KURDT ON SONG
Kurt Cobain's natural love of music and his ability to write a number of key classics in his all but shortlifetime will always be remembered and respected. Here is a look at the special songwriting skills and ingredients of the late, talented songwriter.
They key ingredient of Nirvana's
appeal and success was Kurt's ability to write incredible songs that
any individual could sing along to themselves without any need to remember the words of the
particular song in question. Even now, few people can decipher the exact lyrics of Teen Spirit, but
hardly anyone could ever forget the melody! The same can be said for countless other Cobain songs,
such as In Bloom, Lithium, About A Girl,... the list is endless. Many of these tracks have verses that
are quite hard to understand, but each contains a surefire hookline that few can resist.
Most songwriters struggle
to manufacture what Kurt somehow did without trying: relying on what he
called his "pop sensibilities", acquired while he was growing up listening to the melodic skills of many
great bands, most notably the Beatles. No one knows exactly how he compiled a song, but the result
every time was a work of elegance and simplicity. His chord progressions were generally founded in
the classic traditions of 1970's rock bands such as Black Sabbath or Kiss, often employing detuned
lower strings to produce a heavier sound. Sometimes the chord changes were more angular, giving
the song a jarring feel that makes the listener slightly uncomfortable. For his vocals, Kurt worked
between the nice and the nasty. His verse melodies were usually pure pop, drifting gently across the
music and repetetive enough to be easily remembered. But then the chorus would invariably turn into
a howling wail, fraught with manic tension and hostility, giving the song a kind of schizophrenic nature.
Between these two moods lay the ingredients for Nirvana's greatest songs.
The Nirvana sound was most
effectively employed on Nevermind, their first major label release,
leading some to imply that they needed the resources of an expensive studio to show their songs in
proper light. Even if this were true, the result was a landmark albumn, sure to hold its place in the
history of rock. Despite the phenomenal success of the Nevermind albumn, the critics saved their
best approval for Nirvana's last studio albumn, In Utero. The power of the musical performances in
this collection were as majestic as ever and the songs displayed the immense melodical beauty we
had come to except from Nirvana. However, there was a greater depth of intensity and honesty in
the lyrics than one would have believed possible.
The music press unanimously
applauded the openness and clarity of the new songs like
Heart-Shaped Box and all apologies. Both detailed aspects of Kurt's marriage to Courtney Love,
although he tended to mix his ideas so that few songs refer to one specific theme alone. However,
one that apparently does is Scentless Apprentice, (off the In Utero albumn), this is a song inspired by
the novel Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. Set in 17th century Paris, it tells the story of a child born
completely odourless who is denounced as the devil's child. The child grows up with an acute sense
of smell, so much so that it can create the greatest perfumes in the world with ease, scents that make
it adored by everyone. Kurt most likely identified with this outsider character, casting himself as the
unwanted freak. The song had a terrifying primal scream for its' chorus, seemingly conveying the idea
of a tortured soul burning in hell!
The most astounding aspect
of In Utero was that the agonies and struggles of Kurt's experiences
were so exposed. The albumn virtually became a document of alienated and tormented characters
and will be valued by many as a unique musical treasure that is breathtaking to experience.