A Generational Rant Warning
From the “Black Hole Sun” music video by Soundgarden
by Jennifer Seaman Cook
They’re saying grunge is almost dead. You can almost hear it coming. As a counterethos to the age of self-entrepreneurial professionalization, grunge held onto the promise of noise at the site of the body, abandoned that hopeless promise of redemptive technology that even the cyberpunks held onto in delayed, tribalistically militant teleology. “Kill them with noise eventually” was the battle cry of this wired, escapist, technolibertarian fantasy, speculatively stealing signals between comic books and playboy, but grunge embraced the rotting dystopia fully, turned it inward with the souls of tortured poets in still beautiful 90s bodies , an insistence on the last gasps of effecting affective flesh on instrumental strings. Here youthful waste embodied the decay of a creative ethos in itself, as the Beatniks had the hopeful wastelands edges of conformist Cold War cities.
Hope? It was only virtual now, closed all around in dark lyrical centers, quivering spaces beyond commerce, much less a phalanx than a helpless turtle shell against a pack of wild Starbucks, an anarchist geodesic holdout from the heartbeat of the ecomovement, local networks huddled against their encroaching unravelment by the globalist consument, by rationalism, by capital, by MTV, by 1999 dissolved in endless rainstorms of musical rhizomes exploding, their hybrid cells’ powerhouses blown in simultaneous suicides, drug overdoses, and wakes of televised self-destruction, spectacles in the media to rival even that dick William Burroughs-without all those linear antagonisms of modernist toxic masculinity; a ruin with an ironic emotional chance at social futurity.
These were not deaths by violence but the descending violence of feeling, a choice barely impending: to die or die selling. They say grunge is almost dead, but who’s left who didn’t die striving, failing, succeeding, in one way or another?
They say grunge is almost dead but grunge was born dying, blew out like a vigil candle dying with the knowing. Besides, Billy Corgan already died when he went on the Alex Jones show awhile ago. For this Xennial anyway it’s a memory, mnemonic liquid; you can take a hit, but there’s nothing left of it.
I’m only saying.
About the Author:
Jennifer Seaman Cook is a published American Studies scholar, essayist, creative writer, and documentary mediamaker. Working at the intersections of politics and poetics, she specializes in visual and public cultures, cultural and social movements, and media and technology studies. Jennifer’s essays, poetry, and hybrid writing can be found in 3:AM magazine, Cedilla Literary Journal (archived at University of Montana), Lunch Ticket, Popmatters, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Salon and more. Jennifer teaches American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.