Every April it hits me… the rapes/murders/suicides that tainted the grunge scene in 1994, the passing of Layne Staley, and all the angst and tragedy and darkness associated with a genre of music that once meant so much to me and my life. Maybe it still does. And what WAS grunge anyway? That’s like trying to figure out what PUNK was. Think about it, there’s a huge difference between The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Fugasi. A fucking HUGE difference. Yet they were all considered “punk,” just as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and glam rockers cum metal rockers Alice In Chains were all considered “grunge”
There is one thing I can say about that period in music and that period in my life though.The music stood for something. Displacement in society, alientation, rage, whatever. Nirvana and others brought a type of music that was never accepted by the mainstream into the status quo. No mainstreamer had ever paid attention to that kind of music before,not really. It didn’t matter if you were Mudhoney or The Smiths or even even U2 at one point. You were “alternative.” You were something outside of the norm. And a lot of that music outside of the norm meant SOMETHING.
When I was in high school, bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana were huge, and it was cool to not be too “cool.” It was cool to wear the tackiest ugliest clothes you possibly could. But not too cool…”alternative” cool. And that’s where it all seemed to go downhill.
R.E.M. was the first alternative/college rock band to sign with a major label, keeping one hundred percent creative control. And bands like Sonic Youth and Nirvana noticed that, and they followed. So, some of the “heroes” of my generation essentially “sold out” by their own standards, only not really. Because even a song as sappy and slow as R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” meant something to an era… it spoke to alienated youth that just didn’t fit in with the mainstream ideal and saw through the bullshit and mass marketing they were subjected to. I’m not sure exactly what Kurt or anyone else was screaming about, but they were screaming about SOMETHING. And that meant something to a lot of people. That meant something to ME.
I grew up fascinated with Alternative music’s back catelogue, all the way back to it’s punk roots. The Cure and The Clash and The Smiths weren’t really from MY era, but I thought they were fucking cool. But I was glad my generation had it’s own heroes. I realted to them, I realted to something in the music. Which brings me to my two points.
Where are these “heroes” today. Who are they? Eminem? 50 Cent? Who is relating through music what it means to grow up, who is challenging the system and its corruption? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a function of age or a function of the timesor a function of somehting else that I can’t quite figure it out.
Why do I care so much? I don’t know that I do in the way it might seem. I just think music is such a big part of people’s lives, especially when one is young, and that music stays with you to some extent for the rest of your life. And I can’t help feeling this bitter sweet sensation every time Nirvana comes on the radio… the sound is copied by thousands of bands, but the passion is not possesed by a single one.
I think it’s time to at least look at WHY that passion really isn’t around anymore, and if you’re a reasonably intellegent person, especially if you’re a creative one, I think it’s time to try to ask ourselves what more we can do to ARTISTICALLY say SOMETHING about this frightening transitory period that the world is currently in right now.
I don’t think it’s good enough to think outside the box, I think the entire box needs to be replaced with something else. Or, at least, I hope something or someone as impassioned as Kurt comes along to shock and awe the hell out of it.
[To Be Contunued]