Grunge got its start in the mid to late 80’s in the Seattle area, in Washington state. The most credited artists from the grunge movement include Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. These artists are known as the Big Four of Grunge. But many other bands had their hand in starting and pushing the genre as well, like Green River and Mudhoney. Other bands still were lumped into the flannel flood simple due to timing and similar sound. Stone Temple Pilots come to mind. While STP hailed from San Diego, many other musicians from across the country, and specifically the West, have solid roots in the sound.
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Grunge music is a huge influence on The Retro. Most of us are aging radio jocks fed and raised on a healthy diet of sludgy, Drop D tuning and self-loathing lyrics meant for a suicide note, or a Nirvana song. And speaking of Cobain, below you’ll find the most influential bands and artists the 90’s music trend gave us. Let’s take a look at the Big Four Grunge bands…
Who doesn’t think of Kurt Cobain as the Godfather of Grunge? Point out any haters so we can revoke their tattered jeans and slouchy attitude. Cobain is undisputed. But that doesn’t mean he created grunge. What he did was take a budding sound and owned it. You could say the same about Elvis, The Beatles and Michael Jackson. Whoops. Did I just group Cobain in that same company? You’re damn right I did. And Nirvana was his vessel to a legacy the grunge great would undoubtedly shun.
Soundgarden, led by rock legend Chris Cornell, also emerged as a grunge powerhouse. But Soundgarden took a more metal approach. Soundgarden, with Cornell screaming like a banshee, emerged more likened to some of the 80’s metal that preceded it. But the difference to 80’s metal and thrash from Soundgarden is as obvious as sunshine. Soundgarden beautifully evolved rapidly throughout their career before breaking up, but found their way back together, and back to their original sound shortly before Cornell’s death in 2017.
Pearl Jam, also a grunge giant, could be best defined as a stadium rock band. Their music, even the early releases like the classic Ten, feels more mainstream than most other grunge albums. Even so, Pearl Jam represented some of the best grunge had to offer.
Alice In Chains
Alice In Chains was, and is, the stoner metal side of grunge. Many of AIC’s songs and music focused on drugs and the struggles of addiction. The band put out a shortlist of classic albums before the group’s lead singer Layne Staley quickly succumbed to his drug use. Today Alice In Chains garners the most feverish of fans compared to other grunge acts due to their unique sound and relatable vulnerability.
Listed below are bands and artists classified in one way or the other as “grunge”. Please keep in mind not all artists listed below are universally considered grunge. Rather, each group or artist is included on this page because in some way they are a thread in the grunge sweater. Some bands came from the Seattle and North West region, or they were clumped in with the movement because they emerged at the same period. Some groups just happened