The Origins of Grunge Music

Grunge, which is a subgenre of alternative rock, got its start in the Seattle area in the mid-1980s and is also known as the Seattle sound. Getting its name partly from the generally sloppy, thrift-store appearance of its band members, the genre was short lived lasting only to the early 2000s, but continues to influence the music made by rock bands today. Described by some as “noise”, the style of music is derived from a combination of heavy metal, punk rock, and indie rock characterized by a mushy distorted guitar sound typically speaking to social hostility and a depressive mood.

Some of the well known earlier grunge bands include The Melvins, Soundgarden, and Green River being among the first to introduce this new mode of music to the Seattle area making it a sound of their own. Bands from across the country soon began to move to the Seattle area to emulate the style and join in the sub-pop culture of grunge. By the late 1980s, grunge had reached mainstream audiences when Soundgarden signed the first major record deal followed by Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees. Nirvana, however, was the first to actually expand the attractiveness of the subgenre in the mainstream causing a decline in the following of the “big-hair” bands. By the early 2000s, grunge had lost its appeal and was replaced by what is called post-grunge as well as Britpop. Only a few groups from the grunge period are still together and performing including Pearl Jam, but Nirvana, even though they had broken up after the death of Kurt Cobain, are more popular than ever before.


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