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17 Years Later Here We Are Entertain Us
September 24, 2008 3:42 AM   Subscribe

It was 17 years ago today, September 24, 1991, Nevermind hit the shelves and changed popular music forever. The story of Spencer Elden, whom you may know as the little baby floating toward a dollar bill on the cover was covered on NPR recently. Butch Vig produced Nevermind, Andy Wallace mixed it. You can watch Vig talk about recroding Nevermind, "Polly" "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and many of the other songs.
posted by Blake (212 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doublish
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:46 AM on September 24, 2008


I was going to accuse you of hyperbole, but I actually pulled over to listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit first time I heard it on the radio.

(I'm not convinced you're entirely alive if you don't instinctively turn the volume up to 11 when you hear the opening guitar on SLTS.)
posted by maxwelton at 3:53 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


According to Paul Simon, every generation throws a hero up the pop charts. How exactly has Nevermind changed popular music forever? I mean... look at the Top Ten charts today. Get off my lawn.
posted by punkfloyd at 3:56 AM on September 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


I am going to accuse you of hyperbole. It probably only changed popular music forever if you belong to that largely-US based demographic that likes to drip melted wax on its skin.
posted by rhymer at 3:59 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Forever is a long ass time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:11 AM on September 24, 2008


Vig's commentary is from the documentary Classic Albums: Nirvana - Nevermind (Google video)
posted by Poolio at 4:13 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


In Utero is better.
posted by chillmost at 4:18 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


First live performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (4/17/91)
posted by Poolio at 4:20 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bleach is better.
posted by Jimbob at 4:26 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, 17 years? Fuck. More years have passed in my life since Nevermind than before Nevermind. Weird.
posted by Jimbob at 4:27 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Your Nirvana Sucks.
posted by Poolio at 4:29 AM on September 24, 2008


Forever is a long ass time.

Indeed. It's like a few weeks in modern culture.
posted by three blind mice at 4:35 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think every Generation X'er has some of their memories tied to the music of Nirvana, whether they were fans or not. However, I find In Utero to be more evocative of my younger life experiences than Nevermind. That said, if I had to do it all over again, I think my wife and I would have chosen a different song for our first dance at our wedding-- "Rape Me" hasn't held up very well.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:40 AM on September 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


You can't change music forever. For better or worse, you can only become the most recognisable hero of a particular genre (which Nirvana arguably did). Many people have achieved this: Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig Beethoven, J.S. Bach (although it took a while), Claude Debussy, Hank Williams, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, Gram Parsons, Radiohead, etc (I could type these all day).

I love it when people get it together... but nothing stays 'changed forever'. There are only twelve notes, and people don't usually like it when you arrange them so they clash or when the rhythm goes outside of 4/4 (or 3/4) time.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:41 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


It did so change popular music forever! Because now there will have always been Nevermind!

Wait...
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:45 AM on September 24, 2008


It's sad in a way that Nirvana killed off hair metal, and now it's back as emo.
posted by plexi at 4:56 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mudhoney was better.
posted by bardic at 4:57 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


There are only twelve notes, and people don't usually like it when you arrange them so they clash or when the rhythm goes outside of 4/4 (or 3/4) time.

White Western European folks, think they've got it all figured out. *shakes head*
posted by Pollomacho at 4:58 AM on September 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


The so-called "Alternative" radio station in Austin, 101-X (gotta have that X) seems to think it was released last week. They play songs off of Nevermind 6-10 times a day, still. While I liked it at the time, and I recognize it as a game-changing album, and I'm GLAD it killed the furballs from Los Angeles, I still can't bear the sound of the thing anymore.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 AM on September 24, 2008


It's sad in a way that Nirvana killed off hair metal, and now it's back as emo.

Well, the hair metal guys got laid more and thus had less to emo about.
posted by jonmc at 5:04 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still cringe when I think about the rest of the 90's--Nevermind changed nothing about music except to expand upon Nirvana's own growth as a punk-rock-pop band (and amazingly so), but it also opened the doors for a thousand much shittier bands to follow, and for that, Nevermind was one of the best and worst things to happen to music in the 1990's. (I taped Nevermind off a friend who got it the moment it was on the shelves--we were both heavy Bleach listeners. I was psyched that Nirvana had made such a great album! I didn't have a TV, so when I heard that Nirvana had a video in heavy rotation on MTV, I thought, "Oh fuck, it's all over now.")
posted by not_on_display at 5:08 AM on September 24, 2008


Mudhoney was better.

and Mark Arm keeps good company...
posted by jonmc at 5:08 AM on September 24, 2008


Western European folks, think they've got it all figured out. *shakes head*

Schoenberg went well beyond these parameters, and I guarantee that 99% of the people who read this site couldn't make it through 30 seconds of his stuff. Fuck, TEN seconds of his stuff. Even Berg and Webern (his students) are hard going for most folks who aren't down with serialism.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:14 AM on September 24, 2008


I've always loved the original, less seen video clip.

That really shows off a song that changed popular music.
posted by sien at 5:17 AM on September 24, 2008


Knock yourselves out: Schoenberg's Phantasy, Op. 47
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:18 AM on September 24, 2008


@flapjax:

NAILED IT!

... it's a VERY long time.
posted by aldus_manutius at 5:22 AM on September 24, 2008


Two words:
Over produced.
posted by brevator at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2008


Oh, grunge. It took everything that was cliche and lame about punk rock and left out everything that was cool about it, and that's a formula that record companies have been rushing to sign ever since the Clash came on the scene.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:26 AM on September 24, 2008


Forever? Nah, But it gave us the 3 best years of American Rock and Roll this country has ever and probably will ever see. I knew it was bound to fail when K-Rock a very popular NYC rock station turned it's format to grunge - for like 3 weeks - until they figured out none of us had any money and went back to boomer-rock.
posted by any major dude at 6:11 AM on September 24, 2008


Yeah, I remember being utterly smoked by SMTS the first time I heard it. I don't think I pulled over, but I wasn't driving either, so maybe that explains it.

Fucking great band.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:16 AM on September 24, 2008


Oh, grunge. It took everything that was cliche and lame about punk rock and left out everything that was cool about it, and that's a formula that record companies have been rushing to sign ever since the Clash came on the scene.

Uh...so what was the cool part? I'm serious. Because while I think it's completely fair to say that, say, emo is nothing but goth with all the cool parts left out, I'm not seeing your observation at all. I mean, what was missing, the musicians who didn't actually know how to play their instruments? Yeah, that's a loss.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:21 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nice to see a number of people saying the same thing I have many times - that In Utero was better (as was Bleach), because Vig just over produced Nevermind. Good songs, but I can barely listen to them now, they just sound... Slightly off.

Hasn't been a single record Vig hasn't overproduced mind...
posted by opsin at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2008


So 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' is basically a cover of 'More Than A Feeling', right?... I still love it though.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forever is a long ass time.

Indeed. It's like a few weeks in modern culture.


And a matter of minutes on the internet.
posted by Sailormom at 6:34 AM on September 24, 2008


I actually pulled over to listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit first time I heard it on the radio.

Heh. I, too, remember where I was the first time I heard that song. It's the only song I can say that about.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:36 AM on September 24, 2008



Hasn't been a single record Vig hasn't overproduced mind...

Huh? You know he produced Gish right? Which arguably could be the greatest rock and roll album of all time.
posted by any major dude at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh? You know he produced Gish right? Which arguably could be the greatest rock and roll album of all time.

I...I think my head just exploded.

[closing browser now]
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Schoenberg went well beyond these parameters

So did vast hordes of humans outside of the last, brief, millenia or so of Western musical history, and some of their stuff is not only quite lovely, but danceable.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:51 AM on September 24, 2008


chuckdarwin: Hey, thanks. I like it a lot, actually - but, well, more as fine art than as easy listening.
posted by bettafish at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2008


Huh? You know he produced Gish right?

Indeed, I am quite aware. And still stick to my point.
It's certainly the Pumpkins best album (though possibly Siamese Dream), but still overproduced (how many overdubs do you fucking want Billy!?).

And that's not even considering Garbage (and the subsequent Garbage releases that got even more 'polished')!


Also of note, given the mention of Spencer Elden, was that years later he appeared on another album cover. Great album too (though probably weirds most people out).
posted by opsin at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2008


relevant self-link (I believe this is OK based on the FAQ):

the all-time grunge top 40, with a big thanks to AskMe

(Note: I was generally sticking to an arbitrary 1-song-per-band, though I made a few exceptions, e.g. 3 for Nirvana -- this still causes them to be underrepresented. Also note: the list is subjective, based on my personal taste, you're sure to disagree, etc.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:57 AM on September 24, 2008


Huh? You know he produced Gish right? Which arguably could be the greatest rock and roll album of all time.

This is arguably the awesomest claim of all time. It's really the perfect album to make this claim about. Gish is so far from having any plausible claim to best rock album ever I'm almost positive that any major dude is the only person on earth who would make this claim. At the same time, it's not deliberately making some kind of point like if one was to claim that "Philosophy of the World" by The Shaggs was the best rock album ever.

Chuck Klosterman did a column listing the top ten most accurately rated albums of all time (i.e., not overrated or underrated) where he claimed about Van Halen:

They also recorded the most average song in rock history: “And the Cradle Will Rock.” What this means is that any song better than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is good, and any song worse than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is bad. If we were to rank every rock song (in sequential order) from best to worst, “And the Cradle Will Rock” would be right in the fucking middle.

Basically, any major dude's claim is equivalent to saying that "And the Cradle Will Rock" is the best song of all time.
posted by snofoam at 6:57 AM on September 24, 2008 [14 favorites]


Nirvana was a great cover band.

Nevermind isn't overproduced. Totally the opposite. (The same is true of Gish, come to think of it.) It's too clean, too dry, too dead, too minimal. It's underproduced.

Turning up the compressor is not the same as producing a record, Butch.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:00 AM on September 24, 2008


Nevermind hit the shelves and changed popular music forever for at least a few years.

FTFY
posted by wfrgms at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2008


They also recorded the most average song in rock history: “And the Cradle Will Rock.” What this means is that any song better than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is good, and any song worse than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is bad. If we were to rank every rock song (in sequential order) from best to worst, “And the Cradle Will Rock” would be right in the fucking middle.

In college, the guy next door to me used to have his friend over almost every night. They'd get drunk and play "And The Cradle Will Rock," and the Police's "Born In The '50's" over and over again. He'd also walk around the hallway to our shared bathroom buck naked a lot. I do not know whether these things are connected.
posted by jonmc at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2008


jonmc, somehow I knew I was going to see Dick...
posted by Mister_A at 7:05 AM on September 24, 2008


Hey, Lisa Kekaula from my beloved Bellrays is there, too. add Mr. Arm and that's a pretty formidable trio, dude.
posted by jonmc at 7:07 AM on September 24, 2008


I am of the opinion that Bleach and Incesticide were both better albums. In Utero is about the same for me personally. Also a bit overproduced and having approximately the same amount of favorites.

Bleach and Incesticide though are something special.

I understand there's a lot of Nirvana hate out there, and likely with good reason. Anything that gets as popular as fast as they did gathers some haters.

It was grade 4 when my older brother handed me his Nevermind tape, because he bought it for the single and wasn't into the rest of the album. He had been my primary musical influence and I had dubbed copies of GnR albums and other assorted 80s leftovers.

Nirvana blew the hair metal out of my butt and seriously changed the way I listened to music, at least.
posted by utsutsu at 7:09 AM on September 24, 2008


I teach a music theory for non-majors class. When I asked the kids to tell me their absolute favorite desert-island music, 3 or 4 of the 23 students said Nevermind.

I think I'm going to take it in today and have them sing the Come As You Are guitar/bass line in solfege. Then compare it to Jean-Philippe Rameau. Oh, the good times.
posted by nosila at 7:11 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


So did vast hordes of humans outside of the last, brief, millenia or so of Western musical history, and some of their stuff is not only quite lovely, but danceable.

Yeah, but most of that was done with five notes instead of twelve.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:14 AM on September 24, 2008


Pixies did it!
posted by infinitewindow at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2008


And the Melvins, and the Wipers...
posted by Sys Rq at 7:21 AM on September 24, 2008


music posts always go down hill so quick
posted by nitsuj at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was going to accuse you of hyperbole, but I actually pulled over to listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit first time I heard it on the radio.
posted by maxwelton at 11:53 AM on September 24


In Utero is better.
posted by chillmost at 12:18 PM on September 24


I don't remember when I first heard Nevermind, and I actually never bought the album - everyone else seemed to have a copy. But I remember exactly where I was, the very moment I heard "Heart Shaped Box" on the radio, and it was so fucking great.

The early to mid 1990s were an amazing time for music. It seems like everything on the radio was great - Matthew Sweet, Nirvana, Belly, Archers of Loaf, Afghan Whigs, Stone Roses. Even the one-hit throwaway shit was good (Primitive Radio Gods, Innocent Mission).

For me the end was near when Korn came around, then limp biskut, then blink 182 then linkin park and then I just turned off the radio and started listening to techno.
posted by plexi at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Hey nostalgic-for-that-Seattle-sound people, please to direct your attention to this overlooked recent post.
posted by mwhybark at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2008


I remember that I in 1992 (I think) came across what must have been a limited edition release of "Nevermind" in what was then Stockholm's largest record store. It was the "Nevermind" CD, but it was surrounded by a clear plastic bag of some sort, a clear plastic bag filled with some kind of blue liquid and with a plastic 2D version of Mr. Spencer Elden floating around in said liquid. At the time I thought "holy damn, that's coroprate, Kurt probably hates this" and swiftly put it back in the shelf, but nowadays I wish I had bought it. See, my ownership of that release would, over time, become an apt metaphor of the nineties, the grunge movement and the state of the music business in general. "Like the blue liquid in my copy of 'Nevermind' has evaporated over time, those were the days of our lives", I could lament, sitting alone in my study, Afghan Whigs "Gentlemen" blasting from my stereo. "Afghan Whigs were never grunge" MetaFilter would somehow reply and I'd feel a small tingle of embarassement running down my spine and my girlfriend would poke her head through the door and say "turn down that racket!" and I would go "buy honey, this is an art installation/political commentary, look at my copy of 'Nevermind' it's ruined... or is it better?".

Now I think I remember that The Revolting Cocks also released a similar CD; "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" surrounded by a bag filled with semen coloured liquid. Truly a nineties phenomenon. Oh the plastic bags of yesteryear, where are you now? Like the diod on the spine of "Pulse" you've fulfilled your existence on this earth and we must remember to forget.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:44 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bleach is better.

This is possibly true, but the drumming on Bleach is so mediocre that I can't bear to listen to it.
posted by Slothrup at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2008


Snofoam: Totally disagree that "Claiming Gish is the Greatest Album Ever" is the Greatest Claim Of All Time. I think it's pretty obviously "Claiming that The Beatles Are Terrible" which is like the Sgt. Peppers of Rock and Roll Statements. CGGAAT is more like the Nevermind of Claims: Serviceably iconoclastic but not majorly paradigm-shifting. Meanwhile, in a perfect storm of criticism-meets-album-judging-metaphors, this comment itself is like "Claiming that Metal Machine Music is the Best Lou Reed Album" which is in turn the Metal Machine Music of Statements. Thank you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


In terms of impact, the first Ramones album was dynamite, "Nevermind", a distant firecracker.
posted by davebush at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't really get the "overproduced" claims about Nevermind. I always look at studio albums as just that: a product created in a recording studio. I don't expect a faithful recreation of a live performance, I expect art. Sometimes that means raw, unpolished recordings, but more often, it means carefully-considered decisions at every step. Nevermind is polished, it's got a lot of sheen. But take a listen to Butch Vig's mixes of "Breed" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on With the Lights Out. They're a bit drier and less polished than Andy Wallace's mixes, and I don't think they work as well. It's an album that benefits from the decisions made by Vig, by Wallace, and even by the band. Cobain may have denounced the excess after the fact, but I really don't believe he didn't sign off on it during the process.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:08 AM on September 24, 2008


In my first year of university, the Police put out "Roxanne." In my last year of grad school, Nirvana put out "Smells like teen spirit." In between was more nihilism than you can shake a stick at. Bookends.
posted by No Robots at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2008


Nevermind was the first CD* I ever bought, and it was one of the main soundtracks to the year I first had my driver's license, and therefore could for the first time in my life have my own soundtrack as loud as I want to have it. I won't debate its merits objectively, and cannot, but I will say it was an excellent album to listen to while sixteen and hormone-tortured.

And I think people who argue that Nevermind didn't change popular music in a serious way are being a little too literal about it. Forever is a mighty long time, but Nevermind mattered. Of course things like influence are terribly hard to quantify. But Nevermind's success, and the "alternative" movement that followed, allowed weirdness to penetrate mainstream culture, and that is always a good thing.

I was weird those days, weird and sixteen and I lived in Springfield, Missouri. I didn't have many ways of finding out about new music that interested me other than MTV and the record store at the mall (and an older brother who was too much of a punk-rock purist for me). Here's how I learned about new music: I went to the mall record store's "alternative" section and I bought cassettes and CDs that had cool covers. That's how I learned about Sonic Youth and Hairway to Steven and Suicidal Tendencies and Ween. (Actually, I think I saw an ad for Pure Guava in High Times). In those pre-Internet days it was terribly important to know that there was a world of weirdness and oddity beyond the dull Christian confines of Springfield (headquarters of the Assemblies of God and birthplace of John Ashcroft, thank you very much). If the alternative scene hadn't been commercialized to the extent that an ignorant, mulleted teenager in the Ozarks could find out about it, I wouldn't be the person I am today, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

Yeah, so the "alternative" scene laid a big fart in the end. But listen: when Daft Punk's first record came out, the head of my college radio station said "it's the Nevermind of electronica." Sure, he was wrong, but the point is that Nevermind and the lollapalooza that followed let people know there was money in weirdness, and that things could rise up out of nowhere and make a dent. Would MTV have pushed something as weird as "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" without "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? I dunno. I recall "The Rain" being an MTV "Buzz Clip," which was a post-"SLTS" innovation on the channel. If so, then Nirvana helped open the gate to the dominant producer in pop music today.

This is a lot of verbiage and unsupported suppositions, so in brief: the fact that nothing on the radio right now sounds like Nirvana has very little to do with the idea that Nevermind changed popular music/popular culture.

*first tape was Appetite for Destruction, which I feel pretty good about.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


plexi writes "It's sad in a way that Nirvana killed off hair metal, and now it's back as emo."

No, Metallica killed hair metal, though they were the kings for a while. Nirvana made punk-metal for jaded slackers, so they wouldn't have to be heshers.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:37 AM on September 24, 2008


I'm the better part of a decade too young to remember Nirvana as contemporary, so I can't judge the "changed music forever" sentiment on a first-person basis. That said, I despise Nirvana, especially Smells Like Teen Spirit. It's one of those songs that no one steps back to look at outside its context and realize how terrible it is.
posted by djb at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2008


Heh. I, too, remember where I was the first time I heard that song.

Me too. And I remember what I said, too, which was "wow, is this the Pixies' new album?"
posted by norm at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2008


It's fascinating hearing people bring up hair metal and Mudhoney in this thread, because the first thing I thought on hearing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the radio for the first time was, who is this watered-down Mudhoney cover band? But yes, it certainly was a welcome change to the heavy rotation of Poison and Motley Crue that occupied the airwaves at the time. But the best part was, those bands and their ilk felt the need to "grunge up" their sound. Even Bon Jovi started using grittier guitar hooks.

I remember reading some interview with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, where he said he went into a McDonald's wearing a Nevermind T-shirt. The kid at the register looked at him and said, "Nirvana, man, that's an awesome band." Moore's reaction, in the interview, was something along the lines of, "That teenage kid working for minimum wage at a McDonald's in the suburbs - that's who Cobain's giving a voice to, and that's why they became so huge."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:46 AM on September 24, 2008


Speaking of, has anyone heard Metallica's new one? Hooo shit. I still love the guys, but I really want them to change the name of the band. Lars is still trying to impress everyone that he can drum fast, but everyone else has essentially... well, grown up.
posted by cavalier at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2008


Hey, Lisa Kekaula from my beloved Bellrays is there, too. add Mr. Arm and that's a pretty formidable trio, dude.

Hell yeah! I wasn't complaining about seeing Dick, neither. He is a comfort in these troubled times.
posted by Mister_A at 9:06 AM on September 24, 2008


I remember reading some interview with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, where he said he went into a McDonald's wearing a Nevermind T-shirt. The kid at the register looked at him and said, "Nirvana, man, that's an awesome band." Moore's reaction, in the interview, was. . .

to break down crying and give him a Daydream Nation cd.
posted by plexi at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Urgh, changed music forever?!

You have to be kidding me. Bach changed music forever. Kraftwerk changed music forever. Hendrix did; the Beatles did; Fela did; each exposed millions of people to brand-new musical ideas.

By the time Nirvana came around, it was the third or fourth time we'd heard this story.

Sanitized rock'n'roll music on the radio in the 50s came from the raw black sound; the proto-punks (Stooges, MC-5) had their raw sound, which got subsumed into 70s album-oriented rock; punk was a reaction to this, back to the raw sound, which promptly got processed into New Wave, leading to more hair bands; then the hardcore movement reacted against that, and was immediately sausage-ground into grunge.

I was active in the music business at the time and we all looked at each other: "Aha, someone found a way to take the edge off hardcore!"

SLTS is catchy but that's its only real virtue. Nirvana in particular suffers from several dreadful musical issues: they have trouble differentiating their chords or their sounds between songs, their orchestration is particularly dull and plodding (only the drummer saves it from total dullness - in particular, what's with this "bass always doubles the guitar" idea?), but the real issue is the songs themselves.

He's trying really really hard to be clever or at least arch and it's painful. I don't mind really clever songs, and I love downright stupid songs ("I've got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It's got a basket, a bell and/Things to make it look good./I'd give it to you if I could/But I borrowed it.") but the Nirvana is like some depressed high school student's poetry (which is I guess the point) and it's so heavy handed, if there's one word I'd say, "heavy-handed" rather than truly "heavy."

It certainly didn't change music! Compare the opening to SLTS to, say, the opening of The Stooges' Search and Destroy from 20 years before... no new ground is broken!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Two words:
Over produced.


Yet, in retrospect, tinny harsh and brittle. Maybe "overproduced" for AM car radios, or something. I hate the mix. Hate it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2008


Mister A: crazy thing is me and pips had tickets to the DTK/MC5 show featuring Dick and Marshall Crenshaw, but the NYC date was cancelled. I went to Dick's bar the night of the show and said "I thought I'd be seeing you sing tonight, man.." "Yeah," he shrugged "but Dennis Thompson had to hop on a motorcycle and break his leg." Maybe someday they'll do it again.

I did however get to see the Bellrays live a few years ago after following them for about a decade. Now there's a band who could change rock and roll forever if only anybody was listening.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2008


(And I'd be a little nicer if this was the 20th anniversary... the 17th? save it for the big ones!)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2008


Devils Rancher: yes, these were the days when the production of music I heard on the radio started to really annoy me.

There are technical reasons - basically the industry discovered all these great psycho-acoustic tricks to get music to sound "louder" so like MSG they used too much of it for about a decade, until, like MSG, they realized that it would make their audiences sick so they dialed it back. Kinda.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:28 AM on September 24, 2008


I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Manitoba is mentioned on MeFi more than just about any other musician ever. Also, that was a hideous shirt he was wearing.

/no offense jon
posted by stinkycheese at 9:29 AM on September 24, 2008


Oh, and as long as were citing obscure antecedents, THE JESUS LIZARD, YOU FUCKS!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2008


the first time i heard the opening bars of smells like teen spirit, i thought it was a cover of blue oyster cult's godzilla
posted by ambulance blues at 9:32 AM on September 24, 2008


It certainly didn't change music! Compare the opening to SLTS to, say, the opening of The Stooges' Search and Destroy from 20 years before... no new ground is broken!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:20 PM on September 24


Academically it didn't "change music" - it just blew out the barrel and loaded the mainstream with really good music. Finally, it was cool to be different, and smart, and out there. And the radio sounded great, which was way, way different from the synth/Ibanez nightmare of 1987.
posted by plexi at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2008


Maybe a better way to say it is that Nirvana didn't change music, they changed the music-listening public.
posted by plexi at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2008


I like Nirvana. I'm not a Cobain-worshiper but they made some good records. They were one of literally thousands of bands on the indie/alternative/whatever scene of the time and through a combination of luck, talent and timing became huge. They also probably got a lot of kids to listen to stuff they wouldn't have otherwise. So, thanks for that.
posted by jonmc at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2008


Forever is a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell you, there's something else: the afterworld. A world of never-ending happiness. You can always see the sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills--you know the one, Dr. "Everything'll Be Alright"--instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby. 'Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld. In this life, you're on your own.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:36 AM on September 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


Nirvana in particular suffers from several dreadful musical issues: they have trouble differentiating their chords or their sounds between songs, their orchestration is particularly dull and plodding

Spoken like a true Yes fan.
posted by Sailormom at 9:36 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, when Kurt Cobain killed himself, this depressed teenager wrote the single worst poem that has ever been penned by man or beast, and that's got to be worth something.

I don't have a copy of it, and thank God for that, as if I read it again my writer's block would probably be permanent. I remember only a single line from it, which read:

i forgive your thumb


posted by Bookhouse at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


They also probably got a lot of kids to listen to stuff they wouldn't have otherwise

This is exactly it. I can dig on Nirvana, but when they come up in shuffle I'll skip it, except for "On a Plain" and sometimes "Heart-Shaped Box." But in 1990 and 1991, I was listening to Run DMC, to Public Enemy. To Paula Abdul and MC Hammer and god-knows what else. When I taped Nevermind from a CD I rented from the library, everything changed. I was 11. Suddenly, guitar music wasn't a choice between spandex blowout and heshers. Suddenly, punk wasn't either 15 years old or brittle-edged hardcore. It made a difference because it was popular, not the other way around.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:41 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


People always talk about what a great songwriter Cobain was, and I used to agree until recently. About a Girl was in my head, and I was thinking how it applied to my life. Then I realized that one of the lyrics is "I do pick up number two" and that he was talking to his girlfriend about how he does so clean up the cat shit in their filthy house. That made me feel ill, and regret a lot of the time I spent listening to Nirvana.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2008


A must-watch documentary about this whole thing is Hype!, which reveals how no one involved had many illusions about the reality of the grunge "revolution" except for the consumers who brought a brand hook, line and sinker. And of course, when Cobain committed suicide, Cobain the cultural martyr overshadowed Cobain the musician who was more modest about Nirvana's place in the musical universe.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2008


>i forgive your thumb

Did you rhyme it with 'dumb'?

I remember being shocked by it at the time - I wasn't a huge fan and, apologies in advance, but at the time it did kinda seem like my generation's Elvis.

But my bad poetry days were behind me so I just went down the grotty local pub and got drunk listening to Nevermind on repeat play on the jukebox.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:49 AM on September 24, 2008


Chuckdarwin - so far I have made it to almost 3/4 through Schoenberg's Phantasy, Op. 47. I'll finish it as I edit this post :)

Um, I can't say I am a fan. The thought occurred to me that this would make great "hold music" for tech support call centers that want to discourage people from waiting too long.

/shatnervoice ...almost...there....must finish...listening...

Yay! Made it!
posted by Xoebe at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


It’s worth going to Aberdeen sometime, especially if you’re in the WA area anyway, because:
- Underneath the sign for the town it says “come as you are!”, which is a nice touch.
- It’ll really help you appreciate what an unhip, ass-end-of-nowhere, nothingy town it is – thus reinforcing the theory that all the bets bands come from unhip back-of-beyond places where people make their own culture.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Popular Music's always changing forever. It's the voracious nature of the beast. And a good thing too.

As for NEVERMIND, I was mature enough to know better when it came out (ie: an employed, tax paying adult) and NOT a particular fan of the Seattle Sound, which being in Vancouver at the time I was quite familiar with. A friend put on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and it fucking shocked me. Powerful, beautiful, angry, unpredictable, true. This was a record the world needed. The Gun Club, The Pixies, Husker Du, Mudhoney, Boston, The Beatles, The Sex Pistols -- a synergy of all these worthy influences and more.

If it doesn't still pack the same punch as it did 17 years, big deal. We needed it then, not now.
posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


no one involved had many illusions about the reality of the grunge "revolution"

Revolution? No. breath of fresh air? Hell, yeah.
posted by jonmc at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2008


Their covers of songs from Meat Puppets II on MTV Unplugged were pretty awesome.
posted by blucevalo at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2008


And that's not even considering Garbage

Garbage has 3 producers in the band, so they tend to get carried away recording. I think their records are great, though, and oddly enough, they're a frakking fantastic frakking live band.

whodathunkit.
posted by and for no one at 10:08 AM on September 24, 2008


I'm of the opinion that if one does not hold vivid teenage memories of late 80's/early 90's American MTV, then one will not truly comprehend how important Nirvana seemed.
posted by kink at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2008


"Schoenberg went well beyond these parameters, and I guarantee that 99% of the people who read this site couldn't make it through 30 seconds of his stuff. Fuck, TEN seconds of his stuff. Even Berg and Webern (his students) are hard going for most folks who aren't down with serialism."

U R HARDCORE
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Bookhouse I will see your worst poem ever written claim and raise you a comparison of Cobain to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner.

My dad found that one. Yeeesh.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:31 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


What ever happened to that guy?
posted by swift at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2008


Wait, other angsty teenagers wrote terrible poetry about Cobain's suicide? MY PEOPLE, I HAVE FOUND YOU.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:42 AM on September 24, 2008


After writing "Smells Like Teen Spirit," both Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana thought: "this really sounds like the Pixies. People are really going to nail us for this." [here]
posted by kid ichorous at 10:50 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Melvins were more my speed but I liked me some Nirvana. However, I don't know if I"ll ever want to hear them again. I'm not ready to revisit.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2008


You bunch of losers, Nirvana was awesome
posted by poppo at 11:09 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised how many of you don't understand how much Nirvana radically shifted the course of American popular music. Within six months it was as if hair metal never existed. "Alternative" stations appeared nearly as fast as Garth Brooks-playing country stations. The press and record companies were ga-ga over anything from Seattle, in a time when most of the country though it was just lumberjacks bitching about the spotted owl.

By 1995 or so, it had played out, but the effects were lasting. Nirvana and the movement they accidentally spawned became part of the niche-ification of music. They brought college rock to the fore, which was co-opted into pop music and became, yes, what those white emo kids listen to. All of which just sent college rock running away from pop music with the label money, creating the whole hipster rock thing we know today (on KEXP and elsewhere).

Nevermind completely altered the course of American pop music. No, it wasn't epochal the way, say, Bach sitting at an organ or Ringo changing time signatures on the refrain of "Please Please Me" was, but it was a once-a-decade reordering of the music industry, something we wouldn't see again until Napster.

And yes, Thurston Moore was right -- Cobain changed things for the middle-class white kid the way that urbane bands like the Pixies or Sonic Youth never could. When I was in high school, the kids like me listening to Doolittle were the upper-middle-class smart kids who weren't cool but watched 120 Minutes. When I was in the UK, I found the kids listening to Nevermind weren't upper middle class; they were in council estates. Cobain took what we came to call "grunge" to the kids. And therein lies so much of the Your Favorite Band Sucks condescension.
posted by dw at 11:39 AM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


jonmc: Revolution? No. breath of fresh air? Hell, yeah.

Well, I don't know. It didn't feel that fresh by the time it was delivered, packaged with a nice slick plastic music video or on high-playlist rotation between advertisements for monster truck shows and engagement rings. Perhaps its just the cynic in me, but it didn't feel like it was much more than yet-another rock and roll product, much like the Metallica "black album" or NIN the year before.

And a part of it is that, at least for me, the whole vocal-guitar-drum combo sound just felt profoundly stale, and Nirvana didn't really do much with it. My "fresh air" at the time involved fiddle-based folk/punk like the Drovers, Tori Amos (who was stunning live), and local horn-heavy ska/blues/funk. For that matter, I find most of rock music to be pretty bland stuff between the psychedelic 70s when bands were really experimenting with what a guitar can do, and Jack White's experiments with three-part minimalism.

kink: I'm of the opinion that if one does not hold vivid teenage memories of late 80's/early 90's American MTV, then one will not truly comprehend how important Nirvana seemed.

Certainly the heavy video rotation and pronouncements of the band's importance by Kurt Loder would make anything seem important.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:41 AM on September 24, 2008


dw: The problem is, Nirvana the band, had absolutely not a goddamned fucking thing to do with any of the changes you mention. Other than, of course, being the posterchildren and figureheads of a marketing campaign that was in direct conflict with how band members saw their own musical community.

How does that Pepsi Blue taste?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2008


Music snobs in a nutshell: “I do not care for this band/have music snob reasons for appearing not to care for them, therefore they were never any good and their success was entirely down to marketing.”
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on September 24, 2008


ARGH! DON'T OPEN @sien's link! It's a Rickroll!
posted by mike3k at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2008


it didn't feel like it was much more than yet-another rock and roll product

Which is what it was. I don't see how that makes the phenomenon any less important. Just because a tornado didn't mean to take off my roof doesn't mean it didn't. Music doesn't have to be self-conscious art.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:23 PM on September 24, 2008


jonmc, this is a really interesting statement - if anybody was listening. While I agree with you that many, many talented musicians go unnoticed by far too many people, the fact is that Nirvana got some important people (like Danny Goldberg, for example) to listen to them. Maybe that's got more to do with luck, or marketing, or an aptitude for cut-throat business dealings, but it's all part of the same thing, in my opinion. It's not enough to make great music - you've got to get it out there. And, in that regard, Nirvana succeeded in spades.

Also, as a huge fan of both bands, I was surprised on recent consideration to see just how much Radiohead stole/was influenced by Nirvana. Opening of "Rape Me" vs. opening of "Just". "Heart Shaped Box" vs. "My Iron Lung". "All Apologies" vs "Bodysnatchers".



of course, Radiohead has the whole electronic thing, too...
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:30 PM on September 24, 2008


I don't count myself a Nirvana fan (or, for that matter, a Beatles fan) but it is clear that Nevermind sheared pop into Before and After the same way Sergeant Pepper did. A year after the Nirvana album, the hair bands like Poison and Ratt were in the same phantom zone that had swallowed up Herman's Hermits and Freddie and the Dreamers a quarter-century earlier.

It's not quite that simple, of course*: Nirvana had a strong supporting cast and there were a few stragglers still floundering along in the mid-nineties, just as Are You Experienced helped with the Summer of Love and a few pre-Pepper bands like Tommy James and the Shondells still made some headway.


*It never is.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:31 PM on September 24, 2008


Artw: Music snobs in a nutshell: “I do not care for this band/have music snob reasons for appearing not to care for them, therefore they were never any good and their success was entirely down to marketing.”

Well, I don't see how the people who put Nirvana on a pedestal are any less guilty of music snobbery than anyone else in this conversation. Gee, look back at some of how Nirvana is put up as the superior option to Garth Brooks or hair metal.

I'm just pointing out some basic historic facts. It's a fact that Cobain felt that the band was over-sold and over-promoted beyond its actual significance. It's a fact that Nirvana and grunge were brand marketing campaigns designed for a specific purpose, and which have proven to be highly successful given how many marketing tools we have here on Metafilter promoting the myth that Nirvana changed the music industry.

uncleozzy: Which is what it was. I don't see how that makes the phenomenon any less important. Just because a tornado didn't mean to take off my roof doesn't mean it didn't. Music doesn't have to be self-conscious art.

Except that it wasn't a tornado taking off the roof. It was the owner getting a contractor to put it a new bedroom with dormers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:32 PM on September 24, 2008


dw: The problem is, Nirvana the band, had absolutely not a goddamned fucking thing to do with any of the changes you mention.

In what way? Look at the musical landscape in autumn 1991. Look at it in autumn 1992. There was a huge shift there.

Other than, of course, being the posterchildren and figureheads of a marketing campaign that was in direct conflict with how band members saw their own musical community.

It was all trendchasing by the record companies, attempting to co-opt what they saw as a marketable Gen X slacker culture. Sort of stuff (lightly) parodied in Todd Snider's "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues."

It was interesting, at the time, how much the marketers and the record companies didn't know what to do with Nirvana. The teen magazine that banned mentions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" so as not to insult the maker. The infamous NYT list of "grunge terms" completely made up by Caroline Records employee Megan Jasper on the fly. By the fall, they had it locked down and pretty homogenized, but those first few months were a hoot.

Maybe it was just an 8-10 year cycle in music where something comes into a ripe and ready market and just kills. Thriller in '83. Britney/Christina/Backstreet/etc. in '99. But they really did come out of the blue.

How does that Pepsi Blue taste?

If you have to be an insulting douche (and you do smell like Teen Spirit), then take it to MeTa.
posted by dw at 12:35 PM on September 24, 2008


The Sex Pistols were a boy band!
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on September 24, 2008


"Certainly the heavy video rotation and pronouncements of the band's importance by Kurt Loder would make anything seem important."

When "Cherry Pie", "I Wanna Sex You Up" and "Something to Believe In" were competing for most heavily played song, when high-school football players were shaving their eyebrows a la Vanilla Ice, and when Zubas were so common they were not the least bit amusing - too right that Nirvana was a good kick in the ass to American youth culture.
posted by kink at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seconding Artw's recommendation to visit Aberdeen, WA. No offense to the folks there, but it's an armpit. Rains incessantly, high unemployment, populated by close-minded small-town red-staters (Washington is only "blue" in the Puget Sound megalopolis, everything else would make Palin feel right at home).

That Nirvana came out of that is pretty awesome. I'm not even a big fan (I own a copy of Nevermind, it's somewhere in the stack o' CDs), but SLTS seems to be one of those places where the audience for "popular" music pivoted and went in a new direction for awhile.
posted by maxwelton at 12:44 PM on September 24, 2008


dw: In what way? Look at the musical landscape in autumn 1991. Look at it in autumn 1992. There was a huge shift there.

Certainly. And that whole fadish shift wouldn't have happened if it were not for an aggressive marketing campaign that appropriated a band and an album (certainly not the first or only to have that sound) and oversold it to shit. There is a huge gap between Nirvana the musical ensemble that saw its self as just another punk band among others that were just as worthy of recognition, and Nirvana the branded marketing campaign. It was the latter that saw lots of cash to be made and transformed the market to match.

If you have to be an insulting douche (and you do smell like Teen Spirit), then take it to MeTa.

If you don't want to be called out as a marketing tool, then don't be a marketing tool.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:48 PM on September 24, 2008


kink: When "Cherry Pie", "I Wanna Sex You Up" and "Something to Believe In" were competing for most heavily played song, when high-school football players were shaving their eyebrows a la Vanilla Ice, and when Zubas were so common they were not the least bit amusing - too right that Nirvana was a good kick in the ass to American youth culture.

Oh, come on. By the time it got to every high school football team in the United States, filtered through MTV and commercial radio playlists, it was a carefully groomed and cultivated youth culture that was just as fake as those Zubas and permed long hair.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2008


As opposed to something as boring and unchanging as folk punk or ska?
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on September 24, 2008


Seconding Artw's recommendation to visit Aberdeen, WA. No offense to the folks there, but it's an armpit.

None of them would take offense. Just don't say Hoquiam is a better town if you want to live.
posted by dw at 1:09 PM on September 24, 2008


Artw: As opposed to something as boring and unchanging as folk punk or ska?

Actually, there has been a lot more experimentation on the edges of the folk and country music scene over the last 20 years than there has been within rock music in the same period.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:09 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whatm they've found a slightly different way to "punk-up" a Pogues song?
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2008


In Australia at least, the success of Nevermind meant local record execs stopped looking exclusively for the next INXS and started signing bands who were never going to be as big. Of course there were other things going on then too, Ratcats meteoric rise (and fall), Triple J going national not long before and the whole Big Day Out phenomenon, but Nevermind was a big part of it.
posted by onya at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2008


Certainly. And that whole fadish shift wouldn't have happened if it were not for an aggressive marketing campaign that appropriated a band and an album (certainly not the first or only to have that sound) and oversold it to shit.

First off, who the hell cares if they were the first to have the sound? I mean, all the proto-grunge and punk bands mentioned upthread are just descendants of The Sonics. Do you want to take a dump on Alanis Morrissette for being a Canadian ripoff of Tori Amos that sold 10 times as many albums?

And the aggressive marketing campaign didn't come along until AFTER "Smells Like Teen Spirit" took off. Even then, it wasn't completely clear whether Geffen even understood what they had. Seems like by the time they did figure it out, Nevermind was already in the Top Ten. The campaign, if you want to call it that, was what pushed it out of the college market and onto rock radio. Of course, 120 Minutes already had it.

There is a huge gap between Nirvana the musical ensemble that saw its self as just another punk band among others that were just as worthy of recognition, and Nirvana the branded marketing campaign. It was the latter that saw lots of cash to be made and transformed the market to match.

You're not making a lick of sense. There is no gap between them. What you talk about is the gap between the band and the hype that blew up around them and later crystallized with the media "martyrdom" of Cobain. The marketers were always trading on the hype, not on the band. The band was always the band.
posted by dw at 1:26 PM on September 24, 2008


"Oh, come on. By the time it got to every high school football team in the United States, filtered through MTV and commercial radio playlists, it was a carefully groomed and cultivated youth culture that was just as fake as those Zubas and permed long hair."

If, as you say, you "find most of rock music to be pretty bland stuff " and you were more in tune at the time with "Tori Amos (who was stunning live)", then it should be no suprise that you didn't quite get Nirvana.

Marketing didn't make them relevant. It's well known that not even their own record label saw it coming.
posted by kink at 1:31 PM on September 24, 2008


there has been a lot more experimentation on the edges of the folk and country music scene over the last 20 years than there has been within rock music in the same period.

So, let me see if I'm clear about this: Leaving aside the possibility you're alluding to Bela Fleck, you're arguing the revivalism of alt-country and old-timey and the continuing cycles of female singer-songwriters that constitute the edge of folk and country are more experimental than, oh, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.

Is that what you're saying?
posted by dw at 1:33 PM on September 24, 2008


"Certainly. And that whole fadish shift wouldn't have happened if it were not for an aggressive marketing campaign that appropriated a band and an album (certainly not the first or only to have that sound) and oversold it to shit. There is a huge gap between Nirvana the musical ensemble that saw its self as just another punk band among others that were just as worthy of recognition, and Nirvana the branded marketing campaign. It was the latter that saw lots of cash to be made and transformed the market to match."

OH NOES PRECIOUS MUZIK WUZ MARKETED! MARKETING MAKES BAD! BAD!

And it's important to remember that Thriller didn't have a huge impact, because that was just the Quincy Jones machine, man, forcing that R&B disco down everyone's throats.

Or, to put things in terms of human development—it doesn't really matter when the first person wrote an alphabet. What mattered was when everyone used an alphabet.

"Actually, there has been a lot more experimentation on the edges of the folk and country music scene over the last 20 years than there has been within rock music in the same period."

Bullshit. Unless you want to define "rock" to preclude experimentation, which can be done with country and folk just as easily, musicians coming out of the rock paradigm have had metric asstons more experimental music released. And that's still counting the "freak folk" folks as folk. Country has moved more than people give it credit for, but folk-as-folk (not folk as methodological descriptor—i.e. rap is a folk music) has remained largely conservative, especially if you note that folks like the Animal Collective or Sunburned Hand of the Man come more out of a rock paradigm.
posted by klangklangston at 1:37 PM on September 24, 2008


Artw: Certainly beyond that. You have Neko Case's experiments with lyrical structure. Tom Waits in his own musical singularity playing with different instruments, recording conditions and vocalization, and genre-blending collaborations (Ashley MacIsaac, Eliza Carthy, Afro-Celt sound system, the Cash-Rubin sessions). I tune into rock radio these days and its either playing 20-year old music, or whiny shit that sounds 20 years old because its built on the same feedback-distorted guitar chords.

dw: First off, who the hell cares if they were the first to have the sound? I mean, all the proto-grunge and punk bands mentioned upthread are just descendants of The Sonics. Do you want to take a dump on Alanis Morrissette for being a Canadian ripoff of Tori Amos that sold 10 times as many albums?

I guess I don't see how being critical of the hype that peddles this bullshit that a band goes into a studio and changes the world is "dumping on" the band. I'm not critical of Nirvana as a band. I'm critical of the mythology that SLTS fundamentally changed the structure of the recording industry absent the hype and marketing that was used to sell that change.

And it was pretty obvious to me that the hype and marketing was already well in gear by the time SLTS was pushed out of 120 minutes and onto heavy rotation in MTVs daily schedule and mainstream rock radio.

kink: Marketing didn't make them relevant.

Ahh, the lament of a tool in denial.

dw: So, let me see if I'm clear about this: Leaving aside the possibility you're alluding to Bela Fleck, you're arguing the revivalism of alt-country and old-timey and the continuing cycles of female singer-songwriters that constitute the edge of folk and country are more experimental than, oh, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.

Well, if you are talking about this, I'm not hearing that much that strikes me as either experimental or interesting. Pretty standard lyrics with a form of delivery that I can't stand over a pretty typical chord progression and some horns and wawa electronics for color midway through. I mean, ok, I'll give the Polyphonic Spree out there as an experiment in a big ensemble sound, although I can't stand to listen to them either. And certainly there may be more stuff out there, but I certainly am not hearing it on FM, or even on KEXP either.

The edge of Rock & Roll from what I can hear is a tired cycle of male vocalists doing verse-chorus-verse over a standard arrangement of a limited set of chords.

klangklangston: And it's important to remember that Thriller didn't have a huge impact, because that was just the Quincy Jones machine, man, forcing that R&B disco down everyone's throats.

I'll make the exact same argument that Thriller should be examined as a brand campaign in addition to a musical work.

Bullshit. Unless you want to define "rock" to preclude experimentation, which can be done with country and folk just as easily, musicians coming out of the rock paradigm have had metric asstons more experimental music released. And that's still counting the "freak folk" folks as folk. Country has moved more than people give it credit for, but folk-as-folk (not folk as methodological descriptor—i.e. rap is a folk music) has remained largely conservative, especially if you note that folks like the Animal Collective or Sunburned Hand of the Man come more out of a rock paradigm.

The "rock paradigm" can be considered so broadly as to be pretty much meaningless. Ok, Albarn's compositions for Gorillaz, and CocoRosie's "Bear Hides and Buffalo," Jack White's 3-part minimalism. But most of what I hear is just tired vocals over a tired standard arrangement.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:02 PM on September 24, 2008


Yeah, having browsed some more tracks from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, I'm not hearing what's especially experimental about it. Is there some quality of the lyrics I'm not getting? I mean, it's not bad but at first-listen of a few tracks, I don't hear what makes it radically different from the plethora of similar-sounding rock produced over the last decade.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:17 PM on September 24, 2008


The edge of Rock & Roll from what I can hear is a tired cycle of male vocalists doing verse-chorus-verse over a standard arrangement of a limited set of chords.

Next time you're in NYC, I got a whole ton of records for you to listen to. There's a whole hell of a lot that can be done within that paradigm. And the impact of music is not so much about 'innovation' as what it makes you feel, what it makes you want to do.
posted by jonmc at 2:18 PM on September 24, 2008


all the proto-grunge and punk bands mentioned upthread are just descendants of The Sonics.

who are all descendants of Chuck Berry and Link Wray, who are descendants of Muddy Waters and Hank Williams and Louis Jordan who are descendants of Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers and Louis Armstrong, who are descendants of Charley Patton and ...you see where I'm going here...
posted by jonmc at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


jonmc: Well yeah. I love my silly, pop love songs. I love my silly pop hate songs even more. (Got "Shut Up and Let Me Go" earwormed this week.) I don't see the point in putting a silly pop song on a pedestal and pretending that it was something other than a groomed marketing product.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2008


KJS: if you love them, don't apologize for them. Silly love songs, silly hate songs, silly angry songs, silly silly songs...that's the soundtrack of being human, and contributing to that well deserves to be put on a pedestal.
posted by jonmc at 2:30 PM on September 24, 2008


"The "rock paradigm" can be considered so broadly as to be pretty much meaningless. Ok, Albarn's compositions for Gorillaz, and CocoRosie's "Bear Hides and Buffalo," Jack White's 3-part minimalism. But most of what I hear is just tired vocals over a tired standard arrangement."

I love it when people argue that music is tired and boring, blaming the music instead of their listening habits.

Bands doing interesting, new stuff that come out of a rock paradigm (over the last 20 years): Boredoms, Muslimgauze, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, Black Dice, Liars, Lightning Bolt, Wolf Eyes, His Name is Alive, Sun 0))), Boris, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Sonic Youth, Microphones, Lord of the Yum Yum, Jackie-O Motherfucker, Skullflower, Mindflayer… Hell, even ugly underground rock has had a resurgence and sounds pretty fresh. Bands like Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, Blank Dogs…

Is it all sui generis with no influences at all? No. Is it "tired vocals over tired standard arrangements"? Especially compared to, say, Tom Waits? Hell no. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on September 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


I like how “folk punk” is now “anything you could possibly apply the term folk to, ever, up to an including some acts that have essentially crossed into whole over genres but retain a hint of folksyness”, and is set as an opposite to rock, which is narrowly defined to anything KirkJobSluder hears on the radio that is bad.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2008


klangklangston: Is it "tired vocals over tired standard arrangements"? Especially compared to, say, Tom Waits? Hell no. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Which just goes to show that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Sonic Youth: Are you kidding me, the 70s called.

And as I've said before. There certainly may be some good stuff out there, but I'm not hearing it via FM or my brief forays into alt radio.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:40 PM on September 24, 2008


One thing that I haven't really seen brought up in this thread is the most amazing thing about GRUNGE: For a few years there, among a certain generation (mine), the Molly Ringwald class struggles of the 1980s ceased to exist.

All that hype, all that marketing, all that corporate co-opting was a good thing. When that shit went mainstream, it meant that everyone at my Junior High shopped at thrift stores and raided their dad's closets for old clothes. You could wear something until it disintegrated, and your Doc Martens never did. Money was irrelevant. Even the girls who gave a shit about this season's wardrobe couldn't get away from flannel and torn denim. Everyone loved Soundgarden and hated Hootie. People were judged on their merits, not their wardrobe or the music they listened to, because those were always the same.

Of course, all that homogeneity got awfully boring after a while, and the widespread banning of mosh pits really sucked a lot of the fun out of it. Still, it was great while it lasted.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:40 PM on September 24, 2008


As for folk/punk acts... if I went to the pub and saw one today they'd still be doing the same stuff as folk/punk acts did 20 years ago. Which is lovely in it's own way, and allgreta fun, but a very conservative pick of musical genre.
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on September 24, 2008


klangklangston: I love it when people argue that music is tired and boring, blaming the music instead of their listening habits.

KirkJobSluder: And as I've said before. There certainly may be some good stuff out there, but I'm not hearing it via FM or my brief forays into alt radio.

Ding ding ding!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:44 PM on September 24, 2008


Artw: Ok. In just about every genre there is some worship of form, and some good innovation going on. I'll admit that my earlier statement was hasty.

My point is just that mainstream, alternative and college rock seems to be stuck in a rather fossilized state that hasn't really changed much in the last 20 years.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2008


You know, I’ve a vague idea that the last time I was arguing with a music snob jerk who was arguing their (vaguely ridiculous) private opinion as the stone cold objective truth it was actually the same person.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2008


Also, Tori Amos? I mean, she’s alright and all, but did they not have Kate Bush in America?
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2008


Also, Tori Amos? I mean, she’s alright and all, but did they not have Kate Bush in America?

Yes, but see, we don't like musical geniuses like Kate, only mass-marketed knockoffs like Tori.
posted by dw at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2008


I just wanted to say that, presently, my favourite band is Woven Hand.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2008


who are all descendants of Chuck Berry and Link Wray, who are descendants of Muddy Waters and Hank Williams and Louis Jordan who are descendants of Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers and Louis Armstrong, who are descendants of Charley Patton and ...you see where I'm going here...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and the Sonics shared a lot with the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders in terms of forming the Northwest garage sound that was a progenitor of American punk. But the point being that knocking someone in rock for being derivative is ridiculous, since all music is derived from Cro-Magnon rock basher Ogg Throwingstick's groundbreaking work.

(Of course, even that was derivative of bird song.)
posted by dw at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw: You know, I’ve a vague idea that the last time I was arguing with a music snob jerk who was arguing their (vaguely ridiculous) private opinion as the stone cold objective truth it was actually the same person.

Well, for the most part I'm arguing facts. It's a fact that the whole grunge phenomenon and the changes to the industry that came from it were the result of aggressive appropriation and marketing. You can argue this, but it's about like arguing that the Apollo missions never landed on the moon.

Artw: Also, Tori Amos? I mean, she’s alright and all, but did they not have Kate Bush in America?

Kate Bush had two minor albums bracketing that period. They were both pretty good but neither had much of an impact.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:04 PM on September 24, 2008


dw: Yes, but see, we don't like musical geniuses like Kate, only mass-marketed knockoffs like Tori.

Well, that's a bit of a false dichotomy. But Amos certainly isn't a knock-off of Bush. Bush's production since The Dreaming has been slick, meticulously arranged and multi-layered. Amos's strength at the time was in live solo performance, something that didn't come across on many of the overproduced singles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:10 PM on September 24, 2008


Ogg Throwingstick

Oh, ghod, not THAT antique sellout! I mean, his suff was sooooo clearly a straightup rehash of Neanderthal funeral chants that I was simply NEVAR able to understand the attraction!
posted by mwhybark at 3:12 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do people often start avoiding you after one or two conversations about Things You Know a Lot About?
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


"But Amos certainly isn't a knock-off of Bush. Bush's production since The Dreaming has been slick, meticulously arranged and multi-layered. Amos's strength at the time was in live solo performance, something that didn't come across on many of the overproduced singles."

So says a tool of mass marketing.

See? Two can play this stupid argument.
posted by kink at 3:14 PM on September 24, 2008


dw: But the point being that knocking someone in rock for being derivative is ridiculous, since all music is derived from Cro-Magnon rock basher Ogg Throwingstick's groundbreaking work.

There's "derivative" and there is "difficult to distinguish from a dozen other similar acts over the last 20 years." The latter seems to be the current state of "alternative rock."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:14 PM on September 24, 2008


But the point being that knocking someone in rock for being derivative is ridiculous

Well, duh! The thing is, despite all that, rocking out is still fun and there's still life in that old carcas yet. I hope.
posted by jonmc at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2008


kink: So says a tool of mass marketing.

See? Two can play this stupid argument.


The difference here is that I fully agree that the success of Amos and Bush involved mass marketing efforts. I'll say that the success of The Ting Tings is due to a pretty nifty mass marketing effort. I'll say that Tom Waits certainly benefits from mass marketing.

That is what distinguishes a tool from an informed consumer, a tool says something like "Marketing didn't make them relevant." An informed consumer examines what exactly is being sold to him.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2008


The latter seems to be the current state of "alternative rock."

well, most of today's 'indie rock' is neither indie nor rock, but that's a whole other discussion.
posted by jonmc at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not critical of Nirvana as a band. I'm critical of the mythology that SLTS fundamentally changed the structure of the recording industry absent the hype and marketing that was used to sell that change.

So, you're not critical of Nirvana, you're just critical of them being on a major label?

Well, if you are talking about this, I'm not hearing that much that strikes me as either experimental or interesting. Pretty standard lyrics with a form of delivery that I can't stand over a pretty typical chord progression and some horns and wawa electronics for color midway through.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is widely considered to be a post-rock masterpiece. I'm not a big fan, but it's something the critics consider to be "good" for experimental rock.

Compared to its time (1998) it's nothing like what was out there, and it's a very influential album. Animal Collective have cited it as an influence. (I want to hear you explain to us how "standard" Animal Collective is.)

So, which is more experimental: No Depression or In The Aeroplane Over The Sea?

You have Neko Case's experiments with lyrical structure.

Oh, you mean like on The Virginian? Or how -- OMG! -- "Thrice All-American" is in WALTZ TIME???

Please. I love Neko, we all love Neko, but to hold her up as some experimental artist because she turns a phrase in a couple songs, that's silly.

The edge of Rock & Roll from what I can hear is a tired cycle of male vocalists doing verse-chorus-verse over a standard arrangement of a limited set of chords.

Oh, that's easy to knock down, since the Fiery Furnaces are squarely on that edge, and they're a brother-sister duo with Eleanor as the lead singer.
posted by dw at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2008


"The difference here is that I fully agree that the success of Amos and Bush involved mass marketing efforts. I'll say that the success of The Ting Tings is due to a pretty nifty mass marketing effort. I'll say that Tom Waits certainly benefits from mass marketing.

That is what distinguishes a tool from an informed consumer, a tool says something like "Marketing didn't make them relevant." An informed consumer examines what exactly is being sold to him."


Who the fuck has denied that marketing made them very rich and famous? Certainly no one I've heard.

You keep insisting that their cultural relevance can be attributed only to mass-marketing, and I say you have no clue what you're on about. It's really only a long-winded and preposterous way of saying, "I never really got the whole Nirvana thing."
posted by kink at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2008


pssst, dw, the reference is Neko's crazy-ass Ukranian stuff on Fox Confessor. FWIW.
posted by mwhybark at 3:34 PM on September 24, 2008


pssst, dw, the reference is Neko's crazy-ass Ukranian stuff on Fox Confessor. FWIW.

Colin Meloy did more crazy-ass stuff on Crane Wife than Neko on Fox Confessor, and I don't see anyone waving the Decemberists' prog-rock-revival banner anywhere in this thread.

probably for good reason
posted by dw at 3:37 PM on September 24, 2008


"Which just goes to show that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Sonic Youth: Are you kidding me, the 70s called.


What '70s band, specifically, does Sister sound like? I mean, if you're going to call them a VU knock-off, you could at least get the decade right.

And why don't you take a brief moment to listen to, I dunno, one of the other bands I mentioned.

But then, I guess you'd listen to Boris's Feedbacker and say, "The '70s called, they want their Atomic Rooster back." And I'd roll my eyes.

And as I've said before. There certainly may be some good stuff out there, but I'm not hearing it via FM or my brief forays into alt radio.

There may have been some good music made in the '60s, but all I'm hearing is Pat Boone.

"It's a fact that the whole grunge phenomenon and the changes to the industry that came from it were the result of aggressive appropriation and marketing. You can argue this, but it's about like arguing that the Apollo missions never landed on the moon."

THERE WAS NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT THE BEATLES THEY JUST PLAYED ED SULLIVAN.

Hey, here's where you should have realized that, based on your parameters, there hasn't been any change to pop music since the Hot Fives, since every band that has been popular enough to change anything has also had a pretty concerted marketing push.

And then I'll roll my eyes, because arguing that Malcolm McLaren was more important than the band in the history of punk rock is the type of poncey, contrarian bullshit that's already played itself out a thousand times.
posted by klangklangston at 3:40 PM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


on that I will surely agree. Bring back the rock-clacking cavemen!
posted by mwhybark at 3:40 PM on September 24, 2008


um, oops. I was agreeing with dw upthread regarding Colin M.
posted by mwhybark at 3:42 PM on September 24, 2008


So, hey, Nevermind came out 17 years ago today...
posted by Sys Rq at 3:44 PM on September 24, 2008


dw: So, you're not critical of Nirvana, you're just critical of them being on a major label?

No, I'm critical of historic claims made about Nirvana that ignore the fact that they were the focus of an aggressive campaign of appropriation and marketing. That is, Nirvana were the figureheads of a branding campaign that was largely beyond their control, something that members of the band critiqued at the time. It seems to me to be rather odd to put the band on a pedestal, while ignoring the fact that they didn't feel comfortable with how they were being used in the movement. And by the time grunge reached middle America it was already a branded product just like the whole hair metal thing before.

dw: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is widely considered to be a post-rock masterpiece. I'm not a big fan, but it's something the critics consider to be "good" for experimental rock.

Perhaps the clips I've listened to don't give it justice. But while I'm hearing good quality work, I don't hear anything that's out of place from the last 20 years.

dw: Oh, you mean like on The Virginian?

No, I mean like on Fox Confessor in which many songs have a freeform lyrical structure. Virginian is pretty traditional.

dw: Oh, that's easy to knock down, since the Fiery Furnaces are squarely on that edge, and they're a brother-sister duo with Eleanor as the lead singer.

On a quick listen, cool group, will pop an album on my wishlist. However female vocalists still seem to be a small minority.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2008


I guess I do agree with you mostly, kalangklangston. BUT

since every band that has been popular enough to change anything has also had a pretty concerted marketing push

Oh, come on. Big Black? Minor Threat? Scratch Acid?
posted by mwhybark at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2008


"Oh, come on. Big Black? Minor Threat? Scratch Acid?"

Eh. Even at the height of their popularity, none of those bands inspired even half of the folks that Nirvana did. I mean, I love my Minor Threat albums, but I got into them after Kurt Cobain got me into Fugazi. Likewise, Big Black (I never really listened to much Scratch Acid, honestly.)

But I also don't think that the Butthole Surfers changed music all that much, and tend to subscribe to a belief that big acts doing things that are a little experimental often have a larger effect than little bands doing things that are a lot experimental. Timbaland has done more to make rap interesting than Dalek has (or MF Doom), simply by reach.

Which comes from a massive marketing push.

And which is even more evident when talking to folks who only get their music from brief forays into FM radio (unless that's WFMU).
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on September 24, 2008


I'm arguing facts. It's a fact that the whole grunge phenomenon and the changes to the industry that came from it were the result of aggressive appropriation and marketing.
I missed the part where this was established and why it's necessarily a bad thing if true. Just repeating it over and over, calling people names, and acting like a douche does not make it true.

No one is saying grunge wasn't aggressively marketed, but you have yet to establish the chicken-or-egg problem as a fact, nor convinced anyone they should actually care. Your position seems to be (correct me if I'm wrong) that any music that is mainstream is bad by definition. Please clarify.
posted by cj_ at 4:00 PM on September 24, 2008


every band that has been popular enough to change anything has also had a pretty concerted marketing push.

Exactly.

Also, people making the argument that marketing drives these things always place far too much power in the marketing people's hands. If marketing people had this power, then there would be no flops and every band on a major label would be as big as Nirvana was. Doesn't happen. You think the guys at the record companies didn't turn Snow into a giant multi-album platinum hit because they didn't feel like it?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:04 PM on September 24, 2008


Actually, it turned out that informers were a startlingly high percentage of the music-buying public.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on September 24, 2008


*licky-boom-booms-down*
posted by jonmc at 4:25 PM on September 24, 2008


I was there man. I watched the bands of that era. I watched MTV.

Nirvana was a great band. One of many.

To say that Nirvana changed popular music is ludicrous. Even to say that alternative music of the early 90s changed popular music is just dubious.

Nirvana was an 'alternative band' but there were heaps of others that owed nothing to Nirvana. As mentioned here the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, pretty much the whole Lollapalooza crowd.

If this post just said "Smells like Teen Spirit" was released 17 years ago ain't that something then this post would be filled with people reminiscing merrily with just a few snarkers.

Music fragmented at some point toward the end of when MTV determined music and it was at the late 80s early 90s. But to say it was due to Nirvana is akin to saying that the release of The Strokes Is This It led to the 'War on Terror'.

It wasn't just grunge. The rave scene and rap going mainstream had just as much to do with today's music, if not more, than grunge. Turn on MTV today and then look back the late 80s early 90s for influences and you might even come to the conclusion that MC Hammer was more important historically than Nirvana.
posted by sien at 4:47 PM on September 24, 2008


klangklangston: Hey, here's where you should have realized that, based on your parameters, there hasn't been any change to pop music since the Hot Fives, since every band that has been popular enough to change anything has also had a pretty concerted marketing push.

Well, I don't know where I've argued that there hasn't been any change to pop music. Certainly there has been change.

My argument is that at least in this case, there is a pretty clear and well-documented conflict between the marketing of Nirvana as the revolutionary fathers of grunge music, and Cobain's own assessment that Nirvana was just another garage punk band within a larger community of influence. I think it's pretty clear that especially Cobain really wasn't very comfortable with the pedestal of expectations that came with the hype.

cj_: Your position seems to be (correct me if I'm wrong) that any music that is mainstream is bad by definition. Please clarify.

No. There is nothing wrong with mainstream.

I think that some of the things that did turn out of the whole appropriation and exploitation of grunge was a bad thing. Over and over again in interviews, it's pretty clear that Cobain was a pretty modest guy and wanted to see a rich community of punk rock get broader exposure in the mainstream. What happened was the Nirvana turned into the superstars and Cobain the idol of a new youth culture.

Which is, IMO a critical difference between Sgt. Pepper and Nevermind. The Beatles were comfortable with their superstardom, were selling dolls and bags with their image, and knew they were changing pop music. Nevermind was just an album that ideally by association might sell well and bootstrap other regional bands into broader success. It's pretty clear that the revolution Nirvana got was not the one they wanted.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:19 PM on September 24, 2008


I've learned a painful lesson today. Reference Snow, even in jest, and you will get "Informer" stuck in your head.

Here's how you rinse it out.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


"My argument is that at least in this case, there is a pretty clear and well-documented conflict between the marketing of Nirvana as the revolutionary fathers of grunge music, and Cobain's own assessment that Nirvana was just another garage punk band within a larger community of influence."

Not a single person has claimed Nirvana were the "revolutionary fathers of grunge", or that they invented such a genre, or that they were the best in their field, or that they deserve more credit, or whatever else.

In fact, I would whole-heartedly agree that they were "just another garage punk band within a larger community". Except they struck a nerve, got really fucking huge, killed 80s rock, and are now arguably icons of a decade.
posted by kink at 5:36 PM on September 24, 2008


kink: Not a single person has claimed ...

What about "It was 17 years ago today, September 24, 1991, Nevermind hit the shelves and changed popular music forever."

or "I'm surprised how many of you don't understand how much Nirvana radically shifted the course of American popular music."

or "I don't count myself a Nirvana fan (or, for that matter, a Beatles fan) but it is clear that Nevermind sheared pop into Before and After the same way Sergeant Pepper did. "
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:51 PM on September 24, 2008


So many comments and nobody has mentioned "American Idiot" yet. What is wrong with you people?

I don't know if I can agree with the "changed popular music forever" bit, but "Nevermind" certainly changed everything for me.

I was a Beatles fan in the womb, but aside from that I can divide my life into five periods: Born in the U.S.A., Nevermind, The Colour and the Shape, Enema of the State, and American Idiot.

No, no, no. Stop right there.

I know you think those albums suck. But when I got them -- first on vinyl, then cassette, then CD, then mp3 -- they changed my life forever.

And really, what else matters?
posted by GatorDavid at 5:55 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those three quotes that KirkJobSluder pointed to just above? Britney Spears is laughing at them.

Alternating with crying hysterically, of course, but that's another matter.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:56 PM on September 24, 2008


You know, this whole debate over whether or not music is good if it's been heavily marketed was pretty entertaining when I used to buy vinyl records from a shop in the basement of a liquor store, from a guy who re-told the same story of how Glenn Danzig once spat in his face.

Today, it sounds like wank. "It wasn't REALLY that good, it was just marketed well." Do you honestly think there is some objective metric rule by which you can gauge such a statement? What are we going to talk about next, favorite colors?

Wank wank wank.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:02 PM on September 24, 2008


Even at the height of their popularity, none of those bands inspired even half of the folks that Nirvana did.

UM. Yeah, that is the point. Without those bands, what Nirvana was doing is impossible. David Yow, Scratch Acid, forms The Jesus Lizard with ex-Big Black folks. Steve Albini, leader of Big Black - possibly the American vector for LOUD quiet LOUD, depending on your perspective - produces In Utero, among MANY other records of the era. And Minor Threat? Without Minor Threat, no DC scene, ergo, no Dave Grohl, no emo, no thinking man's hardcore. No Nirvana, nu?

So what I'm getting at is "popular enough to change anything" <> "big marketing push." Those guys really did change things - they made Nirvana's impact possible.

...

I was there man. I watched the bands of that era. I watched MTV.

This is the single greatest thing anyone has contributed to this thread.

...
a guy who re-told the same story of how Glenn Danzig once spat in his face.


HAW! I once watched a friend dump her beer on Glenn because he was mocking my hairstyle! OOOOOH did he get mad. Ah, those were the days.
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2008


OOOOH did he get mad.

Glenn's an angry lil guy.

Also, I failed to mention that he spat in this guy's face because he approached Glenn after a show (during a tour when Danzig was promoting his first album with Johnny Christ) with a copy of "3 Hits from Hell" to be autographed. Glenn didn't recognize it, thought it was a bootleg, and spat in his face. Then he tried to take the EP out of his hands and smash it, but his stubby little legs couldn't catch the guy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:48 PM on September 24, 2008


mwhybark: I've always wanted to say that. Have you ever had one of those conversations with some hippie where you point out that well, the 60's was just an era and wasn't the universe changing thing they claim it was because they went to a protest, smoked something and shagged someone. And the conversation ends when they go back to 'I was there man'. Well. Now we can do it.
posted by sien at 6:49 PM on September 24, 2008


Also, WTF is Glenn Danzig doing mocking anyone's hair style? Back in the day, sure, he had that awesome devillock thing going on, but today, his hair looks like Wolverine: The Trucker Years.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:12 PM on September 24, 2008


Danzig needs a hug.
posted by Sailormom at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm listening to the Pixies because of this thread. Nirvana may have had an impact on what MTV played for the next few years, but these mentions of the Pixies reminded me how much I prefer listening to them.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:52 PM on September 24, 2008


Marisa: The mockery WAS back in the day, on the very first Samhain tour. They stayed at my house and we drank lots of cheap red wine.
posted by mwhybark at 8:02 PM on September 24, 2008


The mockery WAS back in the day, on the very first Samhain tour. They stayed at my house and we drank lots of cheap red wine.

Holy crap. I really did like Samhain. I heard them for the first time when November Coming Fire came out. Although I didn't like the huge walls of reverb at first, I grew to love that album.

Wine with Danzig. That's something else.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:18 PM on September 24, 2008


Marissa: You know, this whole debate over whether or not music is good if it's been heavily marketed ...

Nope, that's not really what's being debated. Pretty much everyone in this discussion agrees that Nirvana was good.

What this debate is really about is the superlative marketing bullshit that has been hitched to the Nirvana legacy. Personally, my bullshit detector starts to go off whenever anything for sale at the mall is touted as a "watershed" or "the voice of a generation." But hey, as long as it doesn't cause a murder, go for it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:17 PM on September 24, 2008


One of the greatest bands of all time. Would have been better if they played Peach Pit After Dark.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:19 PM on September 24, 2008


I was there man. I watched the bands of that era. I watched MTV ... Nirvana was an 'alternative band' but there were heaps of others that owed nothing to Nirvana. As mentioned here the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, pretty much the whole Lollapalooza crowd.

I was there, too. "Popular Music" in spring-summer (Post Gulf War 1) 1991 was like a kickass party wanting to erupt, but something essential was missing. The Chilis, Jane, Sonic Youth et al were like a bunch of 16-17 year olds who'd come to some supposedly wild party only to find the door locked. Nirvana were the shitfaced 13-14 year olds that stumbled up and kicked the fucking thing down.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 PM on September 24, 2008


U R HARDCORE

Or overeducated. Or whatever. I just don't see how three (or four, in this case) anthems could possibly 'change music forever'.

Show me a pop song with complex harmony in 7/8 or 5/4 that everyone on the planet falls in love with (a la Wonderwall) and we'll talk about 'forever'.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:11 AM on September 25, 2008


Ogg Throwingstick

Oh, I have that magic card. Tap one red, deal one damage to Tori.

Show me a pop song with complex harmony in 7/8 or 5/4 that everyone on the planet falls in love with (a la Wonderwall) and we'll talk about 'forever'.

Behold.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:07 AM on September 25, 2008


Did everyone really like Wonderwall? I thought Oasis was just for soccer hooligans with head injuries.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:11 AM on September 25, 2008


What a cool list! Cheers for that.

But, no: None of those songs is anywhere near being a #1 beloved-by-all anthem (like SLTS), and only a few of the symphonic works have 'complex harmonies'.

Unfortunately, the song 'Wonderwall' is still massive in the UK. It's like the fucking national anthem or something.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:20 AM on September 25, 2008


It was 17 years ago today, September 24, 1991, Nevermind hit the shelves and changed popular music forever.

The only asterisk I'd add to this statement is that, the way I remember September '91, everybody was still buzzing about Use Your Illusion (which had been released on Sep. 17). Nevermind took hold quickly, but it wasn't immediate—the timing was like being released a week after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We kids were still trying to figure out who Bob Guccione, Jr. was; it was another few weeks before we'd begin asking what "mulatto" meant.
posted by cribcage at 7:11 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Which is, IMO a critical difference between Sgt. Pepper and Nevermind. The Beatles were comfortable with their superstardom, were selling dolls and bags with their image, and knew they were changing pop music."

John Lennon wrote "Help!" in '65 about being uncomfortable with fame.

"UM. Yeah, that is the point. Without those bands, what Nirvana was doing is impossible. David Yow, Scratch Acid, forms The Jesus Lizard with ex-Big Black folks. Steve Albini, leader of Big Black - possibly the American vector for LOUD quiet LOUD, depending on your perspective - produces In Utero, among MANY other records of the era. And Minor Threat? Without Minor Threat, no DC scene, ergo, no Dave Grohl, no emo, no thinking man's hardcore. No Nirvana, nu?"

Disagree. Without Minor Threat, there's still Scream, Bad Brains, Government Issue, etc. Without Minor Threat, what, less straight edge? That doesn't make Nirvana impossible. Without Big Black, no Pixies? No. Maybe without Albini, no Doolittle, but even that's hard to argue.

Influences are inevitable destiny, and if Nirvana didn't release Nevermind, some other functionally-equivalent band would have.

"Personally, my bullshit detector starts to go off whenever anything for sale at the mall is touted as a "watershed" or "the voice of a generation.""

Which is why you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. The voice of a generation can't be mass marketed? Why? Because it affects the "authenticity" or some such bullshit? How the fuck does the "generation" get to hear this "voice" if it isn't broadly propagated? Nirvana was a watershed exactly because it got alternative music broad distribution into the malls. Suddenly, some guy in Apache Junction, AZ, with only a Coconuts in his local strip mall could hear shit that he'd previously had to order from the back of Maximum R&R. Bands like fucking Mudhoney got massive radio festival slots because of Nirvana. Much as I love Superfuzz, "Touch Me I'm Sick" wasn't going to get to Peoria without Nirvana.

"Or overeducated. Or whatever. I just don't see how three (or four, in this case) anthems could possibly 'change music forever'.

Show me a pop song with complex harmony in 7/8 or 5/4 that everyone on the planet falls in love with (a la Wonderwall) and we'll talk about 'forever'.
"

God, Chuck, just because you moved to England doesn't mean you have to rep for fucking Oasis.

As for complex time signatures, a la "Wonderwall," you might remember "Here Comes the Sun," or "All You Need Is Love." Or fucking Rush, or any of Frank Zappa's "hits."

But if you don't understand how a 4/4 anthem can change music forever, you may want to sequester yourself in "overeducated" threads and stay away from pop music altogether.

(ps. Listening to contemporary composed music doesn't make you over-educated; dismissing other music because that's what you prefer to listen to makes you a wanker.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:01 AM on September 25, 2008


What this debate is really about is the superlative marketing bullshit that has been hitched to the Nirvana legacy. Personally, my bullshit detector starts to go off whenever anything for sale at the mall is touted as a "watershed" or "the voice of a generation."

Again, how can you objectively gauge this? Seems like kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation - did Nirvana's legendary quality create the marketing machine, or did marketers try to sell Nirvana as legendary? Perhaps both? I personally don't recall hearing any talk of Cobain being the grunge Elvis until after his suicide, but it's hardly the point. If all a marketer needed to do in order to create a critical consensus of an act's legendary status was simply market said act as legendary, this would arguably be done for every single musician who signs a contract. We can argue the pros and cons of aggressive music marketting, but if a number of critics argue that Cobain was legendary, objecting by saying, "Nuh-uh, it was all marketing" is nigh on impossible to prove.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2008


Unfortunately, the song 'Wonderwall' is still massive in the UK. It's like the fucking national anthem or something.

Better Oasis than that fucking Bryan Adams Robin Hood tune.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2008


Without Minor Threat, there's still Scream, Bad Brains, Government Issue, etc. Without Minor Threat, what, less straight edge?

Well, Minor Threat was the platform that enabled Ian's whole deal (Dischord, strident DIY propagandizing, etc etc), and by extension stood as a model for creating a new audience and new places to play. I think Scream (Grohl's outfit, for a time) was also on Dischord, so that's where I'm coming from.

Albini, sure, it's debatable, but clearly Doolittle is a crucial record on the road to Nevermind.

WTR marketing Nirvana specifically, I can't say I remember any particular buildup to the record's release. In a general, vague way, I would say that people in Seattle were interested and kind of excited to see the band coming out on a big label. I would agree that the music, as was the case in general for bands that went national from here at the time, was very directly accessible to people who had never heard Big Black, or the Pixies, or Minor Threat.

In a discussion I'm having elsewhere on similar lines, some posters have noted that there's also a class thing going on with regard to Nirvana's popularity. Hell, Kurt directly discusses this on Nevermind, "In Bloom:"

And he's the one who likes all our pretty songs,
And he likes to sing along,
And he likes to shoot his gun,
But he don't know what it means.


That's the Wal-mart customer, right? No disrespect intended! What I'm getting at is that Nevermind reached American working-class kids because it was something that could be sold at Wal-mart. Whether or not it reached them specifically because of the marketing is a judgement call. That the music was in and of itself marketable is beyond question.
posted by mwhybark at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2008


"That's the Wal-mart customer, right? No disrespect intended! What I'm getting at is that Nevermind reached American working-class kids because it was something that could be sold at Wal-mart. Whether or not it reached them specifically because of the marketing is a judgement call. That the music was in and of itself marketable is beyond question."

Uh, actually that bit is about Kurt Cobain himself. It's more explicit in some of the live recordings, where he sings "He's the one who writes all our pretty songs."

"Well, Minor Threat was the platform that enabled Ian's whole deal (Dischord, strident DIY propagandizing, etc etc), and by extension stood as a model for creating a new audience and new places to play. I think Scream (Grohl's outfit, for a time) was also on Dischord, so that's where I'm coming from. "

But there were plenty of other folks who were doing similar things at the same time. Yeah, Scream was on Dischord (first LP on Dischord, I think), but they could have just as easily ended up on Touch and Go or some other DC label that would have stepped in if Dischord wasn't there. Strident DIY was the zeitgeist, though I'll totally grant that MacKaye was influential, but I'm always suspect of claims that equate influence with inevitability.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on September 25, 2008


What I'm getting at is that Nevermind reached American working-class kids because it was something that could be sold at Wal-mart.

In fact, Cobain allowed for an alterered, censored version of In Utero to be released specifically because Walmart and KMart wouldn't carry the original, his argument being that a lot of his fans couldn't get to record stores, living in rural areas where their sole access to music was Walmart.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:38 PM on September 25, 2008


Yeah, I was just reading the In Utero 33 1/3 last night, prompted by this thread. It was just the liners and song names that were changed, not the recording, according to Gillian, anyway.
posted by mwhybark at 3:15 PM on September 25, 2008


And oh yeah, another thing that came through in the In Utero book is how diffident Cobain himself was about the marketing and marketability of the material.

On the one hand, it seems pretty clear that he was burning with ambition to be a huge star, and on the other, that he was very conflicted about what it took to get to that place.

Gaar cites (separate) interviews where he both expresses a desire to be cited and recognized as a songwriter and declaims responsibility for the success of Nevermind, essentially saying the record succeeded because it was powerfully marketed, as klangklangston's been positing.

On the other hand, it seems pretty clear that the music for both records was created in a pretty organic fashion.

What else? Oh yeah, in that other forum an interesting observation that went by was that the commercial success of Nevermind also retroactively legitimized older punk-family-tree music for commercial uses, Buzzcocks for AARP or whatever.
posted by mwhybark at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2008


"Gaar cites (separate) interviews where he both expresses a desire to be cited and recognized as a songwriter and declaims responsibility for the success of Nevermind, essentially saying the record succeeded because it was powerfully marketed, as klangklangston's been positing."

I'm saying that it was massively successful because it was both a good album and one that was well-marketed. I think you need both to make a huge cultural impact.

(Hey, what's this other forum?)
posted by klangklangston at 4:03 PM on September 25, 2008


klangklangston: The voice of a generation can't be mass marketed? Why? Because it affects the "authenticity" or some such bullshit? How the fuck does the "generation" get to hear this "voice" if it isn't broadly propagated? Nirvana was a watershed exactly because it got alternative music broad distribution into the malls.

Well, gee, there is just so much wrong here that I don't know where to start. You are missing the point entirely.

Generational myths are created for one purpose, to sell you shit.

Nirvana wasn't "the voice of a generation." The very concept is as absurd as really thinking that Coke is the real thing, or Nike sportswear allows you to just do it. How can there be a single voice that cuts across nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion and social class?

So when MTV, VH1, Rolling Stone, pitchfork, etc., etc.. start saying that <band name here> was the "voice of a generation," a "watershed" or a bunch of other superlatives. When they start pushing the myth that the entire world revolved around a handful of artists from Aberdeen, Gary, Liverpool or Manchester for any length of time, "what are you selling?" is a reasonable question to ask.

I'm not a music snob, I don't care if you are into hair metal, Amy Grant, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Arvo Pärt or Nirvana. It's all good. (Note, don't assume I listen to all of the above.)

But when you cross the line from "<band name here> was cool, I liked them" to "<band name here> was the voice of a generation, they changed the world!" then you've crossed a critical line of reasonableness into the more cuckoo for cocoa puffs branch of fandom in my opinion.

Marissa: Again, how can you objectively gauge this?

How can you objectively gauge the claims that Nirvana was a legendary band? It should be one of the grand rules of internet discussions. If a band exists, someone will argue that they were legendary and changed the course of popular music forever.

My rather modest suggestion is that it's worthwhile to consider how something is being sold. I doubt that this would draw much debate if we were talking about New Kids on the Block or Britney Spears. But to make the suggestion that Nirvana were appropriated, packaged and marketed seems to draw a baffling debate.

klangklangston: I'm saying that it was massively successful because it was both a good album and one that was well-marketed. I think you need both to make a huge cultural impact.

Then I'm honestly baffled as to what your argument with me is really about, because I've made the exact same claim.

Oh wait, I'm pretty certain I have the bigger dick in this discussion, I keep it in my sock to be safe.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:17 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sock drawer that is.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:20 PM on September 25, 2008


"Well, gee, there is just so much wrong here that I don't know where to start. You are missing the point entirely.

Generational myths are created for one purpose, to sell you shit.
"

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for a Burma Shave

Generational myths are also created to give shape to a worldview, to narrate the stream of history. Generational myths are also created without a goal, by masses of people who all find, for whatever reason, that a book, or movie, or poem, or painting, or photograph or song resonates with them.

Under your construction, generational myths are always created outside of the generation that believes them, or through a corruption of that generation. Which is smug, self-satisfied cynical bullshit.

"How can there be a single voice that cuts across nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion and social class?"

By not taking a literal interpretation of "generation," and instead thinking of it as cohort, you obviate the need to have it cut across generation, nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, etc. Or do you think that when people talk about the Baby Boom generation, they mean everyone in the world born between '45 and '65? Or that the Lost Generation has no connotation beyond "born between 1890 and 1900" (Hemingway invented the term in order to sell us mojitos and beards)? By realizing that "generation" in US terms usually means the culture of the middle-to-upper class? I thought these caveats were pretty well implied by the historical usage of "generation" tags, and that you'd be media-savvy enough to not have them spelled out for you like a bumpkin.

"When they start pushing the myth that the entire world revolved around a handful of artists from Aberdeen, Gary, Liverpool or Manchester for any length of time, "what are you selling?" is a reasonable question to ask."

Good ol' ad hominem reasoning. If someone is trying to sell you anything, they must be wrong about all things they say.

"But when you cross the line from " was cool, I liked them" to " was the voice of a generation, they changed the world!" then you've crossed a critical line of reasonableness into the more cuckoo for cocoa puffs branch of fandom in my opinion."

Because no band ever changed the world? Hey, y'know what, The Beatles really did change how popular music is made, distributed and listened to. So did Kraftwerk. So did Sugarhill Gang. So did a fair hundred or so other bands, musicians and folks like producers, remixers and songwriters.

So while that may be your opinion, your opinion is wrong and evidences a lack of knowledge about pop music.

"How can you objectively gauge the claims that Nirvana was a legendary band? It should be one of the grand rules of internet discussions. If a band exists, someone will argue that they were legendary and changed the course of popular music forever."

Objectively gauge claims about "legendary" status? How about, after 17 years, their major-label debut still encourages claims that they changed the course of popular music? I mean, it's kind of a retarded question, when you think about it. Legendary doesn't mean that the band is well-known, or influential, or even good—it means that there are still people talking about them many years after their demise. Sonic's Rendezvous is a legendary Detroit band, who I wouldn't expect all that many people to know (though having Fred Smith as a bandleader was helpful). But people who are into Detroit rock are familiar with them. Nirvana, hell, even people who aren't into music are generally conversant regarding their career. That's pretty legendary. The number of folks who could remember the names of the guys in The Melvins is pretty small, comparatively. Hell, even the number of folks who can remember the names of the rest of the guys in Guns 'n' Roses after Slash and Axl is pretty low, compared to the number of folks who know Kurt, Krist and Dave.

That someone will argue for legendary status for any band doesn't mean that these bands aren't legendary, especially when you consider the context they're making their claims in. And Nirvana pretty clearly qualifies, despite your dumbass objections.

There's also someone on every board who will argue that the band isn't legendary because they don't know them, or don't know about them, or because it was all, like, marketing, man. Today, that dumbass is you!

"My rather modest suggestion is that it's worthwhile to consider how something is being sold. I doubt that this would draw much debate if we were talking about New Kids on the Block or Britney Spears. But to make the suggestion that Nirvana were appropriated, packaged and marketed seems to draw a baffling debate."

I realize that this is perhaps unfair to you, because you haven't had the pop crit rockism/popism debates burned into your consciousness. But then, no one said that you had to give clichéd opinions on Nirvana, so I don't feel too bad about this. It is worthwhile to consider how something is sold, but that selling is also part of the image and the art and the legend of an artist, not something that necessarily detracts from it. Stryper is legendary for being the Christian metal band who were brothers and wore stupid tights.

Further, the sticking point comes from assuming the primacy of "appropriated." That this debate is "baffling" to you shows your naiveté regarding music criticism, as it's been one that's been happening in earnest for at least, what, ten years now? And it's also clear that you don't actually know that much about the music—you only want to talk about the marketing. You want to sneer at those kids who bought Nirvana albums at the mall instead of recognizing what a change it was to be able to get Nirvana albums at the mall. If you had a more sophisticated vocabulary here, I'd have expected you to discuss "selling out," since that's the same basic debate here. And it's a stupid one, and one that's been hashed out a thousand times.

"Then I'm honestly baffled as to what your argument with me is really about, because I've made the exact same claim."

Um… That you keep trying to snidely say that Nirvana had no real effect on popular music, because they, like, bored you, and were marketed to kids at malls. Oh, and the laughable claims that Jack White is "experimental" and that rock music is just what you hear on the radio, and the half-dozen other nuggets of RONG that you manage to toss into every comment.

But hey, how 'bout you go work that dick you're so proud of?
posted by klangklangston at 5:39 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


other forum

Musical Family Tree, a Ning-based community mostly populated by folks with ties to music from the Hoosier state, where I grew up, give or take, and where that Samhain anecdote upthread took place.

But you maybe knew that already, kk! Hee!
posted by mwhybark at 6:09 PM on September 25, 2008


ARGH left the main link out!

MFT.
posted by mwhybark at 6:09 PM on September 25, 2008


HAW! Look at the dates on the old thread!
posted by mwhybark at 6:10 PM on September 25, 2008


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for a Burma Shave


That is rich!
posted by mwhybark at 6:12 PM on September 25, 2008


Come on now. Ginsberg never shaved.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:30 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Con permiso de kk:

http://www.cafepress.com/ginsburmashave.

This will clearly not end well, so act now. Products are still rendering.
posted by mwhybark at 5:15 PM on September 28, 2008


LAME preview in the all-products render.

Here's a better view:

http://www.cafepress.com/ginsburmashave.311437093.

May I also suggest the teddy bear?
posted by mwhybark at 5:21 PM on September 28, 2008


heh

I think I'd prefer to see these on signs on the side of the road. Can Cafe Press do that?
posted by klangklangston at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2008


Sort of, but not the way you are hoping:

http://www.cafepress.com/ginsburmashave.311437088.

I dropped a MeMail with notes on process; I actually worked and worked on getting it onto sign-shaped red blocks but the Ginsburgian line length is at war with the Burmashave five-signs-plus logo format.

I concur it would be teh funnay to see that actually fly by on a drive.
posted by mwhybark at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2008


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