J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Monday, April 05, 2004

(cross post with notes from underground.)

So, where were you ten years ago today? Do you remember what you were doing when you found out? Do you remember what you felt? Or if you cared?

I was 12 years old, going on 13 in August, and as best as I can remember (since my full dive into music was still a year or less away) I was on a boy scout camping trip. I had brought my headphone walkman and was listening to either 95.1 The Edge (before it became Kiss 95.1 - this is all out of my Charlotte, mind you - I'm from Concord, a smaller town right outside of that city) or 106.5 The End; big commercial stations both. And upon listening, although I wasn't sure precisely what was going on, they were discussing suicide and what people can do to help those they think might be considering it and so forth. But I'm fairly sure that was the night his body was discovered.

As much as I was into Nirvana's music as a middle school and high school student, really only two of their albums have stayed the wear of time for me: In Utero and Unplugged in New York. Even the inarguably important Nevermind has lost its pull for me over the years. Although I still find "On a Plain" to be one of the best songs Cobain wrote in his lifetime, containing, as it does, one of the truest examples of Kurt's unabashed love of the Pixies. But the glossy, Butch Vig production leaves one feeling as if you're listening to one big project instead of a group of individualized songs, a feeling I don't receive from In Utero or Unplugged in New York. All this isn't to say that I in any way doubt the album's importance to the shift in focus of American rock music around 1991, but I definitely don't think it stands at that point alone. Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted, Primal Scream's Screamadelica and Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque, all released in that same year, were at least as important in establishing the shape of rock to come over the next five to thirteen years. Ironically enough, it has been the dogmatically-assumed "non-conformity" sound of Cobain's writing that has shaped commercial radio for the most part during that span of time, for better or for worse.

And all this just brings us back to the same question:

Where were you the day the music died?

Addendum: In retrospect, as important as all those other 1991 albums were, I was a negligent music historian to forget to mention My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. The impact that that record had on 'alternative' music in the 90s all the way up until today (and still going strong) is absolutely incalculable.

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