Burntout.com - A website for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana

"Nirvana Makin' Their Own Rules", Hit Parader - March 1994, by Jim Spencer

Smells Like Teen Spirit - CD-Single Nevermind  <a href=Nevermind - Japan - Vinyl-Album Nevermind - CD-Album- Vinyl-Album"> In Utero  <a href=In Utero - Vinyl-Album- CD-Album">
Will success spoil Nirvana? That seems to be the questionfilling more and more minds within the rock community these days.Perhaps it's just the natural cynicism that seems to creep intothe psyche of anyone who views a multi-platinum band that neverhad any desire of being a multi-platinum band. Let's face it,no one is about to confuse the sonic thrashing of these Washington-staters with the radio-ready sound of a Bon Jovi orAerosmith. From their very inception Nirvana have lived in theprecarious netherworld known as "on the edge." Reports of drug problems, record label problems and innerband problemshave filled the wires since the group's major label debut, Nevermind, turned these unassuming rockers into internationalsuperstars. But now, with the release of their latest contro-versial effort, In Utero, guitarist/vocalist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl have become caughtup in an even greater vortex of rumor and innuendo that has turnedevery day of their lives into a virtual media circus.

They do their best to avoid the spotlight, but with the newalbum out, the video for their debut single, Heart-Shaped Box,filling the MTV airwaves, and a new tour scheduled to kick off,Nirvana seem to be caught between the proverbial rock and thehard place. What's a band to do? They've already publiclyadmitted that they hate doing press interviews-which is donein sufficient numbers with sufficient "panache" probably wouldhelp in eliminating many of these supposed "misconceptions"that surround the band. They try and maintain as low a profileas possible only appearing at events like MTV's recent VideoMusic Awards after "sufficient arm twisting takes place,"according to a well-placed source. There are no easy answersfor Nirvana, yet in their heart of hearts these guys know theywouldn't have it any other way.

"You can't go out there and select who's going to buy yourrecords," Cobain stated. "And you can't control what they writeabout you. Maybe we would if we could."

Yes, Nirvana might very well want to control the media aswell as who has acces to their music. On more than one occasionCobain has indicated that most of the people who bought Nevermindhave no idea what their music is really about. And following a flood of drug-related tabloid headlines, and even the prestigiousNewsweek magazine proclaiming that the band's label, GeffenRecords, had rejected most of the material on In Utero (a claimwhich proved to be totally untrue), one can understand theband's dissatisfaction with the way the press has perceived andpresented them. These really aren't the hard rockin' Guns N'Roses-style rebels that some critics try to create; these arethoughtful, shy, artistically-inclined musicians who havebeen somewhat reluctantly thrust into the spotlight. Yet they'renot going to let their new-found fame chane their attitudesone bit.

"Journalists seem to want to see us fail this time around,"Cobain said matter offactly. "I don't know why that is-and Idon't think they really know what it is either. I don't thinkwe've given them that much reason not to like us. But thefact that they don't particularly like us doesn't reallybother me is the way they sometimes go after you."

Still, Nirvana are far from the savage innocents they mightportray themselves as being. They know damn well thay by writingsongs with eyebrow-raising titles like Rape Me, they're going toget more than their share of critical barbs hurled their way. Sowhat if the song isn't really about what it appears to be?Sometimes it seems that, like small children, demanding to benoticed, Nirvana are bound and determined to maintain theiroutrageous, yet unquestionably socially relevant stance, nomatter how much damage it may do to them in the long run.

"We've put up with a lot of crap," Cobain said. "But weknow that we're being true to our own beliefs. If the mediadoesn't like that, I don't really care."

Despite all the talk of media-baiting, media hating and the like, the bottom line is that In Utero is a major step forwardfor Nirvana. While even it's strongest supporters will probablyadmit that Nevermind often seemed like a disjointed assimilationof ideas and musical styles, there is a flow and pattern to thenew disc that its predecessor sorely lacked. While there may not be an immediately apparent hit along the lines of the historic Smells Like Teen Spirit, on such tracks as No Apologiesand the aforementioned Heart-Shaped Box the band has expandedtheir sound and style while steadfastly maintaining the quirkyquasi-metallic characteristics that first won them acclaim.

"Songs should fit together into a solid body of work," Cobain said. "That's what makes an album work. If the songsdon't work together, then usually the album doesn't work either." So with In Utero out and making the expected big splash inthe sales category, this "little band" from the outskirts ofSeattle is facing their next career hurdle-what size halls to tackle on their next tour. The members of Nirvana have statedtheir hatred of the "sterile" atmosphere presented by most arenas, preferring to take their live shows to clubs and smalltheaters. But with public demand to see them at a near-feverpitch, will the group succumb to pressure and allow themselvesto play bigger halls? It's a question even their closestconfidants don't know how to answer.

"That's a question they're not looking forward to comingto grips with," one insider stated. "There are forces tellingthem that playing bigger places and letting more fans see themis the 'correct' thing to do. I don't know if they're buyingit, though. I'm pretty sure if it were up to them, they'djust play the same kind of clubs they've always played. I thinkthey enjoy that kind of audience interaction. That's when theyput on their best shows. I just couldn't picture Nirvana onstage at the Forum in L.A. I think they'd feel out of place."

So, as it so often seems with Nirvana, there are still somany questions to be answered. While most bands dream of havingsmooth-running rock machines where all their decisions are madeand all their problems handled, these guys seem to prefer livingin a chaotic domain where there are always more questions to beasked and few answers to be given. Perhaps it's the band's wayof keeping everyone-including themselves-on their toes. Or perhaps it's just their special way of dealing with success.

With Nirvana you just can never be sure.