idea again. But people need to eat, so it isn’t going to happen.
The best thing we have now is each other. The best thing we have now is the ability to blog. The best thing we have now is the power of the WORD. So sing with your keyboards, and sing loud.
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