Mendelsohn: It seems surreal to me that Kurt Cobain thrust off his mortal coil 20 years ago. It might just be my inability to come to grips with my own age, but here we are, Klinger, two solid decades since Cobain’s death. In that time, the music industry has changed dramatically and I find myself wondering, would Cobain have been more comfortable in the music industry of today, where artists enjoy an unprecedented amount of creative freedom and independence thanks to niche labels and the slow decline of the major labels? Or would the pervasive nature of social media that lets the public directly scrutinize the artist’s each and every move made him feel even more uneasy than the unrelenting fame he seemed so unequipped to handle?
I don’t really want you to answer that question, and I’m sorry for waxing philosophic but I find myself thinking these things as I made my way through Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York. I am awed by the flashes of beauty on this record, a record I hadn’t listened to in nearly those 20 years, but going back to it now, it strikes me that this might have been Cobain writing his own eulogy. Here he is, stripping down his music, laying bare his influences, and the result is an enigmatic and enduring performance that bookends Nirvana’s short run.