By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas

Grunge is a subgenre in the alternative rock genre first developed in the mid-1980s and continues to be prominent during the late 1980s and the 1990s. Grunge is closely associated with the Pacific Northwest area of the United States, specifically Seattle, Washington. The genre is first spearheaded by Seattle bands such as Green River and Mudhoney and rose into the mainstream in the early 1990s with the release of Nirvana’s sophomore LP, Nevermind. Speaking musically, grunge is characterized by the prominent use of guitars, straying away from the clean sound of 80s popular rock while being generally a little less dirty than punk rock—its predecessor. Otherwise, grunge takes a lot of forms and a lot of grunge bands are positioned differently in the guitar-sound spectrum. Lyrically, grunge generally carries the topic of rebellion, self-discovery/self-expression, and anxieties of the era and its musicians. A lot of grunge’s leading musicians are politically active and their lyrics would often reflect their views of the political and/or social climate.

The big four bands of grunge are often named to be Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. However, the definition of the genre is way more past these four bands. We have compiled a playlist to get you started in the grunge genre, including its early songs, future songs composed under the shadows of the genre, and how the genre changes throughout different identities, including women musicians and non-Pacific Northwestern bands.

Early grunge:

Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney

Swallow My Pride – Green River

Stardog Champion – Mother Love Bone

Gun – Soundgarden

Popular grunge:

Alive – Pearl Jam

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Rooster – Alice in Chains

Outshined – Soundgarden

Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog

All Apologies – Nirvana

Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees

Animal – Pearl Jam

Man in the Box – Alice in Chains

Women musicians:

Miss World – Hole

Pretend We’re Dead – L7

The Scratch – 7 Year Bitch

Beyond the Pacific Northwest:

Tomorrow – Silverchair

Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots

Bullet with Butterfly Wings – The Smashing Pumpkins

Later grunge/side projects:

River of Deceit – Mad Season

Like a Stone – Audioslave

Everlong – Foo Fighters

Listen to the playlist here

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