90s Nostalgia, Day Two: Grunge

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 8:29 EDT
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While grunge may not be back, dressing like a lumberjack somehow is.

This is the 2nd in a series of posts about 90s nostalgia in the lead-up to WAM! Prom. RSVP here. You can also go the Facebook page to leave requests for songs or videos to be added to the video reel.

Grunge is probably the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of the 90s, and yet it somehow still feels misunderstood. Many of the early musicians labeled “grunge” thought of themselves as an extension of a long line of punk rock that had started in the 70s and grown through the underground independent label revolution of the 80s. Like the label “New Wave”, “grunge” was more of a marketing thing than some kind of revolution in the same way punk was. Still, I like the label, because it does capture something about the metal-influenced heaviness that made the sound stand out from other strains of late 80s/early 90s music that had evolved from punk. It’s a sound that I don’t think has aged well, though some of my stoner rock-loving friends would probably disagree.

Some bands that were labeled “grunge” don’t really sound like grunge to me, but they did trend in that direction sometimes.But I’m including them in the round-up, with a song I feel is them at their grunge-iest.

Grunge was a dude-heavy genre, but many of its musicians—notably Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder—had strong feminist sympathies, and were utterly unafraid to share them. I appreciate the effort, but it’s also worth noting that many of the mainstream fans they picked up after grunge went big had no idea and were attracted to the music because they perceived it as an assertion of white male dominance. That bothered Cobain a lot, as it should have, because it ended up paving the way for the overtly misogynist rock that started to come out in the late 90s.

Despite this, some grunge still holds up as good music, though it’s not particularly danceable, so I’m afraid there may not be much at WAM! Prom. But there might be some.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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