Don't Blame Punk | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Don't Blame Punk

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To the Editor:

If anything, Dave Marsh's attempt to find greater meaning in Kurt Cobain's suicide ("Kills Like Teen Spirit," May 26) merely confirmed an opinion I've held for a while--namely, that rock critics should be very careful when waxing philosophical. The risk of seeming like you're full of shit is quite high.

Marsh's attempt to blame Cobain's death indirectly on the punk aesthetic (and, by extension, on the situationists for some arcane reason) strikes me as not only disingenuous but incredibly inept: after acting as a cheerleader for overrated artists like Bruce Springsteen for years, Marsh should know better than to blame punk for squelching rock's liberating spirit. As manufactured as punk might've been, it certainly beat the hell out of the constipated arena-rock churned out by the likes of Styx and Journey. So much for questions of comparative "artificiality," eh?

If Marsh had made an attempt at actually examining the dynamics of Cobain's life and death instead of taking potshots at his favorite artistic and philosophical bogeymen, he might've realized this: the pressures that go along with fame are legion, and one of the worst of them is having your personal life stuck under a microscope for the purpose of having it dissected by everyone from Spin to the National Enquirer. Steve Albini pointed out that much elsewhere, and he didn't have to resort to mawkishness to do it.

Cobain's death was a tragedy, and reducing the weight of that tragedy to one rock critic's need for pointless theorizing about an artistic root cause isn't even insulting: it's merely pathetic. Cobain's death needed explanation; it's just too bad that the Bob Greene in rock-and-roll drag piece that Marsh wrote does nothing to provide it.

Chris Krolczyk

Chicago

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