90s Grunge Music

Grunge-title-cardAt the dawn of the 90s, mainstream rock music was dominated by one, very 80s style

Glam metal.

Aerosmith, Poison, Bon Jovi… The hair was hideous and the songs were sucktastic.

Fortunately, those days would soon play their big power ballad in the sky.

Outside the mainstream, and unbeknownst to the music industry, the Alternative movement was gaining steam. Bands like The Pixies and Sonic Youth combined elements of pop, punk, and metal to create an experimental new sound.

Then, in 1991, this new sound would crystallize around one band (and later, the bands of one city), knocking down the walls of the music industry and ushering in the era of grunge rock.

SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

In a dark, mood-lit gym, apathetic cheerleaders led the student body in an alternatingly quiet then loud rock number.

Load up on guns / And bring your friends / It’s fun to lose / And to pretend

The teenage crowd erupts, sending the gym into chaos, as the janitor merrily dances along with his mop.

It was an anthem for Generation X; Nirvana’s breakthrough single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Thanks to heavy rotation on MTV, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became wildly popular, and by January 1992, Nirvana’s debut album, Nevermind, took the #1 spot on the Billboard albums chart. (more…)

90s Alternative Rock

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There was no decade quite like the 90s. Politically, economically, whatever. But nowhere was this more evident than in the music that was made during those years. In all genres, new styles rapidly emerged and evolved. Of it all, there was one genre that meant more to me than any of the others. I’m talking, of course, about rock music.

Growing up in New Jersey as a white, middle-class male, I easily identified with the ethos of rock. The rebellion, the angst, the idealism- born out of the 50s, these sentiments were still alive in the 90s, finding its form in newer and noisier ways. The stylings of 90s rock were wide ranged- grunge, britpop, pop punk, indie, rap rock- some were good, some were bad, some were forgotten to adulthood. Yet even though our tastes evolve after adolescence, the appeal of nostalgia can just be too hard to igore.

I’m calling this series “Rock By The 90s”. Each week, I plan to post a new article on a different subgenre of 90s rock, and the specific bands and songs that characterized each movement. By the end, I hope to have extensively recounted all things 90s rock.

But first, to tell the FULL story of 90s rock, we need to go back a little bit further in time. I’m talking ALL the way back…to…

The late 80s.

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GLAM METAL

As the 80s came to a close, MTV had already begun to suck. No, not as badly as today- for one thing, they still played videos- but videos primarily of hair bands. Yup, in the late 80s, hair metal was the king of rock. And with it, an all-pervading, image conscious commercialism had become the status quo. Bands such as Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Poison murdered our ears with sonic monstrosities, and burned our eyeballs with their high maintenance hair and flamboyant outfits.

But as the decade of the 90s began, glam metal started to be seen as excessive, both in its power ballads and its volumized hair, and the genre began to fall in to decline. Maybe the biggest indictment of this music was a scene from the documentary, ”The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years”, involving the guitarist from the band W.A.S.P., as he excessively abuses alcohol. (more…)