Kurt Cobain killed himself, and grunge, 18 years ago today. So what?

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Yeah, yeah, I know, today’s the 18-year anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. We’re all supposed to be wallowing in depressing reminiscences, etc., etc., but really, I can’t register much of anything at all.

I had a brief fling with Nirvana within a couple weeks of Nevermind coming out and had pretty much burned out on it when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was impossible to escape the following summer. That’s what Nirvana is to me: One of those “I found them first” bands. Yeah, that’s right, it’s likely I was listening to them months before anyone else around was … and you’re so jealous.

There was that strange period when I was a teen where it wasn’t how obscure the bands I was listening to were, it was just the fact that I got to them first! I revelled in my ability to “find” new music many months before anyone else would, thinking that it actually meant something to the world, as if it indicated some divine ability to determine the Next Big Thing. What it really meant was that I simply had an ear for what was catchy, but my attention span didn’t match it.

I traded Nevermind in the local record shop right about the time “Spirit” landed in the top of the charts. I’d listened to it quite a bit at first, enjoying the “for the love of rocking out” freedom the band took such delight in, but Nirvana, simply put, wasn’t my kind of thing. While I appreciate a great, simple chord progression and brilliantly catchy choruses, the likes of which were plastered all over Nevermind, I never got past the feeling that it was all just too easy, too simple, too watered down. Watered down from what, I don’t know.

It was a feeling that grew with each spin of the CD until I eventually couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t take Kurt’s helpless howling rasp. I just couldn’t take any of it anymore, and hearing it blaring from every car stereo on every street, every day killed off any desire I would ever have to listen to the band again. I traded it in. I don’t even know what I bought in its place. I traded it in and left it for someone else to come along and get sick of.

Of course, I expected that eventually the world would get sick of Nirvana and the whole scene. I found worthwhile bands in the grunge movement — Pearl Jam is still a favorite, while others like Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and a few others were more “of the moment” types — even while the sub-genre was slowly destroying itself. I lent a half-interested ear to a friend’s copy of Nirvana’s In Utero, but knew there was nothing left there for me.

Kurt’s suicide put a final nail in the coffin of grunge, as if fans simply had to turn away from the music because it was too painful to face in light of his demise. While it came as no real surprise — Kurt Cobain, suicidal? No! — it was as fitting an end as one could imagine to both the band and the genre they’d come to represent.

Without that sudden, horrible death, what would have become of Nirvana? They’d have eventually petered out, becoming hollow shells of what they had been. Who knows if Dave Grohl would have wound up starting the clearly superior Foo Fighters?

Is it wrong to be thankful that something good came out of something so horrible and sad? Probably not. Is it wrong to be thankful that something horrible and sad happened in order for something good to come to life? I’m still torn on that question.

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