Kurt Cobain's suicide: Why it's time to move on

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Screengrab from Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box (Director's Cut)" video

Twenty years ago, in the chilly, early twilight hours of the Pacific Northwest, Kurt Donald Cobain sat alone in a room on the property he shared with his wife and 20-month old daughter. He was arguably the world's biggest rock star. In minutes, he would be the world's most famous suicide victim. He loaded a syringe with enough black tar heroin to kill several people, injected it into his right arm, steadied himself, and pulled the trigger on a shotgun, ending his life instantly. He was 27.

He left his wallet open on the floor so the body could be identified, an oddly courteous act during the final motions of a life's sudden, violent denouement. He also left a note, most of which would be read aloud by his wife, Courtney Love, at a gathering near Seattle's Space Needle a few days afterward. For a few weeks, time almost stopped, or at least appeared to.

I was 17 in April of 1994, and this somehow seemed like the most important thing that had ever happened to me. It felt like my childhood was ending. But, in looking back on it, the two decades of nearly endless dissection of the event itself and the months leading up to it, I've come to a disturbing conclusion: Kurt Cobain's death wasn't nearly as important as people would like it to be.

See also:
Nirvana's In Utero vs. Nevermind: Which is better?

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Six undeniable reasons to create art

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Steven Depolo/Flickr

A factor in the decline of decent art was recently dragged onto center stage by the New York Times in an article called "Brooklyn Communal Cool: The Brand." The piece, authored by a person who spells "mic" like "mike," focuses on a communal-living quarters in Brooklyn called the Clubhouse and its ties to a "new media" company called BKLYN1834. And if you couldn't guess by the fact that somebody started a company without any vowels, it's a bunch of bullshit.

Here's a choice quote that basically sums up the article:

"For our generation of artists, we realize that we are each our own brand, but not everyone knows how to manage this," Mr. Reid said. "Our business is to equip artists with these tools, which feels like a natural, organic progression of what we already do at the Clubhouse."

Amid the swirl of eye-rolls associated with the fraud and fakery of "indie" pop-art and its interaction in a new-media marketplace, we'd like to present to you the six legitimate reasons to make art. (Hint: it has nothing to do with "branding" and everything to do with this Bill Hicks clip.

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Quiz: Coldplay lyrics or Tumblr poetry?

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At this point, U.K. rockers Coldplay are tired of even attempting to look hip. With their now song "Midnight," they've become a bland version of Bon Iver. Impressively, Chris Martin has managed to seem revelatory while saying absolutely nothing of consequence. His most provocative moment was when he told that radio station that he liked Nickelback. He's got an undeniable ear for melody, but words do not come easy to Mr. Yoouuuuuuuuu Arrreeeeeeee.

Here's a little quiz to prove the point. We typed the words "original poetry" into Tumblr, and collected the funniest specimens. Each of these questions feature three selections from Tumblr's finest, and one that was written by Grammy-winning recording artist Chris Martin. Can you spot the Coldplay in the midst of 14-year olds? Let's find out!

See Also: The rapid decline of Kings of Leon

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I honestly tried to like Imagine Dragons

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From the "I'm On Top of the World" music video

I'm going to let you in on the secret: I don't know anything about music that normal adult humans listen to. Avalanches of culture engulf our entire society while I sit in a grubby basement, hunched over a laptop listening to old Motorhead records. However, on occasion, I'm forced to stick my head out and comb through the bleak, bland, and depressingly white landscape to observe the catastrophes around me.

I have heard a song by Imagine Dragons - "Radioactive." I was a career counselor at an arts college and some little booger that went to school there had covered it playing all the instruments himself. I thought it was really good for sounding like something I was fundamentally against.

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Six terrible songs with enticing intros

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Some people just know how to hook you, right? Say you're browsing an online dating profile and someone catches your eye. Witty one-liners, cute smirks, maybe something cryptic like a tattoo of Josef Stalin eating a hot dog. Their linked Tumblr page shows they have an active interest in occult medicine and deep-sea creatures. Whatever weird, dumb thing you're into, they've got it. They've seemingly got the total package.

So you go and meet them at your favorite gastropub, and as you're sipping a glass of some crap with fernet in it, it dawns on you: This person doesn't seem that cool. How can this be? How could you have been snowed so easily based on a first impression?

It's the same, sometimes, with music. The following songs all have brilliant introductions but quickly go on to suck out loud. Listen and wince as the pangs of regret throb in your ears.

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Why do jam bands have such a stigma?

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Jam. Band. Apart, these two words are innocuous. Put them together, though, and for whatever reason, they become instantly polarizing. Whenever the subject of jam bands comes up, it seems to send some people into a frenzy of dogmatic snideness. In some cases, you get the sense that they'd almost rather you say their favorite band sucks than label it as a jam band. So why the stigma? Well, to answer that, we've probably got to go back to beginning.

See also: The ten biggest jam-band scene stereotypes

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Jam Bands

Hey, Buzz Osborne, chill on the 'Mats and Hüsker Dü bashing

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Photo By Ryan Siverson

After a chat with Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne for City Pages' Amphetamine Reptile cover story back in July, it became quite clear that he was opinionated and acerbic, especially when it came to music (a point proven even further during Buzz's engaging interview with Cyn Collins).

Now, in a recent piece in the AV Club, the always outspoken King Buzzo was asked to discuss "bands that were good, but blew it." In the feature, he excoriates some of the best-known bands in rock history. It's true that the Who, the Rolling Stones, and Metallica all have created some stinkers, but Buzz also gets in some derisive shots at Twin Cities musical luminaries Hüsker Dü and the Replacements that we must protest.

See Also: The Replacements: The studio albums, ranked from worst to best


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Grading the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2014

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Artwork by Tatiana Craine

A few weeks have passed since we found out who will be officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. Which means enough time has passed for the migraines and projectile vomiting to have subsided. Okay, the choices aren't all that bad. Although to dangle the Replacements in front of us like that, just to pull them away, is as cruel as telling you Ted Cruz is coming to speak at your school. Then saying, "Just kidding."

In any case, here's a scorecard for the inductees of the Class of 2014. Although using the words "class" and "Kiss" in the same sentence can get you sent to Bellevue for three days of observation. Ready? Okay then. I've done them in order. From the ones who make sense, to those who were seemingly picked by that mythic group of monkeys chained to typewriters.


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The rapid decline of Kings of Leon

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Kings of Leon have made their way from the underdog bar-band darlings of their early days to an arena-sized draw and festival headliners. But the Nashville quartet's fanbase has grown at precisely the same rate that their music has diminished in quality. So here we are in 2013 with a tone-deaf but blindly dedicated audience that seemingly will put up with any old dreck, just as long as it's being made by the aptly named Followill brothers (and their cousin).

While KoL have just announced a large tour that will bring their southern-styled rock to big arenas all over the country in support of their newest effort, Mechanical Bull -- including a stop at the Target Center on March 6 -- we take a look back at how the band has managed to become so good at making such bad music.


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What we talk about when we talk about Lorde

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Without knowing Lorde, I'll admit that she seems likeable. On paper, a 16-year-old riding a hit single and already getting to share her artistic dreams to a huge audience is inspiring. Adding to that, the New Zealand native often mentions in interviews that her poet mother put lots of good books in her hands. An author she latched onto is short-fiction legend Raymond Carver -- a personal favorite.

"A writer is judged by what he writes, and that's the way it should be," Carver told the Paris Review 30 years ago. "The circumstances surrounding the writing are something else, something extraliterary." The author, who was probably not a fan of KISS, died in 1988. So we'll never know if a master of minimalist writing hears brilliance in the bare-bones beat of "Royals." Much as we agree with Carver's sentiment, it's nearly impossible today to block out circumstances far outside what Lorde writes when forming an opinion on her.

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