Last Seattle Music Class, 12/4/12

Posted: December 7, 2012 in The Strangest Tribe: the College Course

Well, we had a blast, but all good things must come to an end. (I hate that expression…like, what does that mean? That all bad things go on forever? It’s right up there with “everything happens for a reason” in my book.)

We began with two presentations: Mikaela told us about the Manchester, UK scene of the ’80s and ’90s (also called “Madchester.”) Then, Jordan followed with Florida boy bands of the ’90s. Since a lot of the class grew up with that stuff (Backstreet Boys, etc.), they really dug the trip down memory lane.

We then talked about the last chapter of my book called, “After the Gold Rush,” which is nowhere near as good as the Neil Young album of the same name. In any event, the writing deals with Seattle and the world, post-Nirvana and post-grunge. The students seemed most interested in Kurt Cobain’s reaction to the massive commercial success of Nevermind. In my book, I quote the late Ben McMillan (Skin Yard), who recalled congratulating Kurt when Nirvana’s second record went gold. Kurt’s reaction, per Ben: “I don’t wanna fuckin’ talk about it.” The students seemed to believe Cobain was genuine in his feelings (I believe he was as well), but they couldn’t quite grasp the downside of selling millions of albums.

I also had the students listen to the following ’90s alt rock songs:

Guided By Voices: “I Am a Tree;” Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl;” Built to Spill, “Reasons;” and Pavement, “Conduit for Sale!”

The class reacted favorably to these songs (save for the Pavement selection, which of course is my fave of the four). They pointed out the ability to hear lyrics in these selections, versus some of the Seattle stuff they heard earlier. In addition to the above, I gave the students the option of listening to the following songs from independent bands I’ve been digging recently:

The High Dials: “Morning’s White Vibration;” Kinski (Seattle band!): “The Wives of Artie Shaw;” The Shins (Sub Pop band!): “Pink Bullets;” Silversun Pickups: “Well Thought Out Twinkles;” and Vampire Weekend: “Campus.”

They seemed to like the above more accessible stuff (save for Kinski), and in particular appreciated the Shins and Vampire Weekend.

We closed the semester discussing the merits and deficiencies of the course. The students seemed to enjoy themselves, and I complimented them for contributing to our various discussions. Then, after they threw various objects at me, some of them gave me a little insight into what they liked and what they didn’t. In regards to bands, it appears the Young Fresh Fellows appealed most to them…one also mentioned Minneapolis’ Replacements. The U-Men (my fave from Seattle), not so much. One young lady said the U-Men’s “Dig It a Hole” has scarred her for life…which I think is the point.

So, after much mourning and gnashing of teeth, we said good-bye.

It’s funny…I’ve found that when a class really clicks, it never feels like work. Maybe for the students, but not for me. I put in a ton of time into this course, not to mention the efforts of our six guest speakers…but it was a total labor of love. I was also blessed with some honors students who willingly gave of themselves and honestly expressed their opinions on the music and that goofy, eccentric music scene that was Seattle.

Below…Kinski plays the Sub Pop 20 anniversary fest, July 2008.


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