Words: Nick Ruskell
It is twenty-two years to the day that Kurt Cobain died. Twenty-two years since one of the most influential and era-defining musicians of his generation met an untimely end, aged just 27. In the time since his tragic suicide, musical empires – nu-metal, emo, pop-punk – have risen and fallen. Similarly important bands have fit entire careers into those years, forming, conquering the world, splitting (My Chemical Romance), and in some cases, reuniting (hi, Fall Out Boy). The world is completely different – only universities, the military and the über geeky actually used the internet for its most basic functions then, certainly nobody saw a future where it consumed our lives and lived in the pocket of every single person in a first world country.
And yet, even with all the noise that fills the modern world, and the countless records that have been released since Nirvana were an active working rock’n’roll band – and for some it’s naturally impossible to imagine them as a band who ever had news of new albums or tour announcements like a normal band – Kurt’s music still matters. And not in the holy-of-holies, sacred cow, can’t be touched kind of way the work of bands that ended in tragedy can mawkishly held up. But as explosive, raw, deeply emotional, highly-charged music that punches you in the gut, gives you a bear hug, or has a cup of tea and a meaningful chat with you depending on the song. Obviously, Kurt’s death will always hang over their name, but it’s a cloud frequently blown away by the velocity and power of Nirvana’s music.
As a 10-year-old lad, my conversion to rock and metal from seeing videos by Nirvana, Metallica, Ministry and Danzig on Beavis And Butt-Head was about a week old when Kurt died. Nirvana were never that active, touring, album releasing, festival headlining, more-to-offer band for me. I was too young to see Nirvana and the wave of dirty alt.rock bands that followed them taking over the world as it happened. But they blew my mind. I loved Metallica, Maiden and Megadeth already, but I wanted to play the guitar like that. Like Hendrix, Kurt played his axe, pulling at the strings, virtually breaking the neck from playing so hard, just pulling noise out of it. Kurt smashing his guitar at the end of the Smells Like Teen Spirit Video? Just as important as being able to play your instrument like a boss.
And that’s the essence of what made Nirvana so exciting, And even now when I listen to new bands – MCR, Bring Me The Horizon, Nails, Behemoth, even – that’s what I want. I want the excitement of an exploding petrol station forecourt. And thanks to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, that’s been entrenched in rock music as what makes it so exciting and powerful, ever since they first started shaking rock’n’roll and making the dead weight fall out. And long may that continue.
On March 1, 1994, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear played live with Nirvana for the very last time…
Deftones’ White Pony Pac-Man PC game has been given a lovely new Black Stallion update.