I miss the comfort in being sad

Picture 10.jpgSeeing as how I accidentally went all Kurt Cobain recently I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the great man himself.

As was the case for many of us – well those of us lucky enough to be old/young enough to experience his music first hand – I first heard Kurt screaming his way through “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I flicked on MTV one day in 1991 (back when it played music) and I saw the last thirty seconds of a rather raucous music video.

It was probably a few days later when I bought “Nevermind” without hearing anything about it. The fact that I had just bought one of the most defining albums of my lifetime was unknown to me at the time.

“Nevermind” might have been about Kurt’s tortured soul but since so little was known about him the messages in the music flew over a lot of fans heads. “Lithium” was a catchy sing-a-long – nothing to do with a drug treatment for depressives. “Polly” was obviously not about a parrot but only on closer inspection could you work out the disturbing nature of the subject matter. Only when stories of Kurt’s depression and drug addiction started to hit the papers did the likes of me begin to interpret his lyrics a different way.

Nirvana’s third studio album, “In Utero”, was more alternative and disturbing again. The lyrical obtuseness of songs like “Scentless Apprentice” (“I lie in the soil and fertilize mushrooms/Leaking out gas fumes are made into perfume”) and “Pennyroyal Tea” (“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/So I can sigh eternally”) still split fans to this day on exactly what Kurt was writing about. Regardless of who is debating you will find that the same topics come up – self-loathing, abortion, depression, suicide. As perverse as it is, Kurt’s ticking time-bomb lifestyle led him to write some absolutely incredible music and lyrics.

To me Kurt Cobain was a genius. I’m not fortunate enough to have experienced Presley, Lennon or Hendrix first hand but for me Kurt deserves to be put on a pedestal with those greats. From the rabid punk of (brilliant) debut record “Bleach” to the intimate acoustic set from “Unplugged in New York”, he succeeded at everything he tried. Except being happy, of course. And just like any other human, Kurt desperately wanted to be happy.

If you want a great read about Kurt, try this book from Charles Cross.

I also wrote a piece on him for a radio broadcast journalism assignment. It’s written in the form of a radio script and I eventually recorded it and aired it on college radio.

And for a bit of a laugh, how about Weird Al Yankovic’s “Smells Like Nirvana” parody – a version that Kurt gave the thumbs up to himself.

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Welcome to the Jungle? Botanical Garden, more like.

I was at Guns N Roses cynical comeback tour last weekend in Dublin. The concert, held in the 25,000 capacity RDS, had two stages. The second stage was headlined by the brilliant Therapy? (“Nowhere”, “Die Laughing”) with somewhat-able support from Lauren Harris, Voodoo Six and a couple of earlier acts I didn’t see. The main stage was home for Bullet for my Valentine and Funeral for a Friend as warm up for the Botox Machine that is Axl. Didn’t watch either.

Therapy? (apparently the question mark is obligatory), due to finish at 8pm, were a little late coming on but, let’s face it, there’s no way Axl is getting on the main stage at 8pm, right? Well sadly he did and as Therapy? tore through their rabid punk-metal set, Axl’s new-look GNR were blasting out “Welcome to the Jungle”, “It’s So Easy” and “Mr Brownstone”. It should be noted that very few people left the Therapy? set to see Axl.


Axl in the late 80s
My interest in GNR was fairly passive. I was a big fan in 1988 when I was 14 when friends recommended the band just before they hit it big in Europe. Their debut album “Appetite for Destruction” still remains a rock benchmark and their peculiar follow-up EP “Lies” – half-acoustic, half-live – had some good moments on it. I recall being given a bootleg in 1989 that contained two songs called “November Rain” I and II. They was to appear on one of their future albums but I remember thinking at the time that they were utterly brilliant.

GNR really began to lose traction with the double-album release of “Use Your Illusion” I and II. Two cover versions (“Live and Let Die” and “Knocking on Heavens Door”) became massive hit singles at the expense of classic dirty blues-rock like “Dust N Bones”, “Back off Bitch”, “The Garden” and “Pretty Tied Up”. The two albums swung from brilliantly gritty to horrendously misguided and seemed to project the band too far down the Queen/Elton John road for my liking.

At the same time Nirvana were kicking off a cultural revolution and Axl Rose started to look like a twit in cycling shorts who was completely antipodal to Kurt Cobain. Axl just wasn’t cool anymore and funnily enough he remains uncool in 2006 as well.


Axl in 2006
In between thheir 1993 punk covers album release, “The Spaghetti Incident?”, and their 2006 tour, Axl has replaced everyone in the band with the exception of keyboardist Dizzy Reed (who was not an original member). He’s been working on-and-off on new album “Chinese Democracy” since the 90s and it is rumoured that it will finally be released later this year.

The show itself was quite good but was full of the usual Axl cliches. During the first half he spent more time off-stage than on-stage. Apparently the man with the impressive set of lungs needs to refresh himself in an oxygen tank while changing costumes. This left 25,000 of us standing there listening to incredibly boring guitar-solos on at least three occassions. Punctuated between many of the songs was unintelligible dribble from Axl, a man who just doesn’t seem to have any wit at all.

However the second half of the show really picked up and it was actually quite fun. Rose, now 44, is heavier than he used to be but by no means overweight. His hair is corn-rowed (I believe that’s the aesthetic term) and the years of drug abuse seem to have left him somewhat wrinkle-free (see Botox comment above).

He played three songs from their forthcoming album, two of which I thought were very good (“Better” and “Madagascar”) with “The Blues” being ok. I think there are a couple of radio hits on this record for sure.

Should you go and see Guns N Roses if they come to your town? Well it just isn’t the GNR as you remember it. There’s no Slash, no Duff, no Izzy or Gilby. Rose is a bit of a conundrum as while he has always been the main man, he just doesn’t possess the charisma that Slash did. The big man is badly missed. The replacement players (names of which escape me and don’t interest me) all did a good job but GNR 2006 is to the original GNR as “Joey” is to “Friends”.

The case for "reasonable force"?

I might come across as all nice and stuff here (right? …. ) but really I’m a bile-filled person who loathes large sections of society.

First up for a verbal thumping are bouncers. You might know them as “doormen”. They are the gentlemen hired by public establishments such as pubs, night clubs, casinos and venues to welcome patrons, ensure that peace is maintained and that all clientele are safe.

However, I find a fair percentage of them to be arseholes.

This is not some new revelation. My parents tell me horror stories from the sixties and seventies of smug, burly, aggressive wind-up merchants who get a kick out of the only legitimate power trip they will ever experience in their lives. It’s okay to be an arsehole if you’re in a passive job like a supermarket check-out or something. But to be an arsehole in a public position of seeming authority is another thing altogether.

Last Saturday my mate Noel (home from the States for a week) was drinking away in a pub in Dublin city centre. Because we have no smoking in pubs he headed out for a puff to the designated smoking area. He was out there, about to light up, when a burly, aggressive doorman (BAD) approached him.

BAD: Put your drink on the table over there before you come out here.
NOEL (looking around the smoking area): But other people are drinking out here?
BAD (sighing deeply and getting louder): Put your drink on the table over there, come out and have your smoke then go back in and get your drink.
NOEL: Fine. I will. But I just would like to know why you are discriminating against me?

Cue BAD grabbing the beer out of Noel’s hand, grabbing him by the arm and throwing him out of the bar.

Noel, being Noel, decided that this arsehole was not going to get away with it and called the police.

Half an hour later two typically useless, unmotivated Garda� turned up to see what the problem was. As Noel explained the story (showing the Garda his now-bruised arm) the man in blue did his best to dissuade Noel from taking it any further even telling him that the doorman had a right to use “reasonable force”.

“Eh, no he doesn’t actually. He has a right to use reasonable force in the case of self-defence but not in this situation. He has no right to lay a hand on me.”

The Garda – clearly one of the many who would prefer to be spending his Saturday night drinking in a Garda-only lock-in – sighed deeply.

VERY BORED GARDA: “You’ll have to go and make a statement tomorrow.”
NOEL: “Fine.”
VERY BORED GARDA: “It will go to court and you’ll have to fly back from the US for the court case.”
NOEL: “No problem. I’d fly back at a day’s notice for this.”

So there you go. Our helpful Garda did his best to ensure there was no paperwork coming his way. Meanwhile the BAD was collaborating his story with another BAD so that he could stitch Noel up. Why? Because some of these guys are fringe members of the criminal classes.

I took pictures of Noel’s arm on Sunday and sure enough, it’s hard to believe that someone can think it’s ok to do this totally unprovoked.
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