Posted by: kubiakl | December 6, 2009

Superfuzz Bigmuff

My question:  What if Mark Arm had committed suicide instead of Kurt Cobain?

I thought about this when I heard a short clip of Mudhoney playing in the background on Charlie Hodge’s radio show last week.  It really made me miss my iPod, which has four Mudhoney albums.  And zero Nirvana.

It’s safe to say that most people who are vaguely into music know who Kurt Cobain was.  But no where near as many are familiar with Mark Arm and his band Mudhoney.  I was talking to a girl who described herself as a music junkie and when I mentioned Mudhoney all it got was a blank stare.  This sparked a disagreement about which band was more important.  She took the Cobain side, I stood by Arm and company.

Mudhoney influenced Nirvana and grunge as a whole.  Mark Arm and Steve Turner were better guitar players.  Dan Peters and Matt Lukin were a great rhythm section.  And I’ll take Arm’s vocals over Cobain’s any day.

Nirvana had more angst.  And better media coverage, thanks to the way Cobain presented himself.

Now, I’ll concede that I might be a little biased.  I always liked Mudhoney better.  And I’ll say that Kurt Cobain was a good songwriter, and Dave Grohl was a great drummer.  But a big part of me says that the reason Nirvana is remembered so fondly has to do with a) the angst they presented and b) Cobain’s suicide.

People of the 90’s latched onto the angst quickly.  We were all tired of the excess presented to us by hair metal – we could see that things were shit, and we weren’t having “Nothing But A Good Time”.  Nirvana was very overt in their view, they slapped us in the face with angst.  It was easy for people to get in to.

The suicide is my biggest sticking point with Nirvana though.  People who hadn’t even bought “Nevermind” were suddenly claiming that Cobain represented them, and that his death was the end of their happiness.  What people forget is that “In Utero” was a fairly weak effort – even by the band’s own account.  Cobain himself said he felt no emotion when he first listened to the album.

So here’s my thing – if Cobain hadn’t committed suicide, would Nirvana still be the band that one girl in college told me was the greatest ever?  If the roles were reversed, and it was Mark Arm who had bit down on the shotgun, would everyone still be talking about Mudhoney as the band that changed the music of the 90’s?

At any rate, Mudhoney can still kick ass:

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