In the 1980s, for better or worse, I went way off of the path with the music that I was listening to. My teenage son and his friends called me, "the eclectic dad," because they were constantly surprised at what they heard on the cassettes I played when I was driving them places. Phil Spector Christmas songs in July. Lynerd Skynerd in between Little Willie John and John Coltrane, followed by Chico Buarque de Hollanda and Alcione. Cajun Music. Afro-Beat. I completely lost contact with all of the hair-metal bands that the 80s are famous for. That's my excuse for my complete ignorance of Nirvana until years after Kirk died.
I remember an interview with Keith Richards, in print, no internet at the time. The DJ asked him what he thought of Nirvana, who were riding high behind "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at the time. Keith said, "Nirvana? I've 'erd of 'em. Young guys? Long hair? Guitars? Yeah, I've 'erd of 'em." I missed the obvious moving forward from hair-metal that had occurred. I guess that Keith did as well. He usually throws compliments where they are at all deserved.
Around 1997 or 1998, I read a review of "From the Muddy Banks of the Wishka." I was moved to buy a copy of the CD, and I was completely floored when I listened to it. This was not your average, or even a very good guitar based rock band. This was greatness. I think I started mumbling, "this is art," or maybe, "this is real music." After all, it is both things.
This sonic blast of song of a song might sound to some like a rush of sound that is stumbling over itself, but really it is very tightly constructed. It carefully uses both the blasts and the silences of the musicians to build tension here, to release it there, and to propel it forward at high speed when that is called for. I think that it's a master class in music that goes beyond genre. For me, all of the arts can be reduced to "the creation and resolution of tension." Films, paintings, music, sculpture, poetry, all of it.
This is art.