I feel I owe various apologies after yesterday’s joker post. I have nothing against Steve Miller. I am reliably informed by my straight female friend (Ruthie) that Steve is not as unappealing as I might have found him. What can I say….the heart wants what the heart wants. I can quite happily look at Kurt for an hour or so of unplugged bliss. Kurt with his motheaten sweater, his greasy dirty blonde hair and junkie-cool and a pair of the most piercing blue eyes in rock history was primo 1990s slacker grunge man-flesh.
Beck was ok if you like a more sun-drenched weed-infused less edgy ’90s lost boy. Evan Dando remains a kind of ‘Kurt-Lite’, a sort of ‘we-have-Kurt-at-home’, lesser low fat, low sugar, low talent substitute for Cobain, who was more a real deal trademarked dyed in the mothballed wool kinda talent. Don’t get me wrong, I owned a Lemonheads album and got misty eyed to Favorite Tee with the best of ’em. Heck he even tried to look like Kurt with his hair hanging over his face, his ‘I dont care’ wardrobe and his guitar strings that waved around dangerously untrimmed.
He clearly wanted to portray that slacker, druggie, fucked up, James Dean rebelling against life itself image, yet his clothes were a little too clean, too new and too thoughtfully styled. The uncut strings that he is prone to rocking, were a fashion statement, not borne out of a lack of desire or care or energy to twist ’em off, and the look was more of a pose than a lifestyle and it showed in his career and his music. Even his voice was a toned down, sweetened version of Kurt’s throaty growl. At the time I just put it down to every young man wanting to be a KurtClone. Nowadays I look at Evan and wonder what they fuck he thought he was doing. If he was just himself then he might have had something, but trying so hard to be someone else never works. Evan was just too clean cut.
There is some talk of Evan being given Kurt’s jacket by Courtney Love after Kurt killed himself and Evan Dando wearing the damn thing. I don’t know what that says, but nothing good about anyone living. He told Uncut magazine: “The jacket… that was bad. Courtney gave it to me, and I liked it, and I wore it a bit, and then I gave it back to her.” Dando was not fit to walk in Kurt’s footsteps, let alone wear his jacket. I suppose it is heartening that it felt weird to him.
The Lemonheads had something. Nirvana is heavy listening. It is rainy and smacked out, hopeless and nihilistic and no one seems to have much hope. It is a perfect microcosm of the scene, of the time and of the Aberdeen/Seattle Olympic Peninsula area. Ceilings drip, no one has a gun, they swear; and Polly just wishes her abductor would get off her now. It is not the land of peachy happy beachy vibes. Dando might have been an east coast boy, but he sounds pure sunshine and sand. It is possible to put on The Lemonheads, and drive down a highway, the sun shining, the air blowing, the day full of energy and love and weed and good things. Horses for courses, albums for days and emotions. The Lemonheads have their place, no matter what the objective reality of which is the better band, better set of albums and more influential sound. Everyone needs a bit of lemonade now and again, a little sour sparkle to lift and provide the soundtrack to an August day.
I put the Lemonheads on today. It was so sunny and bright and felt so much like spring today that it felt right. This is not something to put on while it rains. I almost felt the shadows of a hundred summer days, that were also accompanied by Into Your Arms, and My Drug Buddy, creep up on me and wave their magical wands over this sadder, more reduced day in 2022. Yes, I could almost taste 1992, 1997, 2015 all turn up and remind me of parks and eighths, and arms and grams, and friends, and family and picnics and smiles and hugs and happiness and warmth. Almost. Ok, so Evan doesn’t have the little freak on a mission vibe of Thom Yorke, nor the skater boy cool of Beck, nor the King Slacker crown of Cobain, but you know what, Evan is alright really. There are worse things than falling into the arms of a band that want to make everyone feel alright. Even if he is a bit pretty. The Lemonheads very carefully didn’t care…
In retrospect Nirvana’s Unplugged session is the most important concert of the ’90s and certainly on the all time great show list. It is a last look at a band and an icon so beloved, embraced for what he was not as much as what he was, that he entered the cultural lexicon forever more. Not only that it remains the best showcase for where the band had come from, where they were, and where they were headed. Kurt was not long left for this world by this point – just under a year. Looking back at the recording it seems unfathomable that this bright and alive man was nearing the end of his life, instead of just starting out. It still breaks my heart.
Perhaps the shrewdest move Kurt made for his career, reputation and artistic legacy was to exit the whole mess early. It wasn’t worth it. Kurt should be in his 50s, coming on as cool as middle aged Lou Reed, doing multi media projects and scaring the zoomers. I miss him. He was one of us, but with the dedication and the drive and the talent to actually make himself into something amazing. He made only three albums with Nirvana- Bleach, Nevermind and the patchy In Utero, but his legacy is more than the sum of his output. Kurt was a movement, a happening, a scene in his own right, one of those very special people that everyone stops and looks at and pays attention to. Someone with a vision and a presence, and the talent to do something big, affect people on a huge and deep level and continue to do so for years after his death…even if Evan Dando is wearing his jacket.
I might not play Nirvana to clean the house to, or as a little light dinner music but when it gets down to it, and the ghosts start to tap me on the shoulder and my mind races and I feel adrift and lost and reduced and saddened, I will reach for Kurt, and let his growl and scream jive sooth my mind.
Steve “guitar’ Miller might not have Kurt’s presence, and Evan Dando might not have Kurt’s authenticity and talent, but music is so valuable because of the variety of feel and intensity. Come on….dig the Lemonheads…..