New Post has been published on http://whoiskingcarla.com/2014/04/in-kurt-we-trust/
IN KURT WE TRUST: 20 YEARS LATER
What is it like to live in the suburbs? It’s quieter and removed from the type of folk who live in urban landscapes. I call it suburgatory like the television show currenty on ABC because what’s seen on the outside is nothing like what happens on the inside. While homes stand tall and pretty, filled with furniture only seen in department stores & catalogs and shiny new cars in garages, some folk that live in these spaces are met with a type of loneliness that’s like none other. There is this mind-numbing silence that walks through the neighborhood unlike living on a farm or way out in the country where you’ve got the musical hum of nature to keep you company. It’s so quiet that it will drive you crazy. Parents work all day or night to keep the house together. Children become latch-key kids left to their own advanced technological devices to keep them company. Trouble brews in the spaces between each home. Waiting, bubbling and eventually boiling until something is unearthed or before you know it change has made a visit and nothing is the same.
Because of living in this style of environment during the early 1990s I became attracted to the sound and style of Nirvana. I was in a predominantly black middle school therefore I hid my love for this sound until a school dance during those final days before summer transitioned into high school. Then I saw many black children that had the same love that I did for Nirvana. When high school came, they were silent again while I stayed vocal in my love affair with Kurt specifically.
Grunge. Even the word sounds dirty, gritty and not very pretty.
This week marks the 20th year of Kurt Cobain’s exit from planet Earth. Whether it was suicide or as some conspiracy theorists say “a set-up” he’s gone and has been gone for a while. What he left behind has become this cherished, almost worshipped thing for Nirvana fans across the globe. It was his music and lyricism that has helped many of us live through these hollow suburban spaces. I know that sounds like #firstworldproblems but as long as we’re living on this Earth everybody is going to go through problems.
Which brings me to Hyperallergic’s The Failures of 1970s Suburban Life by blog writer, Ryan J. Simons. What I read today about 1970s artist Gordon Matta-Clark reminded me about Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. That through all the pretty that was created for suburbia, the cracks and kooks that can develop out of the human experience can never be hidden. What Simons explores during the course of this article is why suburbia has failed since the 1970s and how Matta-Clark exposed that failure by splitting abandoned houses in half. The article then begins to highlight an exhibition at Carriage Trade Gallery in SoHo, New York called Cutting Through the Suburbs which was organized to educate about the failures of architectural and environmental design during the post-war 1970s. The economy was sinking, the gap between rich and poor grew wider and the beginnings of hard drug abuse and PTSD made themselves known.
What does this all mean and how does it relate to Nirvana? Simple.
History loves to repeat itself over and over again. Out of some sort of an American tragedy is new art ever born in this country. Something that has never been seen before or heard before. By the time the 1970s ended, some hippies turned into intense drug addicts or become corporate slaves. We soon transitioned into the Reagan era in the 1980s and neo-conservatives were born from trickle down economics. The concept of suburbia was reborn and were pushed further away from cities with bigger houses and bigger toys. We were also in the golden era of pornography because VHS changed the home entertainment game. And finally Operation Desert Storm under the helm of former President George Bush.
Where there is war, there’s economic changes that push and pull on the American public especially for those that exist in the lands of middle and lower class.
Enter the late 1980s and early 1990s. Because of Operation Desert Storm, plenty money and opportunities had been depleted leaving many without opportunities to grow financially. Suburban homes became filled with family members that never went to college, had no dreams of pursuing any American Dreams or broken families due to broken hearts and broke wallets. The only new thing musically to rise out of America during this time was hip-hop because the hair metal/stadium rock of the 80s began to die down after pushing punk into the background.
White folks ain’t know what to do. Changes were made. Feelings were hurt. Emptiness and loneliness in these suburban spaces took over and ran free. In empty garages, grunge was born allowing notable bands such as Jane’s Addiction, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots to become new faces to MTV.
And then there was Nirvana…
As attracted I became to this new rock sound I had heard, I became even more attracted to visuals. Stringy haired white boys in flannel plaids, old T-shirts, torn or frayed sweaters and combat boots. I wanted to be like them even though I was just 10 years old. I wanted to inhabit the spaces they frequented. I wanted to look just like them. But I was too young to know the dangers of those spaces and too bright-eyed to know the sadness behind their eyes.
Just like any other American teenager that fell in love with Nirvana, I, too was shocked when I found out that Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. At that point, I made it my mission in life to become as brilliant as he was. I wanted to explore the same dark spaces that he did in order to reek of an authenticity that represented weird America but centered in blackness. Let’s all be glad that the oddities known as Outkast and Red Hot Chili Peppers saved me (and has saved me over and over again due to existing in this peculiar space). But I digress…
And history has repeated itself AGAIN. This time, war has had a bigger effect on more than just white people in suburbia. It has also severely affected the people of color that have moved to these spaces from the mid-1990s to the present. The Second Gulf War has caused a heavier strain on the American public ushering in what is known as the Great Recession during 2007. No great art or music has been born since. Hip-hop has become something quite synonymous with the glam rock of the 1970s soon to be in its hair metal age. Yet, the effects of Kurt have seeped all across American culture through the concept of the remix culture. Case in point, there’s a rapper out of Texas named Kirko Bangz in which I’m sure that if Kurt were alive today, he may be disgusted with this type of appropriation or the rapper himself would have a much different sound than this:
Nirvana has reached beyond simple posters and T-shirts and have become a part of American history. They are the act known for changing the course of American pop music and political actions due to Krist Novoselic’s JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee). They gave birth to Foo Fighters through the mind of Nirvana’s drummer turned lead guitarist, Dave Grohl. Who knew a couple of kids from Seattle were going to do all of this? I clearly didn’t at the time. And how could I if I was fucking 10 years old?
In the end, we can make this rather watered down and talk about the effects of powerful art on society. I’d rather end this by stating that Suburbia is a strange land than gives birth to intense emotions and creativity in the cracks of its broken, badly planned environmental design. Because when you’re separated like that without the ability to do things as simple as farm your land or explore busy city streets/neighborhoods, you’re left with a blank canvas which can either be highly creative or very destructive or both.
Beware of suburgatory.
I would never bother you
I would never promise to
I would never follow you
I would never bother you
Never speak a word again
I will crawl away for good
I will move away from here
You won’t be afraid of fear
No thought was put into this
Always knew it would come to this
Things have never been so swell
I have never felt this well
You know you’re right [x3]
- Kurt Cobain, one of his last compositions written in 1993