Routine assessment of Kurt Cobain’s cultural influence.
Editor of the now-defunct Seattle music magazine The Rocket at the height of the city’s music scene in the 1990s, Cross (Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller than Our Souls, 2009, etc.) has written several biographies of local heroes, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Cobain life story Heavier than Heaven (2001). In this slim book, the author sets out to make the case for six areas in which Cobain’s influence was most strongly felt: music (primarily rock, not surprisingly, but also hip-hop); popular culture and media; fashion; the cities of Seattle and Aberdeen, Wash. (the depressed community where Cobain was born and raised); the ways addiction and suicide are prevented or treated; and his legacy among family and peers. The divisions among these areas are not always sharp, and in many cases cited by the author, Cobain can’t be credited solely or even primarily. For instance, though the phenomenon called grunge takes up a major part of Cross’ attention, he admits that Cobain never considered himself part of that alleged movement, the name of which was popularized by Mark Arm of the Seattle band Mr. Epp and the Calculations. Also, was it Cobain or Nirvana as a whole that was responsible for practically inventing the category of alternative rock for record stores and radio stations? It was, however, undoubtedly Cobain who, with his dirt-poor taste in thrift-shop cardigans, Army surplus plaids and generic ripped jeans, influenced a whole generation of fashionistas like Marc Jacobs and Hedi Slimane. Every so often, fashion resets with a new grunge period of anti-style, and Cross convincingly argues that we have Cobain and his widow, Courtney Love, to thank for that.
A perfunctory accounting that reads like a stretched-out Sunday supplement article.