SONG TITLE: AUF WIEDERSEHEN
PERFORMER: CHEAP TRICK
SONGWRITER: RICK NIELSEN / TOM PETERSSON
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1978
SONG TITLE: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
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.