Thou Shall Not Slag Virtual Kurt Cobain

Posted by Michael Pinto on Aug 29, 2009 in Videogames |

Looking at this clip of Guitar Hero 5 on the surface it feels so wrong: Nirvana was really about punk at heart — a do-it-yourself ethos that rejected commercialism. But sadly I know that’s a lie because the genius of Kurt Cobain was mixing punk with pop music. And that ability to bring the Sex Pistols into the shopping malls of America in the 90s was a sort of wonderful magic moment which for a few minutes made mainstream entertainment a little bit more entertaining.

Style over Substance

Style over Substance

But the revolution was short lived and regrettably a generation has grown up associating Kurt Cobain with the end of his life rather than his life’s work which was rather nobel. Worse yet after that interesting period in pop music the trends swept the other way and generic sounding acts like Britney Spears have dominated the rotting hulk of what’s left of the music industry these past few years. So if a videogame can re-open that spirit to a new generation I’m 100% all for it.

A Party You Weren't Invited To

You Were Not Invited

You see somewhere there will be a young kid who may be inspired to discover not just Nirvana, but the punk idea of picking up a guitar and making your own music instead of buying it on iTunes. I also love the idea that this medium allows a generation to interact and thus take an ownership of the music for their own ends. As a Gen Xer I always felt left out when Baby Boomers would talk about the magic of the Woodstock era as a sort of party that took place the night before you came on the scene and could never experience yourself. The great thing about punk is that it’s up to you to make your own scene and yes that means instead of mourning the desecration of CBGBs that a kid can play a videogame and still be part of the party.

There’s also something very funny to me about the timing of this appearance of Nirvana in a videogame — it sort of nicely upstages the Beatles game that’s been hyped all over the place for months now! Even the fact that poor virtual Kurt isn’t given his own solo venue yet is stealing all of the mindspace is somehow appropriate given how the band did the same thing almost 20 years ago in 1991 when they made it big.

Punk is all about DIY

Punk is all about DIY

Part of me also feels that the time is right for another generation to re-discover punk music. 1991 was the high point of a low point in the economy which is part of the core appeal of 70s punk — it’s that ideal of stripping everything away and getting back to basics. And this isn’t just an economic thing either because music for the last few years has been very much about the triumph of style over substance. We’re now at a point where tattoos have been throw away meaningless accessories like a t-shirt, something is needed to change that.

The worst sort of posers!

The worst sort of posers!

And change is the point too, frankly I’d loathe the idea of seeing thongs of Nirvana clones surfacing. In fact to me that’s what I always hated about acts like Green Day which always seemed to be cashing in on looking the part but never challenging convention and fitting smugly into the shelves at Walmart. And I think if Kurt Cobain was about he wouldn’t take any pleasure in seeing the same things. My hope is that kids will use this more as a nudge to do their own thing rather than a crutch to mimic and milk the past.

In fact the only thing I hate about virtual Kurt is the fact that he’ll always be a twentysomething — and that for me that age has long since passed my way. The game for me is a bitter reminder of what Cobain might have gone on to do with the rest of his years, but if he can inspire another generation in just a small a way that would be sweet.

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