Now I know this may be a controversial article, but I believe this needs to be said. In my opinion, Grunge was more of a movement or a scene than it was a legitimate musical genre, kind of like Riot Grrrl, Nardcore, Queercore, the East Bay Sound, and Norwegian Black Metal. Now of course, that doesn’t mean I hate the music that many call Grunge. In fact, I love so called “Grunge” music. It’s just that I don’t consider it an actual style of music. There are several reasons for this.
The first reason is that many unrelated (from a musical standpoint, at least) bands who had nothing in common musically were all lumped in the Grunge wave. Seriously, how do bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam sound alike? What about Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone? Or Alice In Chains and Love Battery? Or Mudhoney and Stone Temple Pilots? The point is, the bands lumped in with Grunge actually belong to other genres. Bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Green River are Punk Rock bands. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Tad are Heavy Metal. Pearl Jam is really an Alternative and Arena Rock band influenced by Classic Rock. Bands like Love Battery, Screaming Trees, and Truly are Psychedelic Rock bands. I think I’ve made my point.
Another reason is that many of the bands couldn’t stand the word Grunge. Kurt Cobain hated it and described Nirvana’s music as Punk Rock. If you read the book, “Everybody Loves Our Town,” it said in the introduction that a lot of the interviewees said they hated the word and a lot of bands credited with coining the term Grunge didn’t want to admit it. These bands prefer to describe themselves as Punk Rock or Metal.
I can also give you a counterpoint to any arguments you may have that Grunge is a genre distinguishable from Punk, Metal, or Alternative. One argument is that Grunge is different from those genres and is characterized by a raw, dirty sound. Well, Motorhead and The Stooges (or almost any Punk band) have a raw, dirty sound, yet you wouldn’t call them Grunge. Also, so called Grunge bands like Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, and Love Battery have a very polished and decidedly unraw and non dirty sound. Another trait that supposedly separates Grunge from those genres are themes of alienation, depression, and teen angst. Bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, and The Ramones used these themes in their songs, yet you wouldn’t call them Grunge.
Like I said, Grunge was more of a scene than it was a genre. And you know what? The bands in that scene are some of the greatest in their respective genres. Bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, Green River, and 7 Year Bitch are some of my favorite Punk bands. Bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Tad, and Gruntruck are some of the best metal bands around. Pearl Jam is probably the greatest Arena band ever. Mother Love Bone is an awesome Glam band that would make Guns ‘n’ Roses jealous. Truly, Love Battery, and Screaming Trees are excellent Psychedelic Rock bands that managed to make their music sound fresh. To make it short, just because Grunge is not a genre doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to the bands in the Grunge scene. You’ll be happy you did.