Kurt Cobain Lives in Mary Timony's Valley of One Thousand Perfumes and He Likes It


I've been thinking about Kurt Cobain a lot lately and decided I'm going to write a bunch of little posts about relating to him in a positive/energizing/edifying way. It started with my "13 Nirvana Songs That Make Me Feel Happy & Free & Full of Light" list and it'll end when I figure out "what Kurt Cobain means to me" or when I get sick of writing about Kurt Cobain -- whichever comes first. This one's about Mary Timony and her song "The Valley of One Thousand Perfumes."


On Friday I was running and listening to my iPod on shuffle and "The Valley of One Thousand Perfumes" came on. It's on Mary Timony's first solo record Mountains and it goes like this:

Because I like to make things up, I made up a thing about how "The Valley of One Thousand Perfumes" was written by my 16-year-old self soon after Kurt Cobain's death. There are lots of lyrics you can easily twist into being about Kurt Cobain, like:

-"But you are sadder than the setting sun, and more beautiful than anyone"

-"Today our music doesn't have enough style, we're gonna to the country from a suicide"

-"Don't you know much you mean to me? It makes me wanna kill myself"

-"All I ever wanted was to talk to you/It's all I really still want to do"

Mary Timony's the songwriter I most relate to, out of all the songwriters I have ever loved. She builds make-believe worlds with her songs and I love this interview where she talks about how that world-building is "attractive to me because you can imagine being in this place that's far away from reality and thus far away from the pain of everyday life":

I love the idea of purposeful escapism, escapism as self-preservation. There's no world-building in Kurt Cobain's lyrics: he's just entirely stuck and sunk into this world, and the pain of that is what drives most of his songs. The only escape in his lyrics is death and dying ("Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld so I can sigh eternally," "Look on the bright side, suicide," etc etc etc etc etc), but it seems like there was some escape for him in actually playing music. So many of my favorite Kurt moments are the ones when he seems completely lost in messing around with his guitar, like that "Scentless Apprentice" video I wrote about and can't stop watching. Dave Grohl once said this great thing about how Kurt would always grind his teeth in time with the drums when he was playing -- he's doing that here and I bet it was hell on his jaw (I'm a teeth-grinder too, it hurts), but there's something deep and meditative about it. And I love what Kurt says about punk rock, in this video of him playing a mega-fucked-up version of "Come As You Are":

I think it's so cool when he's sincere about things like freedom and passion, and I'm happy he got to have those moments of being free. When I'm "in the right place" and I listen to Nirvana super-loud, the crazy and brutal/beautiful energy of it rips me out of myself, but also makes me feel so wholly myself in a really powerful and electrifying way, and that makes me feel free too.


Last night was cold and rainy and totally disgusting, I mean beautiful, and I ate some popcorn and drank a beer and read Kurt Cobain's Journals. The sweetest and most happy-making parts were the letters to his heroes (the dude from the Melvins, the dude from the Vaselines) and lists like this:

I like that Kurt liked stuff. I like that he wrote "like" instead of "love." The lyric from "The Valley of One Thousand Perfumes" that could most be about him is maybe the one where Mary sings "Don't give yourself away, there are too many others in pain," but I guess at the end of the day I really don't want to put that much pressure on him.

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