Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #4

'Smells Like Teen Spirit' - Nirvana

"Here we are now, entertain us"

September 1991, and this changed absolutely EVERYTHING. It may be an oft-echoed cliche, but behind every cliche lies at least a grain of truth. A few listens to Nirvana's debut single on a major label, and that was it. The venerable chronicler of Seattle Everitt True, of course, would maintain that the city's scene had peaked in 1988 and 1989, and that by 1991 it was sterile if not comatose or even half-dead. Not for me - this was the shot in the arm I'd unknowingly been waiting for.

The effects were felt almost overnight. It seemed no longer possible for music to be a neatly compartmentalised part of my life, something in which I could take a passing interest from time to time. No, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' marked the beginnings of a serious obsession which would colonise and monopolise my time and energies - and with this obsession came the discovery and burden of taste. No more flitting randomly between mainstream artists and bands, no more passive acceptance of Iron Maiden and Motley Crue records round at friends' houses, no allowance made even for the mighty Guns 'N' Roses - I recall Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion II being ceremoniously purged from my record collection, to be rediscovered some years later. I adopted a righteous scorched earth policy, leaving only an almost played-out cassette copy of Nevermind. Ruthlessly pruned, my collection was then allowed to grow afresh.

This single was a baptism of fire, an introduction to so much: the band, the scene, the American underground, the emotional force of pure angst (before it became diluted and preprocessed by record companies as a marketable commodity), the potency of punk rock. Above all, it was a wake-up call to the sheer visceral thrill of the electric guitar when attacked with passion.

That's entertainment.

Inspired a love of: Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs, Therapy?, Hole, Pixies, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Placebo, Sugar, Weezer, Green Day, Offspring, Soul Asylum, Stone Temple Pilots, Compulsion, Brad...

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