Came across an old flash drive with some of my music blog writings from a few years ago.... My parents got divorced shortly after I graduated high school. This sudden but not unprecedented turn of events resulted in my mother plunging deep into the throes of a full blown midlife crisis. So in the fall of 1988 she packed her things, gave the finger to the whole world, and ran off to live in Los Angeles. Not having much of anything to hang around for, and attracted by the sun and sand, I decided to tag along with her. I felt very alone and isolated in my new environment, and went on a desperate search for some new friends. Being that I already looked like kind of a dirthead, I easily fell in with a group of long haired headbangers. A typical evening for us usually consisted of punishing our cerebral cortexes with beer and various other illicit substances, listening to the loudest, fastest, most aggressive music we could find, and launching ourselves off of the furniture into a howling pile of drunken testosterone. Speed and thrash metal weren't really my thing. I leaned more towards prog rock and spaced-out hippie jams. But being a young budding guitar player, I was at least able to appreciate the musicianship and commitment to authenticity. And maybe I did have a little bit of adolescent rage left in me. Plus, I'd found a crowd where I was liked and accepted. So I put away my Moody Blues records, threw my tie dyed t-shirts in the garbage, and got into the pit. By 1991 or 92, at my mom's gentle encouragement ("School or a job. Pick one."), I enrolled at the local community college. Among other things that caught my attention ("Holy crap, there are girls here.") I noticed a new type of rock music emerging. It had all the loud guitars of big, dumb 70's rock and the channeled aggression of metal, but none of the slick production or macho posturing. It seemed less pretentious...more organic. One day, while listening to a radio station I'd found on the far left of the dial that played this music you didn't hear on any of the big commercial stations (yet), a song caught my ear. It was one minute and 57 seconds of sneering, stumbling rock and roll. The guitar tone was cheap and nasty, the drums sounded like wet cardboard boxes, and the guy singing sounded bored...but like he was pissed off about it...or bored of being pissed off about it...or something. The entire song was just two chords and the same verse repeated over and over. There was no guitar solo. I shouldn't have liked anything about it. The song was called "Molly's Lips", and I was absolutely enthralled. I was amazed at how this band swept all pretense off of the table. How they took the idea that playing rock music was something best left to trained professionals and cast it aside with an ironic smirk. They had none of what the music classified ads called a "pro image". They had no image at all. They wore ripped up jeans and thrift store t-shirts. They didn't look like rock stars, they looked like homeless mutants. There was all kinds of noise, feedback, and cross talk in their recordings, reminding me of the garage boombox tapes I made with my own bands. I appreciated how their lyrics were about deeper, more personal things like alienation and loneliness...because these were real things that I myself regularly experienced. All the heavy metal I had grown to love almost instantly became juvenile, contrived, and silly. I stopped being so concerned about whether or not I had enough knowledge or skill to write my own songs and play my own music and just did it. Who cared if my gear was trash, all I knew were barre chords, and I couldn't play million note solos? Nirvana showed me that those things weren't important. What mattered was honesty. A short time later, "Nevermind" exploded. My friends and I traded our chains and studded leather jackets for flannels and Chuck Taylors. Nirvana was our gateway to tons of other new bands that had the same kind of energy. It was obvious that members of the "old guard" like Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin absolutely played a role in shaping their sound, but elements of new wave, punk rock, and 60's garage bands were also added to the mix, distilling it into something that seemed fresh and new. It was all the good stuff about heavy rock music, filtered through the lens of alienated, art-damaged kids from broken homes, without any of the embarassing sexism or Dungeons & Dragons goofiness. We sang and slammed along. Until.... The spectacle of stardom, scandal, and drugs surrounding the sad, angry boy from Aberdeen reached a tragic conclusion. It shocked everyone, but surprised no one. We would soldier on, but all the momentum was gone. The party was over. The more jaded and cynical may have chose to point out that Beatlesque-melodies-but-louder were nothing new, or dismissed them as little more than the most recent incarnation of Cheap Trick or The Knack, but I don't believe that gives them enough credit. Kurt Cobain's death left a void that has yet to be filled. Not because his band's music was especially innovative or groundbreaking in and of itself, but because no one has turned the popular notion of what's acceptable or "correct" on it's head since. By fearlessly taking all of their influences, throwing them in a blender, and dumping them out on to the world, Nirvana gave everyone a much needed reminder that the best rock and roll is messy, reckless, and unfiltered.