6
Sep 04

I’m currently reading that Planet Simpson book

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I’m currently reading that Planet Simpson book that purports to be an intelligent look at The Simpsons. Methinks it doth purport too much. For tis – in part at least – a book both created by and created about the ‘slacker’, ‘grunge’ phenomenon. It gets many things wrong, most often The Simpsons. But, accidentally mostly, it nineinchnails that generation.

There are some obvious markers: Douglas Coupland doing the intro; the reliance on altrock for its references and – worse – its political outlook and aesthetic approach; a whole chapter devoted to the idea as Bart as Kurt (or thereabouts).

In the book more generally and in this chapter especially, you get a wonderful opportunity to speculate about the generation one before mine. In particular, it made me think about grunge’s relationship to ‘the sixties’ and aged rockism. Apparently, the cover of Rolling Stone once called Seattle ‘the new Liverpool’. But, with that as the most obvious starting point, too what extent did grunge depend on the sixties? To what extent was its ‘apathy’/’nihilism’ a reaction to the apparent death of sixties ideals or, more specifically, the death of sixties rock stars? Or, more probably, to what extent did its media success depend on Wenner and his generation happily picking up on something *seeming* to cry with every mumbled vocal ‘things aint what they used to be’, ‘rock’s lost its soul’ etc etc etc. Most obviously, I’m thinking of that grunge-era Radiohead lyric that talks about wishing it was the sixties. In fact, that quote opens the book, just after the author talks about playing Soundgarden to his ‘hip’ college town bar. The whole enterprise positively buzzes with that whole generation and, accidentally again, poses some interesting questions. Coincidentally, in a small Liverpool listings magazine I noticed today that there is a ‘Sub Pop revival’. As Wenner’s boomer generation did before it, the slackers are evidently becoming less slackerish. Even more than it would anyway, the book becomes more and more sociological evidence and less and less postmodern analysis.

And I love it.

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