The Grunge scene that developed in Seattle in the late 80’s early 90’s has really changed over the years, and not based on the reasons you might think.
Grunge peaked in late 1991. The song and video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana was played on MTV and the youth of America identified with the music and movement known as Grunge.This made people think the movement was an overnight sensation. Of course, Nirvana and the other bands that went mainstream had been playing and working in bands for nearly four years before Grunge struck.
Death & Rebirth
People are divided as to what killed Grunge in the mainstream. Some people say it was Kurt Cobains death in 1994, and others say it was when Soundgarden split in 1997. Whatever the main reason, the word Grunge became a dirty word for a number of years until the dust settled and Post-Grunge was born (Alter Bridge, Nickelback, Stone Sour and Black Stone Cherry to name a few) in the late 90’s/early noughties, but like all post music genres, it is very different.
So what was different? Firstly clothes and image were very different first time around with lumber jackets and torn jeans, but with Post-Grunge it’s a more professional turnout, with tattoos and more focus on band imagery. Is this a sign of the change in society as regards to how we present ourselves? Or is simply the fact that Grunge bands in the early 90’s were so poor they couldn’t afford any clothes and lived in Seattle, hence the lumber jackets to keep warm.
Also the music featured many more varied influences other then Punk and Metal; very common in offspring genres., Despite people complaining that it was not pure Grunge anymore, they still remember when Grunge first hit the mainstream and people complained it was not pure Punk anymore – it’s a progressive circle which is needed to keep the music industry as fresh as it possibly can get. Post-Grunge has signs of Nu-Metal and signs of modern Heavy Rock with makes sure it gets in the mainstream with a wide audience appeal.
Just Say No
When comparing these two you cannot ignore the lack of Drugs (at least in public anyway) in Post-Grunge as compared to Grunge, and this can be reflected in society as Heroin is not as glorified as it was when Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley were at their mainstream peaks. You you can say this reflects why all these bands did what they did, Grunge started with bands that had no money and nothing to do but listen to bands in damp houses which inspired them to start their own bands. And Post-Grunge started with bands that were fans of Grunge, so they played music similar to Grunge bands. I wouldn’t say they were fans of the lifestyle, and maybe the image too.
So Grunge music has changed musically, in the image of the bands and the reasons why the music is played. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but hopefully the original Grunge bands can be seen to be influential and important to further music being created even to this day, and not a bunch of smack addicts that sat on their arse, got high and died young.
And hopefully it’s refreshing that a music genre is not motivated by politics, but by people wanting to create music they love, which is a great reason to create music.
Feature by Martin Wake