April 10 marked the fourteenth annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, and despite classic rockers who most can't believe aren't already in the hall (Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oats, Cat Stevens, and the E Street Band) and America's favorite corporation still masquerading as a band (KISS) on the induction list, a band that only became eligible this year -- grunge icons Nirvana -- dominated the vote and media attention.
While it's no surprise that Nirvana was a popular choice, the coinciding of the Hall of Fame induction with the 20th Anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, and the prospect of a Nirvana reunion has really brought out the worst in everyone. First, news broke that Bleach-era drummer Chad Channing wouldn't be inducted along with the other members of the band and found out via text message. Next, the towns of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, both desperate to grasp onto their tenuous connection to the band each announced a "Kurt Cobain Day" on different days. Aberdeen's day was commemorated with a disconcerting crying statue of Cobain. Finally, the Seattle PD just so happened to choose this time to circulate some never-before-seen photos of Cobain post-mortem and even toy with the idea of reopening the case of his suicide, presumably to satiate the handful of conspiracy theorists that still believe that Courtney Love was responsible for Cobain's death.
All of this though isn't to say that the Nirvana induction into the Hall of Fame is a bad thing. The band was one of the most influential bands in the history of American rock and were the catalyst for making alternative rock a viable genre in commercial music, but all of the good seems to be superficial. First, on stage at the ceremony, Courtney Love and the remaining members of Nirvana (Dave Grohl, drums and Krist Novoselic, bass) seemed to reconcile a decades long squabble they'd been having over the complicated ownership of the Nirvana LLC and the rights to Kurt's contribution to the band, but the entire thing rang hollow. Despite the token good will shown at the ceremony, the past weeks have shown no effort from either party to reach across the aisle or any evidence that this was anything more than pandering to the national press.
The same goes for the Nirvana 'reunion show' performed later that night. On the one hand, it's wonderful to see one of the tightest rhythm sections to hit the top 40 back together again, and the inclusion of talented female singers was a wonderful way to honor Kurt who was a progressive when it came to gender rights issues, but I can't help but feel that this was another smile-and-wave moment for a nostalgia-laden media. The choices of Joan Jett and Kim Gordon make sense, Cobain was inspired by early punk like the Runaways and idolized Sonic Youth so much that he signed to Geffen Records just because they did, but the choices of Anne Clark/St. Vincent and Lorde are a little more suspect. While Grohl gives a somewhat convincing explanation of the choices, it is notable that both are signed to subsidiaries of Universal Music Group, the parent company of Nirvana's label Geffen. If they truly wanted to do something Kurt would have loved, they were on the right track with Gordon. They said they wanted to get PJ Harvey, they could have also considered Black Frances, (though he's pretty busy tarnishing the Pixie's legacy) Buzz Osbourne from the Melvins, or Curt Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets, all of whom Kurt idolized and who honestly don't have too much going on that they couldn't perform.
Maybe this just makes me the guy who can't enjoy the Nirvana reunion, but fans of the band have been buying their nostalgia back from Geffen for twenty years. (And we haven't stopped: Pennyroyal Tea on vinyl was an offering for this year's Record Store Day) Maybe it's time the world let the dead rest in peace.
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