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Thursday, April 1, 2004

Slightly corrected
And this past Monday's Post column — with foolish little mistake deleted.

No second coming:
In the 10 years since Kurt Cobain's death, fans have searched high and low for an explanation, or a replacement
Aaron Wherry - National Post
Monday, March 29, 2004

We all love a good resurrection. Just ask God. Or, in this case, Mel Gibson, through whom the Lord was apparently working when the star of Lethal Weapons 1 through 4 immaculately conceived The Passion of the Christ.

To date, the faithful, faithless and just curious have flocked to theatres to the tune of approximately US$300-million in admission grosses. It is already the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, and some analysts predict it will eventually surpass Titanic (US$600.8-million) as the most lucrative film in history.

Our fascination with resurrection isn't anything particularly new, nor is it unique to The Passion. In fact, the movie that displaced The Passion from the top of the North American box office was Dawn of the Dead, an updated take on the classic zombie flick. Here we had resurrection gone wrong, the dead returned to life not to cleanse of us our sins, but to eat our brains.

The continued if ultimately unsuccessful resurrection of Kurt Cobain may seem to have more in common with Gibson's Passion, even if it's often as morbid, sinister and doomed as Dawn of the Dead's brains buffet. The latest flurry of over-sentimentalized memorial comes in advance of April 5, the day Cobain, full of heroin and despair, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Since that day -- or at least since April 8, when his body was found and his death announced -- we've been searching for an explanation and hoping against all we know to be true for something of a resurrection, if not in the form of Cobain, then at least in the shape of a similar savior.

First came the conspiracy theories. Then the books, magazine articles, tributes and eulogies. An MTV Unplugged performance recorded shortly before his death, with its sombre intimacy, became his last will and testament -- his memorable refrain/epitaph "All in all is all we are."

Every year, the first week of April became occasion to reconsider and reimagine what was and what might have been.

Two years ago, a lost Nirvana song, You Know You're Right, finally saw proper release. It was the most thrilling rock single of the year and, for a moment, it felt like Cobain had risen again to cleanse the airwaves of manufactured pop and of the bastard children of alt.rock who pretended to his throne.

Months later, his personal journals became a coffee-table book. In the ghoulish marketing of resurrection, it has only recently beensurpassed for crass tastelessness by The Passion's hawking of souvenir nails.

Every biography, every sad-eyed memorial, every dusty bootleg, every never-before-published photo seems an attempt at resurrection -- every one tinged with the frustration that he is no longer walking this earthly plane, and the hope that he, or someone in his place, might similarly reign.

Like many of the theatregoers who forced themselves to suffer through The Passion's endless torture scenes, we still cling to every shred of Cobain. If it might help us better understand and maybe bring us closer to "Saint Kurt" -- as Spin's latest tribute eulogized -- it's worth the inevitable despair. Whether we really understand Cobain more so than we did on April 4 is debatable.

The relative truth of his complicated existence may well have been lost in the gospels. At this point, do we remember Cobain or do we only remember the remembrances of him? How close is the Saint Kurt created by Spin, Rolling Stone, MTV and VH1 (the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John if you will of popular rock 'n' roll) to the Cobain who would seem to have lost track of even himself by the end? This matters little to the faithful, of course -- faith and fact not often compatible concepts.

Where we haven't been busy trying to find ultimate meaning in the equally raw and vague public persona of Cobain, we've been searching desperately for the second coming. The search for the Next Big Thing -- a.k.a. The New Nirvana -- has never been more desperate. A new prophet has been brought before the disciples nearly each week for the last decade.

Billy Corgan wanted the job, but we didn't trust him. Eddie Vedder wasn't tortured enough. Courtney Love was a bit too tortured (if not the Judas or Pilate to Cobain's Christ). Thom Yorke didn't want the job, even if sometimes we wanted to give it to him. Rivers Cuomo and Beck seemed too scared to even apply, while Fred Durst made a mockery of the application process. Craig Nicholls tries too hard. Julian Casablancas and Jack White don't try hard enough.

Some of them are worshipped for a time, but all have so far failed to rouse in us the inspiration and salvation that came with the opening chords of Smells Like Teen Spirit. No matter though. There's always a new band. And the next one might be The One. Or it might be Korn.

Gibson hasn't yet convinced Jesus Christ to make a return trip (though, really, why should He bother when He's got Mel here already?). And even if He gave The Passion two holy thumbs up, it's doubtful He will be there on Oscar night to pick up the award for best adapted screenplay. But the faithful will still believe. And wait. Forever if they have to.

And though our pleadings and bleatings for Cobain have so far failed to bring us the greater understanding or second coming we seem to crave, we continue to await his resurrection. Even if our continued patience and hope seem only to result in more mindless brain-eaters.

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