Today is the twentieth anniversary of the release of Nirvana's second, and landmark, album Nevermind. The release has already been celebrated with cover songs, glowing praise, and fond reminiscence for the album that "killed hair metal and pop at the same time." But it seems as though all of that has missed one very important aspect of the anniversary that needs to be addressed and is instead being ignored like that one strange cousin at the family holidays.
Or, to juxtapose an idea here, where the hell is my jetpack?
Everything the band seemed to stand for, believe in, and work for has been either co-opted, ground down, or rubbed out of popular culture. Gone is the burgeoning respect for women that Kurt worked so hard to foster, both in his lyrics (Polly, Rape Me) or in his writing. Gone is the notion that a band could even perform songs like that or release an album with so pointed a dismissal of so many of its fanbase. Instead, we have Taylor Swift selling makeup and telling girls its important to be the right girl for their man.
In fact, it seems to me that all eight of the things that Julianne Shepard writes about as reasons Nevermind was the most important album of all time are themselves now completely irrelevant.
Kurt Cobain and his band of stringy haired, grimy looking hard rock muppets appeared from nowhere, stood in stark contrast to the polished image of the music industry for 2 years, 6 months, 12 days, and then faded away after Kurt's all-too-public burnout. Nirvana's attacks on the monster of macho, conservative, and corporate thought have seemingly faded completely from pop culture.
In its place, we're left with a shiny world of corporate logos, where bands use the "alternative" or "indie" labels to somehow separate themselves for the music on Radio Disney, when there isn't a dime's worth of difference between them. Where these same bands sing incredibly safe songs that are (admittedly) just as polished as the tracks of Nevermind (well, probably more so, since even slightly bad notes are no longer acceptable) and they play them to an audience with about as much political acumen as they were able to pick up from Barack Obama's (or McCain's, or Ron Paul's) blog in 2008.
There are still corporate rock magazines, all the indie labels are now themselves owned or distributed by major labels, and every band on the internet is more concerned with sounding either like a resurrection of a long-lost genre or a carbon copy of the flavor of the month. Being eclectic is now somehow seen as being original, when really it's just weird for weirdness's sake.
In short, it's all very safe and not at all like the public image that was presented to the world twenty years ago.
So why are we celebrating?