Kurt Feelings

If, like his mother said, Kurt Cobain wanted to to join the "club" whose members include Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and other dead rock stars, at least he should have stuck around long enough to make a couple of decent albums.

Pardon me if I'm less than impressed (by Nirvana's music) and less than depressed (about the tragic and violent demise of the band's leader, Kurt Cobain). I didn't consider him a negative creep. I didn't consider him much at all. Nirvana was an okay band, and there are a million of those. If I wanted to be offensive, I'd make up jokes about "Kurt No Brain" and "now Nirvana is a better band than Pearl Jam" and "I hear Nirvana's new album is on the charts, at number ten with a bullet."

Nirvana's fans might find my comments cruel, but I don't like the odor of teen spirit, and I don't mind showing a lack of reverence for their unworthy hero.

I didn't know Kurt Cobain, never met him, never even talked to him on the phone. According to the Dade County Medical Examiner's office, 69 people in the county have taken their own lives since the beginning of this year. Last year 293 South Floridians killed themselves. I knew only one of them (archivist-historian John Detrick of the Americana Bookshop). According to the Switchboard of Miami, April and May are "suicide season," the time of year most suicides occur A so watch those stats skyrocket in the coming weeks. And shed as many tears for each one of them as you do for Cobain.

As for Nirvana's music, I didn't care for it. They were a one-trick pony and the trick was no treat. Cobain was once a roadie for the Melvins, and frankly I never felt his talents deserved a gig better than that. I heard Bleach (the band's premajor-label album, from 1988) and an advance cassette of Nevermind long before Nirvana broke big. There was nothing on either of interest to me. When Nirvana became the next big thing, putting Seattle on the musical map and making grunge a buzzword, I took another listen. And I still heard nothing. I listened with open mind to Incesticide and In Utero. And I didn't like anything on those records, either.

I can't be angry at Kurt Cobain for denying me potential entertainment to come or for leaving the living. Suicide is far too complex to dismiss with an argument such as: If you were twentysomething, married to a rock star, had a healthy little daughter, a beautiful house or two, and millions of dollars, wouldn't you kill yourself?

I can be angry at his death, his absence, but only for the sake of his now-fatherless daughter, Frances Bean, who will turn two years old in August. In a 1992 interview published in Spin, Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, talked about parenthood. They were asked if they might have another child. "She's already pregnant," Cobain responded, playing the smartass. "I'm thinking three, Kurt's thinking two," Love added. "I'm thinking financially," Cobain said. Love also told Spin that, other than undue media attention, her daughter was "guaranteed a 100 percent perfect childhood." The interview ends with Love commenting that "a mom and a dad is a really important thing to have." Cobain concurred: "Yes, I'm really old-fashioned." In another interview, Cobain said, "I have a wife and a child. I still love the band, but it isn't the only thing I'm living for." In retrospect one has to wonder what it would have taken to keep Cobain alive. If he'd turned out to be a gas station attendant instead of the biggest rock star of the early Nineties, would he have endured?

I can also be angry at his record company (Geffen) and the rest of his handlers. When one of your cash cows knocks himself into a coma with alcohol and Rophies, you should protect your investment (and show a little compassion) by keeping an eye on him. You don't have to put him in a straitjacket and lock him in a padded room, but Cobain reportedly wasn't seen for days before his corpse was discovered. He needed a babysitter. No one, apparently, was available to fill that role.

In the short run, Geffen will make big money from the standard posthumous buying boom. And fortunately for the label, the new album by Hole, the band fronted by Courtney Love, went out in the mail at about the same time Cobain was taking aim at his brain. The Hole album should be in record stores now. It should sell tons.

The timing of the release of the Hole album is sheer coincidence, not vulturelike opportunism by Geffen. (That will come later with the Nirvana's "greatest hits" album.) And the Hole album's title is also a coincidence, but a chilling one. It's called Live Through This.


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