Grammys Preview: Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and the Death of Guy Rock
What Kurt Cobain and, later, Dave Grohl taught and most folks didn't hear until Napster gave away much of the music and Woodstock '99 made it very clear was that "rock" and, more importantly, pop music can't be an exclusionary club filled with angry boys. Cobain pointed to classic rock bombast such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith as influences, but he also loved Freddy Mercury's voice and some of the more nuanced touches of Queen. He got into the rougher portions of punk and followed Black Flag, Bad Brains and the Sex Pistols, but Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne also turned him on to Joe Strummer and The Clash. Perhaps most importantly, his tendencies toward big buzzing guitar and guttural noise were tempered by the melody and writing of David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Daniel Johnston and other indie and art-rock acts.
Cobain wasn't going to write a dance or electropop record in the days before his death, but he also didn't seem into sewing new patches on heshers' jean jackets and having piles of testosterone fling themselves at him from the mosh pit for the rest of his life. He was earnest in a way current acts just are and tend to take for granted. His song Sliver, which never made it to a full Nirvana album and was instead released on the compilation album Incesticide back in 1992, was basically just a story about about a trip to his grandparents' when he was a kid that was set to an extremely danceable bassline. Were it released today, it would be iTunes gold. Son Of A Gun off the same album was not only a cover by Scottish guy/girl duo The Vaselines, but may be the bounciest song of the grunge era.
Without making a concerted effort to do so, Cobain was being as inclusionary as he could within the confines of his genre. It's something you hear echoes of in Jack White's work and in his previous albums with the White Stripes and it's something the Black Keys have reached for in their own blues-based fuzz rock and their collaborations with artists from various genres.
Inclusion is the common thread. It's what our Rocco Pendola hinted at when discussing how Pandora (P) could further bridge the divide between artists and fans . It's what our Carlton Wilkinson is hinting at when he suggests that music is now less of a commodity and more of a collective social experience .
More importantly, it was what Judd Apatow was getting at in his film This Is 40 . At one point, the head of a nostalgia record label played by Paul Rudd hears his wife and kids listening to Nicki Minaj and counters by playing Alice In Chains' Rooster, a song about a marginalized, PTSD-addled Vietnam vet. His wife, Leslie Mann, responds by noting "You're the only one in this room that's happy," leaving Rudd to lament being the only male in the family.