By Ishan Kukreti
The functionality of culture and its representatives are more than just making people have a good time. On hindsight it’s a peek into the lives of people, their dreams, their desires.
Nirvana, as a cultural commodity was a package of creep, a creep both cool and c#@$ at the same time. The band was a sort of societal catalyst, which unlike a regular one that speeds up reactions, made society halt and rethink its position. Maybe, in this sense Nirvana was more of a worrisome precipitate than a catalyst.
“Montage of Heck”, directed by Brett Morgen is the latest attempt to decipher how a bunch of under-motivated, overly-nonchalant guys, dragged a whole generation from “YEAAAHH!!” to “meh” . The film focuses on the major source of all that was weird, eccentric and #@$@ up in the band, Kurt Cobain.
The skinny, golden-haired guitar player and lead vocalist of the multimillion phenomenon of a drugged and lazy generation (in an interview Nirvana described ‘Smells like teen spirit’ as the song about the lazy youth), was probably the most complicated and intense ‘rock god’ thrown up by the American music industry. The guy was the architect of a movement of frustrated and angry ‘white trash’ whose catch phrase was a causal yet heavily pregnant word, “Nevermind”
At first look, what sets Cobain apart for the pantheon of drug-fed, oversexed and notorious, hotel room burning, deities of rock, was his overt repulsion with the rituals of his own religion. His disenchantment with fame, “rockstardom” and over attention, all find a way into his music, “Rape me” being the case in point here.
Montage of Heck at various points, makes it clear that his, along with the rest of his generation, was a problem of excess. Too much, too soon. His was a life reflective of the other extreme of the social spectrum. If there are regions in this world where kids die due to hunger, there are others where they go insane due to abundance.
Cobain was the first full-fledged musician who openly rejected the standards maintained/forced by the music industry in general and society in particular. With the coming of Nirvana, the upbeat, laborious American chasing the American Dream, donned a ‘I suck’ tee shirt, got high on an assorted combination of downers and flipped up at an over-demanding world, complaining there’s “No recesses.”
Love, too, acquired a new meaning, a meaning both childishly innocent and dangerously passionate. Talks of sweet child, smile and hair were out of the window and replaced by desires of draining each other and fragile kisses, passing meat from mouth to mouth.
Chronologically, Nirvana killed the show and pomp, Glam Rock industry. Various Axl Roses were shown the door as Cobain entered the room. The theatrics remained but they were the Droopy the dog sort, of brand Nirvana. No hyperactive sprinting around the stage in boxers, but squirming and wiggling like a fish out of water, which don’t have any feelings.
Over all, Nirvana was a contradiction, a rupture in logic, a fissure in plain thinking. From the name, “Nirvana” to songs like “Lithium”, “Scoff” and “All Apologies” the band was an apophasis which broke before it could get a feedback to its “Montage of Heck.”