Throw Back Thursday: The Grunge Era


Today, distorted guitar sounds, angsty lyrics, and flannel shirts all stand as representations of the rock movement known as grunge.  This movement, which originates in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, in the early 1990s, has a vibrant history and has been credited with popularizing punk rock.    

The grunge movement found influence from punk, heavy metal, and even folk-rock.  Perhaps the most essential idea that grunge drew from punk was that anyone could play an instrument and thus music could be a form of self-expression and even more notably, rebellion.  Neil Young’s influence in the grunge movement is also of note.  Often called “the godfather of grunge”, Young’s use of distorted guitar sounds and his sociopolitical outrage shine though in the burgeoning sound of the 1990’s Pacific Northwest.  


Heavily intertwined with punk and rock in both aesthetic and sound, grunge still stands as its own entity.  The style’s isolation in the Pacific Northwest allowed the genre to develop uniquely, away from the influence that major music centers like Los Angeles and New York City have exerted on other sub-genres.  Despite grunge’s initial isolation from more mainstream sounds, Nirvana’s album Nevermind became a chart-topper in 1991, and grunge quickly emerged as the saving grace of rock, out of a period of seemingly over-indulgent 80’s bands.


Nirvana remains one of the most influential bands to come out of the grunge movement in Seattle.  The group’s popularity prompted the surge of the grunge sound all over the country but also caused major labels to leech onto the style in an effort to cash in. It is often claimed that grunge died with the tragic suicide of Nirvana’s front man Cobain in the spring of 1994.  But the styles strong riffs and disquieted lyrics continue to influence the music industry and connect to young listeners as they look back on the movement’s heyday.

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