Sunday, 6 November 2011

Uh-huh Kobain Iconocaustic: Media and Manipulation

All icons are formed by a process of identification, idolisation and marketing. In opening a new vein on the world of popular music, and here the word popular must be understood in the sense that a niche is found to have a groove in the mainstream, Kurt Cobain and band Nirvana achieved momentary post-modern heaven by promoting the subversive-nihilistic trade in "grunge" theatre. Heavy sounds are accompanied by gloomy, moody lyrics and wry humour, evidently intended to appeal to a minority but ultimately appealing to the zeitgeist of the western hemisphere. With Cobain's well-informed death 'flavour-of-the-month' becomes the stuff legends are made of - particularly rock and roll ones.

Of an interest, and weirdly enchanting, is the sweater Cobain fashioned for the video shoot of Nirvana's seminal "Smells like Teen Spirit" single. To the fan the sight of Cobain earthy strut and leer in a video that appears to break down into musical chaos the singular outstanding feature is the green striped sweater which holds the image of iconic Cobain in a place between rock absurdity and roll banality. The director Samuel Bayer claims Nirvana expected a sub-standard promo but he turned out a highly polished sense of the nature of modern rock. Veering between concert and high-school camp the dark shades help to evoke the passion of the practically inaudible lyrics. But it is the sweater we are concerned with. Now if the band wanted to escape the clutches of corporate domination then making a video like the one viewed was a tactical blunder the weight of Olympus.

The world is fickle and the eye is attached to that which it sees and desires. Cool Cobain, renting out angst in buckets, is formed entirely from guitar and green striped t-shirt, and all worshippers seek to find where they can imitate their 'idol' and search high and low for comfort in identification. The "business" is eager to help, and entombed the sweater in various locations to please the morbid glee of the pilgrimage of those underlings of the lower floors. The media pretends innocence in these matters and so we follow the idea with growing cynicism. Cobain's death could have only been bettered if he had only worn that sweater. Still it is a cool sweater.

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