Nirvana

Even now, years after you first felt its edges, the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” still sounds too dangerous—too loud, too ugly, too upset—for any mainstream. And yet, Nirvana’s 1991 single didn’t just mark an unlikely breakthrough for the Seattle trio, it upended popular culture in ways we’ve haven’t seen since. Punk became pop, grunge became global vernacular, industry walls became rubble, and frontman Kurt Cobain became the reluctant voice of a generation in need of catharsis, all seemingly overnight. Though his 1994 suicide would see the band dissolve just as abruptly as they’d arrived, their story is now rock’n’roll parable and their influence still felt—as punks, icons, Hall of Famers, purveyors of haunting melody and often terrifying noise.

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