“Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden: Day 11 (Beginning to Parse This Whole Seattle/’Home’ Problem in Grunge)”

Chris Cornell was buried in Los Angeles, not Seattle. This is somewhat strange, I’m sure many would agree, given his original hometown of Seattle. What’s even stranger, perhaps, is that in all of the articles I read, this issue is not addressed at all — the stories offer information on who attended the funeral and they annoyingly refer to Cornell as a “celebrity” instead of a musician. One article even went into detail on the opinion on the matter of Cornell’s family, who apparently felt that substances led to the act of the singer taking his life, thereby precluding the element of purposeful volition on Cornell’s part. Nowhere, though, is it mentioned the strangeness of Seattle’s lack of involvement in his burial rites. At least the members of Soundgarden did apparently attend the ceremony, although any true fan would cite Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt of Sub Pop as important influences on Chris’s life (Poneman wrote that awesome blurb in the Soundgarden – A-Sides liner notes).
I looked up where Kurt Cobain is buried and found that the location of his ashes “has not been revealed to the public.” And as we all know, the Layne Staley situation is too grim and grotesque to even warrant curiosity.
The disfiguration of Staley’s corpse upon decease, though, in a way, is symbolic of Seattle’s own disfiguration over time: the increase of “men in suits” as reports one native, the extreme population boom which also followed the grunge explosion, and the rendering of the city as a newly swollen “vapid expanse,” as Mark Arm of Mudhoney puts it in “Running Out.” The album from which this song comes is called The Lucky Ones and procures the titled track mantra of “The lucky ones have already gone down / The lucky ones are lucky they’re not around”.
I don’t see how it would be possible to discuss any aspect of Chris Cornell’s life, whether it’s his death or otherwise, without extensively discussing as well the Emerald City. I mean ok, Cornell eventually teamed up with Los Angeleans Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk (the three non-vocalist members of Rage against the Machine) for Audioslave, but it’s the quintessential Northwestern grunge act of Soundgarden which gave him the musical notoriety that enabled him to do this.
Well, who’s leading this mob, as the chick in Clerks would say. The only explanation, in other words, that I can think of for Seattle’s unthinkable absence from involvement in Chris Cornell’s burial is some dire chasm of accountability somewhere in the center — the result either of embarrassment or spite. To me, you would have to point to Pavitt and Poneman as those most responsible for reconfiguring a sort of sense of community about the Seattle rockers (Poneman even makes some coy quip in Hype! like “I think it’s now time I declare my candidacy for mayor,” or something like that). But also, on the other hand, maybe it’s like they said all along — there never was a “scene” in the first place. The “sense of community” is imaginary, a mythical ideal to be replaced by carnal or financial motives in tandem with the albeit valid artistic expression transpiring. You can’t grow roses by throwing money in the ground.
I’m getting to the point where I’ve just generated an incredible mass of drivel on Soundgarden here, although as I’ve alluded to before, I don’t at all feel unauthorized, or unjustified, in doing so. With this being the case, though, I’m going to try to wrap this up relatively quickly. One thing of indisputable importance to mention here, though, is the bevy of lyrical themes handling the idea of the impossibility of truly calling Seattle “home,” in the scope of its untoward sociological developments (obviously a subjective assessment depending on whom you ask). Many would criticize musicians for being “whiny,” probably never having themselves carried the load of cultural leader by broaching their own sensitivities to the public. These are likely the same people who are just entirely apathetic to the individuals most of the time, apart from some personal advantage like money or fame tied therewith. Whatever the reason, though, from Mudhoney’s The Lucky Ones to Alice in Chains’ “Don’t Follow” (“Hey I ain’t never comin’ home”) to Soundgarden’s return earlier this decade (“You can’t go home no I swear you never can / You can walk a million miles and get nowhere / I got nowhere to go and it seems I came back / Just filling in the lines for the holes and the cracks / No one knows me / No one saves me / No one loves or hates me / I’ve been away for too long”), the theme is indefatigable.
The fact of no one “hating” Chris Cornell, I suppose, is a mini blessing in and of itself of sorts and converses advantageously with what for Kurt Cobain was a sort of inverted popularity phenomenon which found the denizens of his beloved Olympia, Washington (very much a polarized indie rock Mecca to Seattle’s mainstream) all of a sudden against him for the very reason of his popularity. The exact methodologies by which the members ostracized him go somewhat unexplicated in Nirvana: The Biography, but so significant of a point did Mr. Everett True think it that he even concluded the entire book with a quote from Carrie Brownstein: “‘Whether or not you can continue to get validated by more and more people, it’s hard to forget that some of the people you really cared about liked you better when only 10 people saw you.’” She’s talking about Kurt Cobain here, obviously, and indeed his situation is somewhat different from Cornell’s for his not being actually originally from Seattle (Brownstein did the opposite: came from Seattle to rock out in the indie-friendly Olympia and Portland with Sleater-Kinney), but clearly, Cornell’s relatively minor association with Sub Pop and his hometown in his funeral rites implies something like the spite which visits the successful, a natural discussion point relating to all these tragic and saddening musician deaths. In order to kick heroin and start living a good life, a support system of friends certainly would seem to be required — and when Chris Cornell in that one song utters that he’s “Searching for a friend / With (his) good eye closed”, anybody with half a brain would know he’s full of it.

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