Grunge

Disaffected by commercialized and highly produced pop and rock in the mid-1980s, bands in Washington state (particularly in the Seattle area) formed a new style of rock which sharply contrasted with the mainstream music of the time. The developing genre came to be known as "grunge", a term descriptive of the dirty sound of the music and the unkempt appearance of most musicians, who actively rebelled against the over-groomed images of popular artists. Grunge fused elements of hardcore punk and heavy metal into a single sound, and made heavy use of guitar distortion, fuzz and feedback.[201] The lyrics were typically apathetic and angst-filled, and often concerned themes such as social alienation and entrapment, although it was also known for its dark humor and parodies of commercial rock.

Bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, the Melvins and Skin Yard pioneered the genre, with Mudhoney becoming the most successful by the end of the decade. However, grunge remained largely a local phenomenon until 1991, when Nirvana‘s Nevermind became a huge success thanks to the lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Nevermind was more melodic than its predecessors, but the band refused to employ traditional corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms. During 1991 and 1992, other grunge albums such as Pearl Jam's Ten, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger and Alice in Chains' Dirt, along with the Temple of the Dog album featuring members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, became among the 100 top selling albums. The popular breakthrough of these grunge bands prompted Rolling Stone to nickname Seattle "the new Liverpool." Major record labels signed most of the remaining grunge bands in Seattle, while a second influx of acts moved to the city in the hope of success. However, with the death of Kurt Cobain and the subsequent break-up of Nirvana in 1994, touring problems for Pearl Jam and the departure of Alice in Chains' lead singer Layne Staley in 1996, the genre began to decline, partly to be overshadowed by Britpop and more commercial sounding post-grunge.

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