April 6th, 2014
Found some time last night after a blue-sky reminder of the Cobain-suicide-anniversary, and being well-pulquedoed sat down – as I have a couple times a year the last two decades – to listen, deeply and alone, to Nirvana’s In Utero.
Some works last, others date fast as milk. Somehow this record endures – let’s put aside for the moment its dubious validation as farewell to the world, that the record is better because he really meant it – untouched by time, a third rail, bolt-pure electric sensation and feeling. It arcs perfectly, and what to me seems to rise from it more strongly than anything is integrity. What a very disturbed and angry person thought merited being said.
Fools who throw around this ‘loser’ catchphrasery (Sub Pop was kidding, not trying to mint a generational label) or call him a coward, engage in all the positive-thinking claptrap that refuses to see life for some people is unlivable, need to get out – and in – more. The only negative judgment against him really should be that he shot smack with his pregnant wife: I hope my sins amount to less.
But the record. The record. I’d long thought ‘Scentless Apprentice’ (based on Patrick Susskind’s novel Perfume) was the band’s best song, but that honor could equally go to ‘Rape Me’, ‘Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle’, ‘Dumb’, ‘Radio Friendly Unit-Shifter’ or ‘Tourette’s’.
It does him no good whatsoever that this testament will be heard generations hence. The help it offers is only ours, and exactly what punk was made to offer, that from the trash, the lost and sold and brutalized modern moment, that dignity, humanity, compassion and clarity are possible.
I imagine that in Seattle, more than anywhere last night – where so many drugs are required to get through the long dark spring – that people were gathered here and there, dour-faced or singing in unison in some transport or tribute. I think of one drunk-and-high night around the turn of the century at a poor houseparty, beer-and-pot, where half the gathering collected into the barren, dim living room to stand stunned into silence by the last side of Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West. I nearly forgot that house until some years later my business partner at the time bought and renovated it beyond recognition, still oppressive and poor-feeling though, under fresh paint. (I also ended up one night in those years at a high-class affair in the Cobain house, also renovated ugly and past any trace of what happened there.) My ex-partner and his family have moved on since. Our longtime mutual friend, a realtor, arranged the sale, her very last. The night the escrow cleared, she died of a heart attack. Two decades pass and almost nothing is the same. Still, we cling to the verities.