Today marks twenty three years since the tragic suicide of Kurt Donald Cobain. Kurt’s brain child, a small garage band out of a Seattle named Nirvana consisting of two friends Aaron Burckhard and Krist Novoselic, with Dave Grohl joining the mix shortly after, were to become a landmark icon in contemporary music recognised the world over as the voice of a generation and the torchbearers for the re-birth of guitar music. Kurt’s simplistic and bare bones approach to song writing partnered up with blistering guitars, tribal drums and throat shredding singing became the soundtrack to legions of rock fans throughout the nineteen nineties and the impact and legacy of the band has never wavered.
Like many millennials who were interested in music from an early age I would listen to whichever of my parents records were lying around the house, though the only music I can remember capturing my attention as a kid were Queens Greatest Hits and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers’. Around the time of my ninth or tenth birthday through one way or another I was introduced to two landmark records in my life, Guns N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”, and Nirvanas “Nevermind”. These two albums floored me from my first listen, especially Nevermind. At such a young and impressionable age still discovering the joys of music I was blown away by how a record was able to sound so furious, dangerous and visceral. Nothing had ever sounded so aggressive yet contained, it felt like a rabid dog trying to break out of a cage. I would spend hours and hours holed up in my bedroom for years to come trying to work out the riffs and chord patterns for classics like Lithium, In Bloom and Come As You Are, and I’m sure this story could be told over time and time again by so many like me who were lucky enough to be exposed to Nevermind in their youth.
The band became one that always found its way into my day to day listening, even more so in my early teens when I discovered “In Utero” and became fascinated, borderline obsessed, with Kurt’s talent as an artist and wordsmith a second time over. Close friendships I hold to this day as well as my first experiences of playing in a band were born over a mutual love for Nirvana and the Foo Fighters in my early days of High School, and sure enough I am amongst many who can guiltily confess to butchering a Smells like Teen Spirit cover at some local talent show, we’ve all been there. As my music tastes altered, matured and branched out, my opinions on the music of Nirvana and Kurt himself have never altered; they remained a constant in what I knew and loved amongst rock bands. Their songs were honest, pure, chaotic, raucous and above all else, so damn catchy. “What you see is what you get” couldn’t be a more fitting description when discussing Cobain’s music, his perfect sonic concoction of mesmerising pop hooks bathed in distortion and the thunderous crash of cymbals is a formula that has been repeated by long haired, baggy jumper wearing, Seattle impostors for decades since.
I hold Nirvana’s music in the same realm as the Beatles or the Stones; they’re one of those bands that have just always been there, timeless, legendary, true game changers of modern music. They broke a mould much like the Pixies, The Smiths, Hendrix and Joy Division just to name a few who came before them. Sadly for the majority of his life Kurt had his demons, and ultimately was not able to face them, his growing unrest with the media and his portrayal as a “rock star” in the eyes of society was simply not what he envisioned for himself. He was an honest artist who wanted to create music solely to express what he had to say to the world, not to rake in the benefits of fame. Though I, as well as many others, are forever thankful that his legacy is left behind. So that it can inspire, enthuse and mould the musical minds of so many artists yet to come who aspire to pick up the torch from where he left off twenty three years ago.
–Words by Gavin Owen