Mainstream music in the 1980s had become a parody of itself. Hair metal bands were all over the radio and MTV with groups like Warrant making videos like “Cherry Pie” that I can’t imagine anyone taking seriously. The entire rock music landscape was worn out and people were sick of it. They were ready for something new that reflected the way they felt at the time. Everything changed on September 29, 1991 with the first showing of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on MTV.
Grunge music had been around for a while already, but it wasn’t until that day that the mainstream knew about it. Once Nirvana cracked open the door, it was the people watching MTV and listening to the radio that forced it open wide with their flood of calls requesting more. Overnight, the hair metal bands were out and grunge had taken over. In addition to Nirvana, bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were also all over the radio and MTV. Before long you had bands like Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Temple of the Dog, Candlebox, and Silverchair on the Top 40 charts. For a brief time, grunge was everywhere! But nothing lasts for long in mainstream culture.
Kurt Cobain died on April 5, 1994. Just two and a half years since “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had changed the music world, the man who had reluctantly led the charge was gone. Although the music was still around, it was as if that day was the end of the grunge renaissance. Once again, everything had changed.
Whenever the subject of grunge music or grunge bands comes up today, I am told that grunge music is no longer made. If I ask people about grunge bands, the list they can give is usually no more than Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Even if I ask about modern grunge bands, I’m told to listen to the bands from the 1990s. Sometimes people will reference The Melvins, Mudhoney or The Pixies. All three of those were bands that influenced Kurt Cobain, but they were all around before Nirvana. It feels like no one knows that there are still bands out there making grunge music…but there are.
Sure. It’s no longer on the Top 40 charts. Yes, MTV no longer plays music videos at all, much less new grunge music videos. That doesn’t change the fact that there are still bands making grunge music today. The torch is still being carried by amazing underground bands like Violent Soho, Valentiine, Pure Ed, Yuck, The Grither, and Treetones. Even some mainstream bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Stone Sour, and Chevelle have a strong grunge influence. If you like grunge music and want to find more grunge bands, they are still out there. Grunge is not dead.