Sunday, March 07, 2010

I don't care what you think, Unless it is about me

I was just scanning Twitter updates on the Oscars, and because Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick were on the broadcast tonight for a memorial about John Hughes, who died this past year (a few days after Michael Jackson in fact...remember him?), I got to thinking. I didn't really mourn either one of them when they croaked, for complex personal and aesthetic reasons that are too burdensome (and tiresome) to go into here, but the "mourning concept" is too rich a scab for any writer to leave unpicked, and so I went picking.

I wrote a piece for Hit It Or Quit It a long time ago about John Hughes and growing up in Chicagoland in the 1980's (with cameos from my junior high school choir, Ronald Reagan, my grandmother, global thermonuclear war and Tears For Fears) that I'm really very proud of. But, I couldn't find that article on the internet anywhere, and the death of hard-drives past seems to have lost it to the mists of history. Instead, I found something I wrote for a thing my friend Adam Gnade did about "Who could possibly Be The Next Nirvana"...and I thought I'd share. It's only on the Jimmy Eat World Press page these days, of all places, which seems ironically significant somehow. This piece was written just before and published, apparently, on 9/11/2001, which throws any irony contained in what I wrote into overdrive, especially when it comes to the end of eras, epochs, and corresponding aesthetic bookmarks. 9/11 was the true end of the Nirvana era, I think, although it don't truly know how to qualify that. It didn't happen a day before that, is all I know. Here is the piece, written when I was 27 (note the reference to Insound within, and take all of this with a throat-blocking grain of salt)...

Adam, after examining this question from a myriad of angles, I have decided that Nirvana was actually indie rock's Nirvana, if you look closely. Uh, that was too easy a quip. I'm not trying to be a snot here, Adam ... honest. I'll try again, even though I'm not sure what you are asking. Are you asking if a band "we" (the supposed underground) can respect will ever top the charts again and who that band might be? Since I'm not sure, I'll try to answer all of the questions in my head right now by not answering any of the questions you asked. *Cough*. You'll see.

Back to Nirvana for a second. An interesting case they were, no? They radiated something ... something ... something. Too bad Kurt Cobain gave me (and a few million or so others) a specific, basic feeling I could seemingly only get from him. Too bad I can't remember right now what that feeling was, exactly. Something mighty wicked, something smack between ultimate fun and a crushing sickness where our burdened true hearts too often live. They spoke my language and then they gave me a vegemite sandwich. Thanks, guys! Too bad they don't exist anymore, ain't it? Those Nirvana boys. I really miss their kind around these parts. They always were a special case. Looking back, I keep thinking that Nirvana was like a strike of lightning that flashed out of the sky and touched earth for a micro-second, burning our retinas so that we didn't really see them until the very micro-seconds after they was gone. Can something that potent strike twice?

Were Pearl Jam smart (or unethical) in using MTV and Lollapalooza to break their first record, and then turning right around and rabidly dumping the "big rock" concepts of videos and high $$ tours (once they had an audience in the mazillions to buy their records and pay for those tix, o' course)? They seemingly couldn't abide the ethical quandary their own band presented, which is typical to rock and roll. Of course, by KNOWINGLY fudging most of the old indie/mainstream lines they made millions! A genius tactic that was pillaged by countless bands, who hid their guilt in the judge's robe of success. Rage Against the Machine very nearly did the same thing. In fact, Eddie Vedder got to keep all of his cake and is still eating it, although his portion keeps getting smaller every year. Now all Pearl Jam really has left to do is fade away. Nirvana rather famously burned out instead of fading away and became legends in the process, which made them a far different animal from Pearl Jam, who are just a band. We can get a Pearl Jam anywhere. A dime a fucking dozen. Where do the Nirvanas really come from? Do they come from the primordial soup of indie rock or somewhere in our collective will?

Back to topic, which was who will be the "next" Nirvana, not a reminiscence on the old one that already came and left. Who will come busting out from the underground, whip the heads of the youth with righteous rage and set cities on flame with rock and roll? I think the whole point is dishearteningly moot right now. As far as the personal universe of the "individual listener" is concerned (as opposed to the business interests of labels or the aesthetic interests of artists themselves, two subjects the 'zine world and other rock critics stupidly focus on), the underground and mainstream just aren't that different these days, when it comes to what listeners are looking for, and have always been looking for: a good groove and a steaming heap of self-pity. Mainstream and underground alike, that is what rock music provides. Even the sense of celebration in love songs is based on self-pity ...I mean, do you hear that brand new beat? Oooh, I love you, baby. Let's get it on! Look at those hip-huggers. Whoo! The singer sounds so happy. Am I really feeling this good? As good as he is? I'm not, am I? No. I'm dancing to this and smiling, but I feel kind of bad. Songs sing just their stupid selves, after all, unless they and their makers wipe the old dross away on an epic scale. Or, as a great poet much more succinctly said, in the lines of his own dross-wiping hit song, "oh well, whatever, nevermind."

I'm not sure they ever really were that different, our old rival teams the underground and mainstream, despite what we want to think. Rockers get laid and rockers get paid, and we listen in to a little bit of the transaction. Or, they don't and we won't. Or they don't and we do anyway 'cause they rock regardless and that failure endears them to us. Oh, well. Whatever. Nevermind. You and me reading Insound WANT the mainstream and the underground to be on a different track, so we make up differences at all hours and therefore keep our brains zooming ahead in the passing lane of the highway instead of in the drudged up traffic jam where, if we look closely, At The Drive-In, Linkin Park, Sum 41, the Get Up Kids and the Strokes are riding in the backseat of a (very) moldy lemon right next to us, sharing secrets, smiles and jokes, and having a fine time with the multitude.

The kids that are watching MTV right now, even the ones who have no idea why they're looking there and what they're looking for outside of bouncing boobies and commercials for skin care products and blazing beats, those who come across the Get Up Kids and major-label punk and post-emo balderdash by accident, these kids are looking for the very same things as the hipster hordes packing Brownie's and the Empty Bottle and Meow Meow and CMJ and Plea for Peace every night, working at college radio when they can and doing zines on the weekends. And these two worlds are colliding together a bit too often right now, meaning that the Cobain big bang is too recent, I think, and the time since "creation" has been too short. Lightning and big bangs! Sounds absolutely primordial, doesn't it? Like we're just starting on the beginning of this road? Don't despair, friends. There is a Republican idiot mugging for cameras in the White House, lots of rock bands are wearing eyeliner and playing droopy keyboards, and the term "Star Wars sequel" ain't just referring to a movie anymore. Does it sound like any other decade you remember? Depends how old you are, I suppose, but I think you'll agree that we got a long time to go before the worm turns. So excuse me if I refrain from speculating on who or when, exactly, the next Nirvana might come.

Right now, we've got to keep our shit close to the fucking vest. We've got to wait for our Minor Threat and our Replacements and our Husker Du and our Mission of Burma and our Butthole Surfers before another Nirvana comes along. Or, maybe I'm wrong and rock bands will never pass this dim vale again, and "Nirvana" next time will be a twenty-one year old kid from Brooklyn with two CD's; "Nevermind" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready To Die." Maybe Gang Starr made Nirvana obsolete when they were still around. Shit, I dunno. You probably already think Radiohead is the next Nirvana, and are tired of reading this senseless monkey babble. We're all wrong and we're all right, because the underground has no group soul. Only all of us.

No comments: