Where to start with... Grunge rock

author PP date 03/04/05

Back in the late 80s early 90s Grunge was defined as the "Seattle Sound". It consisted of strong, dirty sounding, distorted guitars, angst-filled, even whiny vocals, often a simple bass line and heavy drums. The style had slowly evolved from hardcore punk, thrash metal, and alternative rock during the late 80s. The first grunge bands were from Seattle, but later it spread out further in the Northwest to cities like Portland and Olympia. As soon as the term grunge comes out, most people associate it with bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden. But there was one band, that all of the big, commercially successful bands drew their inspiration from. Many have never heard of the band, as they never gained huge popularity outside of Seattle. Green River, as the band is called, was formed in 1983. Their sound was a lot heavier than the late Grunge bands.

So, say you have never heard grunge music before? That's probably wrong, since everyone has heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at one point during their life. The grunge scene escalated at 1989 when Nirvana released their debut album Bleach via Seattle based Sub Pop records. Many of the early grunge bands were associated with the label, that actively sought new musical styles to bring out to the people. Well, they found Nirvana and the rest is history.

In 1991 Grunge rock jumped into the consciousness of those who listen to mainstream music with Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's debut album "Ten". These are also the two albums that you should consider listening to first before you go on to the rest of the grunge albums. Especially Nirvana's "Nevermind" was a huge commercial success, becoming the best selling grunge rock album ever. Because of this, many people falsely give Kurt Cobain the title of being the godfather of grunge rock. Even though Kurt might have brought Grunge to the mainstream popularity, he did not create it. Still we are referring back to Green River, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Skin Yard, or Malfunkshun. All of these were bands that inspired Kurt to become the legend he is today.

But at the same time as Nirvana was enjoying their dominance of the charts, other great grunge rock bands were making their way up towards popularity. Bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Silverchair, Jawbreaker, Jane's Addiction, Temple Of The Dog (side project of Pearl Jam's vocalist Eddie Vedder), Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains and others were making great records. Worth checking out are Stone Temple Pilot's "Core", Silverchair's "Frogstomp", Jawbreaker's "Bivouac", Hole's "Pretty On The Inside", Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness", Jane's Addiction's "Ritual De Lo Habitual", Soundgarden's "Badmotorfinger", and Alice In Chain's "Dirt". These are pretty much the most essential albums of Grunge rock together with Nirvana's and Pearl Jam's releases.

The influences of these albums have spread out further than one could imagine. Grunge rock has influenced bands like Rage Against The Machine, R.E.M, Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Beck, Cake, Placebo, Foo Fighters and even the pop metallers Creed. Today it is widely accepted that Grunge rock is dead. There aren't any prominent grunge bands anymore that create the same angst-filled flannel+jeans garage-style rock. Instead, there are several bands that are classified as Post-grunge. They have taken the original sound of Grunge and evolved it into something different - into something where you can still hear the roots of Grunge, but yet it sounds somehow...strange. Bands like Puddle of Mudd, Audioslave, and the new Bush albums are the result of evolution within Grunge rock itself. Puddle of Mudd's 2001 debut album "Come Clean" is worth checking out, as well as Audioslave's self titled debut.

Puddle of Mudd are not popular within the sceneists. They have gained a commercial stamp for a number of reasons. One, their sound is very radio friendly, something that the original grunge barely was. Two, they supported Linkin Park on their European tour. Even so, Puddle of Mudd's post-grunge isn't from the most creative end. It is nearer to nu-metal than to the original grunge rock. On the other hand, bands like Bush who keep releasing great post-grunge records such as "Golden State" and "The Science Of Things" are definitely worth listening to. Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's Audioslave are also on the verge of becoming an international superband. Their second album, to be released on May 17th will probably elevate Audioslave into the role of the most important post-grunge band since Bush's late 90s records.

What one should take out with them from the grunge and post-grunge era are Kurt Cobain's Nirvana's simplistic but angry riffs and vocals, Stone Temple Pilots' pre-"Shangri-La" records, Bush's mid 90s-early 2000 records, all Pearl Jam albums, Silverchair's "Ana's Song (Open Fire)", Green River's debut "Come On Down", Mudhoney's "Superfuzz Bifmuff (Plus Early Singles)", Soundgarden's Chris Cornell's vocal talent on their albums, and last but not least Alice In Chains' "Dirt", one of the most important grunge records ever.

Click here to download an mp3 containing the highlights and the best moments of Grunge/Post-grunge. Right click.. save as!

Written by: Petteri Pertola

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