Forward Thinking: Bad fashion, great music

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Kurt Cobain and Nirvana fans will have a big year celebrating the 20th birthday of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'. Photo / Supplied
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana fans will have a big year celebrating the 20th birthday of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'. Photo / Supplied

It's a big year for grunge. Not just because two of grunge music's godfathers have gone all George Formby on us, with Eddie Vedder just releasing a ukulele album and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell coming here to play his most famous songs acoustically.

Nor is it because Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters have come up with their best album yet.

It's a big year because blokes (and a few ladies) like me will be cracking out their favourite flannel shirt (the tattier the better), their lumber jack-style pants, and throwing on a cardy a la Kurt Cobain, to celebrate the 20th birthday of Nirvana's Nevermind, which was released on September 24, 1991.

But more than that, it's also the anniversary of a handful of other seminal albums from the grunge heyday, including Pearl Jam's Ten, the self-titled album from Temple of the Dog (that's Cornell and members of Pearl Jam, which includes the Cornell-Vedder duet on Hunger Strike), and Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger.

So, in remembrance of this momentous anniversary - in my musical life anyway - I plan on doing a fair bit of jumping around obnoxiously like I used to when Smells Like Teen Spirit and Rusty Cage came on back in the day.

Actually, I think I spent most of the time playing air guitar to the latter so tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I am Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil. Widdle, widdle, widdle, wah.

I know I'll probably look like a silly old fool but my little girl is still young enough to happily jump around like an idiot with me, so there.

In fact, on second thoughts maybe I'll forget revisiting the sloppy fashion trends of the era and stick with my grown-up gears - and besides, I wash my hair these days.

But seriously, what did Nevermind and these other great records mean - and do they still have a lasting impact today? Short answer: hell yeah.

They do for me anyway, because for a reasonably fleeting musical fad (by that I mean the years when the truly great grunge records were coming out, in the late 80s/early 90s), the songs from the era sound remarkably timeless, especially those on Nevermind and Badmotorfinger (although if you ask me the latter is not strictly grunge and more full-tilt mainstream heavy metal at its brutal best).

And as Cornell so rightly says in this interview, it sure doesn't feel - or sound - like it's 20 years old. Or maybe that's just him and me trying to make ourselves feel younger.

Whatever, it's hard to find another rock song - or any song for that matter - from the last 20 years that kicks arse as immediately and intensely as Teen Spirit and Breed, or Jesus Christ Pose and Rusty Cage.

While there was the tender side to grunge - Come As You Are and Jeremy - it was at its best when it incited a mental and physical riot in your head, man.

This music (admittedly helped along and influenced by the likes of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, and hardcore punk bands) was straightforward, raw, and beautifully heavy.

It gave young guys and girls (ah yes, the glory days) the liberty to jump around and dance to rock 'n' roll again. And that was far better for your brain cells than standing there banging your head in mid-air - or overdosing on hair spray as you styled your hair like Bret Michaels of Poison.

Best of all though, grunge was a time when cool music hit the big time - and let's face it, that hasn't happened since.


- NZ Herald

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