Posts Tagged ‘Nirvana’

You can recognize a Nirvana song from miles away. Their music was the anthem for an entire generation, and a founder of the grunge movement. Their lyrics were filled with anger, depression, apathy, self-deprecation; their sound was heavy, distorted and loud; themes often revolved around drugs and escapism. That may not seem appealing to some, but for a teen growing up  in the 90s, it was everything.

When you turned on a Nirvana album, you knew what you were getting yourself into. They presented an alternative to mainstream, a change from the barrage of leftover 80s rock and current 90s pop. They were there for you when you needed them, standing by your side; I mean who doesn’t want to mosh and head bang when they’re in a bad mood?

Recently, after days of rumblings, every 90s adolescent had a dream come true: a Nirvana reunion. Dave Grohl reprised his role on guitar, Krist Novoselic returned to play bass, Pat Smear (touring guitarist for Nirvana) played guitar, and they borrowed the vocal stylings of both Joan Jett and John McCauley (of the band Deer Tick.)

In  honour of this nostalgic event, here are the best Nirvana tracks.

In Bloom, Nevermind, 1991

 

Dumb, In Utero, 1993

 

Man Who Sold the World, MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994 (David Bowie cover)

 

Drain You, Nevermind, 1991

 

About A Girl, Bleach, 1989

 

You Know You’re Right, Nirvana, 2002

 

Lithium, Nevermind, 1991

 

Where Did You Sleep Last Night, MTV Unplugged in New York, 1994 (Lead Belly/Mark Lanegan cover)

 

All Apologies, In Utero, 1993

 

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nevermind, 1991

 

 

 

 

 

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In this part of the Live Series, I take a look at the concerts that got away. Those shows that somehow eluded me, and now I’ll always be left in the world of what could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve been.

Michael Jackson

This is obvious. I always assumed I would see him, but alas.

Oasis

There is something so comforting about these guys. I have many memories attached to their music, and their classic sound is filled with nostalgia, making them feel like lifelong friends. The familiarity in their music never fails to warm me up inside. Yet, between 1994 and 2008, they played 12 live shows in Toronto, and I couldn’t find the time in my busy, self-absorbed life, to go see them live. They broke up in 2009, and I will never forgive myself for missing out on something that should’ve happened.

Coldplay

I’ll start right away with admitting that I have seen Coldplay live. Once in either 2006 or 2008 for either the X&Y or Viva La Vida tour; once accidentally in 2011 at Lollapalooza. Here’s the thing: everything Coldplay did post- X&Y isn’t worth listening to. That’s when they sold out, changed their sound to appeal to the masses, and lost what truly made them unique, truly made them Coldplay. I didn’t really fall for them until their sophomore album A Rush of Blood to the Head, released August 2002. In September 2002, they breezed through Toronto, and I was offered a free ticket. I could’ve seen them at their peak, but like an idiot, I declined. By October 2002, I was obsessed with them, and I haven’t stopped kicking myself since.

Nirvana

Also, an obvious one. They played such a huge role in my musical upbringing, my childhood/adolescence, my pre-teen angst. Since their career was short-lived due to Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, I always wonder how amazing it would’ve been to witness them live. They only came to Toronto 3 times between 1990 and 1993; the Nevermind tour happened at the Opera House. Can you even imagine how historic that would’ve been?

Queen

Queen played a total of 7 live shows in Toronto from 1977-1982, making it impossible for me to have ever attended. But man, it would’ve been a dream. Their music alone would be reason enough to go, but with Freddie Mercury on the mic, his showmanship on display, and the band’s music live, all amongst a giant crowd: that would’ve been music at its best.

A few days ago, I sat through the 2-hour documentary dissection of Kurt Cobain’s life. The ex-lead singer of 90s grunge band Nirvana, rose to fame, defined a generation, then took his own life. Directed by Brett Morgen, and executive produced by Cobain’s daughter, Francis Bean, Montage of Heck, was full of surprises and not at all what I expected.

The film took a real in-depth look at Cobain’s life, using his old journals, artwork, home videos and the like to paint a very real picture of his tumultuous life. To most people, Kurt Cobain was Nirvana, they were one in the same, but Morgen did a great job of keeping this all about Cobain, while still making Nirvana and his music, footage of earlier gigs and video shoots, an important part of it.

Unlike most documentaries, there wasn’t a lot of narration, or extra information added between takes from the movie makers themselves. They interviewed his mom, dad, stepmom, ex-girlfriend, sister but very superficially. Of course ex-wife Courteny Love made an appearance; Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic offered some insight into Cobain’s mind, and even teared up during the interview. Drummer Dave Grohl was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of audio of Cobain himself talking and telling stories taken from previous interviews, and it felt like he was talking to us.

There was a lot going on at once in certain parts of the film; like sensory overload. Loud images, graphic images, noises, They showed parts of his journals growing up that he kept; words of alienation, loneliness, hate, rage flew across the screen, animated, as though Cobain himself was writing them in that moment, not 25 years ago. Violent figures, distorted drawings, popped up intermittently with no warning, and often seemingly no reason. It felt like you were inside Cobain’s troubled mind.

What was most shocking were the home movies that he and Love made. An extremely invasive insight into their most personal moments. You don’t see a musical genius on screen, but a struggling, confused, unloved kid who didn’t know how to cope with people finally paying attention to him. It was them horsing around, smoking, clearly high on something. Love was nude in more than half of it, prancing around. As a fan, it was really hard to watch. I wanted to remember him as the guy who sang “All Apologies” unplugged, not the guy whose body was deteriorating, while he and his drug-addicted wife tried to raise a newborn.

There was a lot of emphasis on how Cobain was always doing something creative. He just had to write in his journals, he just had to make music, it was the only way he knew how to feel anything. He also loved performing live, even when it sometimes made him sick. That need to express oneself isn’t lost on me, and it made me wonder about the whole idea of musical genius. Whether you like Nirvana’s music or not, you have to at least respect that Cobain’s writing was phenomenal, as dark as it may have been. He died at 27 years old.

Cobain was ignored as a child, likely suffered some sort of mental illness, was addicted to heroin, but was also a fantastic musician. I’ve always wondered if certain artists need/use that struggle to create. Like maybe if he had a happier childhood, he’d have no reason to drown himself in music. What if all his issues were actually precursors to his genius? Or those who believe in a higher power would say he died so young because he had nothing left to give. His impact on the universe was already made, and he had nothing left in him.

I don’t recommend the film for those faint of heart, because there are a lot of disturbing images; not just of him, but of things he wrote, things he drew. The lack of narration made it challenging to put the facts together, like you’re supposed to interpret everything you were seeing your own way; except there was just too much going on. As a fan, I now have a completely different idea of who Kurt Cobain was, and I’m not sure I’m okay with that. Montage of Heck is the perfect title for this film because it really was a mish-mash of Kurt Cobain’s mind, his life, and his chaos, .