Friday, September 14, 2007

Accidental Revolution

Accidental Revolution: The Story of Grunge, by Kyle Anderson
$11.16 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0312358199
For those of you not familiar, Grunge is a style of rock music which rose to prominence in the early 1990s. It's usually a very loud alternative style; not popular with the top 40 crowd, but still pretty widely acclaimed by hip, young people at the time. Not as belligerent as punk and rap, or as unpleasant to listen to as heavy metal.
Today it's known as classic rock, that is, any kind of music listened to by someone over 30.
The early 90s were not especially good time to be a rock star, unfortunately. Plagued by personal crises, drug addictions, and culminating in the suicide of noted rocker Kurt Cobain, the icons of the era represented not only music and fashion, but a greater philosophy and social aesthetic.
Now perhaps I'm biased: this is the music of my youth. Yes, Hans was one of those white guys in his 20s who was moody and sensitive and prone to fits of self-involvement. This was before 9/11, when we realized, however briefly, that other people besides us have problems.
Still, as Anderson explains, Generation X (Americans born 1961-1981) felt justified in their pessimism. Every generation wants to be better than the one that came before it. Studies show American children always always expect to be better off than their parents, but Gen-X ended up short, at least from an economic standpoint. This feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement led to the bittersweet sound of bands like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana.
Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, committed suicide. He'd already been dead for two days, in fact, when the police found his body in April, 1994. Kurt was often seen as a James Dean for his own time, and many Gen-Xers can tell you what they were doing when they heard he'd died (as Baby Boomers say they can do for Kennedy).
So, in a larger sense, this isn't just a book about rock bands. It's a short history of being pissed off in the 1990s, in love with sadness to emulate our icons. I'm glad to be past it, but loved reading about it. This book is a real walk down memory lane for the right crowd. It's truly good music as well. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Carter said...

It's funny - I was never a fan of grunge in high school (opting instead for Pink Floyd fandom, as you know), but in recent months have been really enjoying Nirvana. Going to check this one out, and see what I missed...