Where is the next Nirvana?

Brent, in a relatively rare break from work (the man has been busy since NetNewsWire went beta), wonders where the next Nirvana will come from. Is it maybe the Strokes, the Hives, the Vines, and the White Stripes? I don’t know. I’ve certainly heard words to that effect from various sources.

But the thing that Nirvana did that made everything change was to break down the barriers that the music industry and the audience had created with genres. By grabbing metalheads who were hungry for a change after the self indulgence of Axl Rose howling “Live and Let Die,” alternative music listeners who were disappointed with the Pixies’ Bossanova, and yes, frat boys who knew all the pretty songs and liked to sing along, Nirvana built a huge audience around a youth culture that felt as aimless and trapped and angry as Kurt sounded.

All the Strokes have succeeded in doing is opening the floodgates for a bunch of bands that sound kind of like them. That’s ok if you like that sort of thing, but…

I think the real problem is radio, contrary to John Robb’s assertion that it’s dead. (John, check out the MIT station WMBR the next time you’re close enough to pick up the signal. Or tune in KEXP on the web and pretend you’re in Seattle. :)) With all the radio stations being operated by remote control by some guy in Cleveland or LA who only can remember about five songs at one time, there’s no way that the “O Brother” phenomenon could reach the enormous teen audience that might have taken it and made it their own. I know it was a huge success as a soundtrack, but I have to think the demographics for it skewed way upwards of 25.

I wonder whether there’s enough commonality left in the music listening audience to make another Nirvana possible, or whether the musical universe will just keep expanding infinitely, genres rushing away from each other at the speed of light, until all the energy of pop music is turned into entropy and loss.

Support System

I think the correlation between music and quality of life is absurdly high for me. This morning I hopped in my car–okay, stumbled into is more accurate given the fog I was in–and turned on the radio. KEXP was playing “Dig for Fire” by the Pixies. Right on, thought I, and started driving down the hill. Then they switched to “Alec Eiffel”, then Frank Black’s “Tossed.” Alas, at that point their pledge drive pitch came back on (I’ve pledged, have you?). So I turned on the iPod and it was Daniel Lanois’ “For the Beauty of Wynona.” Then Violent Femmes: “Girl Trouble.” When I got to the office, Liz Phair’s “Support System” was playing.

How could one feel anything but sing and dance good after a set like that?