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Grunge
"I'm taking our music to the next level - Guitar Rock Utilizing Nihilist Grunge Energy - or, as I call it, GRUNGE!"
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Grunge is a form of Alternative Rock. A very popular one, at that. So popular that it made alternative rock more popular. Without this genre the vast majority of us wouldn't know the alternative rock bands we listen to today, since grunge broke it out of its niche status and into the public eye. For good or bad, the vast majority of us wouldn't know most of the bands we take for granted without it.

Grunge itself is widely believed to have started in Seattle, and is sometimes referred to as "the Seattle sound" by nobody in particular, even though some bands weren't actually from there. Grunge was created by two groups - Malfunkshun and Green River - and started off underground, which was the philosophy of the music. As a backlash against Hair Metal, which was big at the time (the mid-'80s), grunge artists didn't care much for theatrics or their appearance, resulting in that trademark messy look characterized by flannel shirts.

The music itself could be described as a strange combination of sludge metal and Alternative Rock with even more influences from Hardcore Punk (Black Flag's sludgier, slower material from 1984 on was frequently cited as an influence). The guitars have heavy distortion and plenty of feedback (usually), songs often consist of both loud and soft sections, and the lyrics are often pretty personal, influencing lots of more angsty genres such as Nu Metal and modern emo bands. The vocals range from Perishing Alt Rock Voice to Yarling, and all stops in between.

So, grunge started off underground, but of course something happened. What was this "something", you may ask?

Nirvana.

Nirvana, a Seattle (by way of Aberdeen and Olympia) grunge band fronted by Kurt Cobain, unexpectedly made it big in 1991 with their album Nevermind, containing the famed hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which, in typical "most famous song" fashion, was shunned by Cobain. With Nirvana's success, other grunge bands, such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, also made it pretty big. Against their will. As for punk before it, being big and famous went against grunge's philosophy, and many of the bands tried to avoid fame. Cobain himself was pretty depressed over this, as well as many other things, including his heroin addiction. This whole depression thing culminated in Cobain's shotgun suicide in 1994 (although some conspiracy theorists still maintain that he was murdered).

Then Nirvana disbanded, Soundgarden released their most famous song ("Black Hole Sun"), and grunge began to fade in the shadow of Britney Spears and a new generation of Millennial techno-geeks inspired by the Britpop revolution which was historically hostile to grunge. Another blow was dealt to grunge nearly a decade after Cobain's suicide when Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice in Chains, died of a heroin overdose — on the approximate date of Cobain's death note , which is cause for concern and even more paranoid conspiracy theories. Courtney Love did it! So, there you have it. The strange story of grunge.

Archetypal of The Nineties. For more information see articles like this one.

The "signature look" of grunge, much to the distress of fashion designers everywhere, was loose-fitting jeans and a t-shirt with an open flannel shirt over it. This had been a "burnout" look among poorer teens for years — the members of grunge bands only wearing such clothes because it was literally the only warm clothing they could afford when they were struggling — and was now promoted to "cool" kids.

Although grunge's time is over, the genre is still viewed as a landmark one due to its honesty and creative musicianship (especially compared to what it mutated into), and it still has a fanbase in certain corners, and the teens of the nineties are starting to look back upon it with nostalgia. Some of the bands have also had a significant influence on Doom Metal subgenres such as Stoner Metal and Sludge, which could be seen as a Spiritual Successor of sorts.

Not to be confused with Post-Grunge, which, beyond being based around downtuned guitar, often has very little in common.


Bands typically categorised as grunge include:

  • Nirvana (Trope Codifier)
  • Soundgarden (much like Alice in Chains, generally considered heavy enough to be Alternative Metal, and also sometimes thought of as an Ur Example of Stoner Metal as well)
  • Pearl Jam
  • Alice in Chains (often considered the heaviest of the lot)
  • Mudhoney the other TropeCodifier
  • Mother Love Bone (Cut short by the lead singer's sudden death from heroin overdose, two of its members went on to form Pearl Jam)
  • Green River (Trope Maker) (It's members went on to form Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone / Pearl Jam)
  • The Smashing Pumpkins (Disputed, as they combine many influences. Alternative Metal would probably fit better.)
  • Stone Temple Pilots (Early work. Later work is more experimental or could be considered post-grunge)
  • Screaming Trees
  • Silverchair (Especially their debut Frogstomp, released when the band was in their mid-teenage years at the height of The Nineties. They later moved on to post-grunge and later to more experimental material.)
  • Radiohead (Only during the Pablo Honey era)
  • The Pixies (They are more associated with Alternative Rock, but them and Green River were probably the first bands to play this style, as well as being a huge influence on the other bands; Cobain often said that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sounded like a Pixies ripoff, specifically their song "Debaser").
  • Mad Season (A grunge Supergroup consisting of members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees)
  • Temple of the Dog (A one-album collaboration between members of Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden that helped lead to the formation of Pearl Jam)
  • Hole (Courtney Love's band)
  • Tad
  • The Melvins (Trope Maker, along with Green River. Also associated with Doom metal. Kurt Cobain was a fan, and Dale Crover occasionally filled in on drums for Nirvana.)
  • L7
  • Malfunkshun (Ur Example)
  • Hammerbox
  • U-Men
  • Skin Yard
  • 7 Year Bitch
  • Paw
  • Love Battery
  • Pond
  • My Sister's Machine
  • The Fluid (also Garage Rock Revival)
  • The Nymphs
  • Babes in Toyland
  • Seaweed
  • Blood Circus
  • Bush (Often called Post Grunge, but they could just as easily be called 'real' grunge. You really, really shouldn't mention them around fans of grunge, however.)
  • Candlebox (Mixed with post-grunge on early work. Later considered straight up post-grunge.)
  • Truly (a band composed of members of Soundgarden and Screaming Trees)
  • Gumball (most well-known for being led by famed Alternative/Indie producer Don Fleming)
  • Haji's Kitchen (typically a Groove Metal/ Prog Metal mix but they are often considered Grunge as well)


Dark WaveAlternative RockPost-Grunge
    Music Of The 1990sAlice in Chains
Group Of EightAdministrivia/Useful Notes Pages in MainGustav Mannerheim
Gothic MetalMusic TropesHard Rock

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