As the 1990s dawned in the Pacific Northwest, a distinct cultural revolution was reaching its peak. This Grunge movement captured the angst of disillusioned youth and offered them a sound that they could identify with. Sonically, Grunge music amalgamated elements of metal, punk, and shoegaze to create a heavy sound that was a distinct embodiment of the genre’s spirit. Many Grunge bands also drew heavily from Pixies, who pioneered “loud quiet” dynamics that rapidly fluctuated from tame to hectic multiple times in the same song. Kurt Cobain has specifically cited Pixies as a major influence, and his nods to them are apparent in Nirvana’s early work. Sonic Youth was another key influence for many of the Grunge outfits that followed them, and they even went on tour with Nirvana in 1991.
Enjoy and subscribe to the latest Closer Look above! Scroll down for the individual tracks selected from the Grunge of 1992.
Interestingly, Pearl Jam and Nirvana both often expressed their admiration for Neil Young. Kurt even concluded his suicide note with a quote from “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)”. Another defining characteristic of Grunge is the anguished lyrical content; Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana lamented their agony on almost every one of their songs. These two frontmen epitomize the haunting authenticity of the era they come from. Nothing about their pain was embellished or dramatized for the sake of the music. In fact, tragically both of these iconic singers went on to battle addiction and die amidst enormously promising careers.
The Seattle based record label, Sub Pop, helped bring Grunge to the forefront as they signed artists like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney. The label would famously send out especially rude and candid letters of denial to bands that didn’t make the cut, flying the true apathetic grunge flag. For the ones that were worth keeping around, producer Jack Endino oversaw the creative process and helped the bands develop their signature unrelenting sound. Sub Pop is largely remembered as the main hub of grunge, despite being host to a variety of different artists and sounds today.
Grunge was an impossible intersection that burned fast and bright, true lightning in a bottle. It had an undeniable attitude and a certain honesty that rendered beauty out of its harsh themes. The genius of the genre was its fleeting ability to hold a microscope to the fragility of the human condition, gross flaws and all, and somehow make it irresistible. Kurt said it best, “I’m so ugly, but that’s okay, ‘cause so are you.”
Alice In Chains – Rooster
Mudhoney – Suck You Dry
Stone Temple Pilots- Plush
Screaming Trees- Nearly Lost you
L7- Pretend We’re Dead
Sonic Youth- Sugar Kane
Breath- Pearl Jam
Soundgarden- Birth Ritual
Mother Love Bone- This Is Shangrila
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