Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"Better to burn-out than fade away..."

I could have written a piece for the twentieth year since Kurt Cobain killed himself. I have no time for the debate over whether or not Cobain did kill himself. I think it's much more important that we remember Cobain's work and not his death. Especially, as the man's suicide note stated "It's better to burn-out than fade away" and there may be something in that. In regards to mortality we shouldn't despair so much, finite lives make their mark and in the case of great artists they have their own piece of eternity. For the twentieth anniversary of Nevermind's release I posted an article (see extract below) drawing upon Fred Pfeil's observations of Kurt Cobain's swipes against repressive masculinity.

The example of choice is the music video of In Bloom in which the band are introduced on an Ed Sullivan-esque TV show as "three fine young men from Seattle" complete with combed hair and matching sports coats. The video is shot in grainy black-and-white to give it the feel of the early 60s, the days before there was such a thing as MTV, Heavy Metal or Punk Rock never mind Grunge.  The effect is a Brechtian distance, the verfremdungseffekt, the point of which was to encourage the audience to take a critical view of the events on stage. So the trio bob about cheerfully as the crowd of pubescent girls get all hysterical as the quiet opening line stands incongruous to the scene "Sell kids for food, weather changes moods". The immediate subject of mockery is the "one" who "knows all our pretty songs", who likes to sing along and shoot his gun but "knows not what it means"; later adding "We can have some more, nature is a whore". The position to be ridiculed is that to comprehend these lyrics is to "shoot a gun", e.g. to possess a phallus.

My anarchist buddy Ted says I should've brought up the fact that the songs Polly and Rape Me were really about highlighting atrocious violence towards women. Originally, the two tracks were to be paired together, played back-to-back, in memory of a teenage girl, who was kidnapped, raped, and tortured. Fortunately, the girl escaped and the rapist Gerald Friend was arrested and is currently rotting in prison. Far from being works celebrating violence against women, as they have been confused for in the past, the songs are very much anti-rape and ultimately life-affirmative.

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