If you are of certain age, specifically mine, then there is one album, no, one song that defines your coming of age. Hello, hello, hello, hello. We were a little sleepy with the post cold war bliss. We needed an alarm clock to go off. And it did. It was Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana. Good lord.
Load up on guns. Bring your friends. For an older cohort of Generation X, the song of the moment is REM’s slightly trite ‘End Of The World As We Know It.’ And that’s fine. But it doesn’t capture the current debacle. If you are approximately 45 years old, God that that sounds weird to type, then Nirvana was a revelation. It was music we didn’t know could exist.
The 1980s, in which we grew up, was not exactly a fantastic decade for rock. There were exceptions. Guns and Roses blazed, and for the more acute music fan, X made its waves. But mostly it was a blessed and synthesized age that grew us up. Nirvana was different. It got it’s own label: Grunge. Flannel shirts and drugs and not giving a…well you know.
Most of us had never heard anything like it. Maybe some of the death metal kids, but not exactly. We didn’t know guitars could be angry. We didn’t know they could make us want to cut ourselves just to feel something. But they can. The anger in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is extraordinary. All of us kids of divorced parents who left us to our own devices, and I don’t mean screens, tapped into Kurt’s despair like we were milking a maple tree.
“Acting stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us.” Is this not the order of the day? I can’t leave my house because I might spread the communist virus to my very nice, patriotic, and older neighbors. But I’m going to be stupid. Am I going to infect other people? No. Am I going to spend hours listening to Morrissey and Nirvana and get nothing done? Yes. Yes, I am going to do that.
There will be macaroni and cheese and hot dogs involved. Some re-reading of Kant. But mostly I will blare Nirvana and I advise you to do the same. Head bang, pretend you’re in a mosh pit that is now illegal.
I remember when Cobain died in 1994. The most popular rock star in the world blew his head off. At least the Boomers lost their heroes to overdoses. No, Gen X had to watch its brightest star extinguish itself. The dude had everything and offed himself? What hope did we have? I think what we had was the idea that things and fame pale in comparison to life. For most of us anyway.
We’re still alive, kids. Locked in our houses? OK. Pump up the volume on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and headbang. This is my best advice. The great lost genius Cobain didn’t know he was a making a cure for coronavirus, but he did. Remember the smaller more concise moments of the song, but don’t forget to rage.
We can’t leave our houses, we have to assume we are a deadly contagion. Whatever, nevermind.
Here you go.