Now, I’m naturally inclined to like this comment for a couple of reasons. First, I already have a high degree of personal affection for Josh. Second, Josh was the lead singer of a band I really liked roughly around Nirvana’s peak, so I trust his opinion of the day’s music.
But his comment has come to have a big impact on how I view the world. I think he couldn’t be more right in his explanation of what happened to music with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and its implications for our culture, despite the fact that I couldn’t disagree more with his evaluation of it all.
I used to think our culture was sliding gradually away from healthy values. Josh’s comment has helped me see that the slide isn’t really gradual. Our culture is basically stable, but punctuated by moments of quick decadence.
At one point in his comment, Josh describes the effect of “Smells” as “sort of a big F.O. to the tyrannical rule of Hessian overproduced glam rock that had so cruelly dominated us all through high school.”
I love that description — it captures (with the rest of his comment) our culture’s whole shift during the first Bush administration, years when we switched from celebrating concrete beauty and mirth to feeling our way toward self-asphyxiation in nebulous and grotesque sorrow.
That is, we switched from a cavalier to a roundhead world.
Those few years saw what was certainly the biggest societal shift in a generation, and perhaps a half dozen generations. Yet it was a shift which, I think, has gone largely unnoticed against the backdrop of the previous generation’s somewhat tamer decadence. And the shift’s captured brilliantly in Josh’s comment.