Seattle’s finest: the glory of grunge

Nick Green

In 2006 rock music as it had been known for decades appeared to be dead, electronic-based pop and hip hop had come to dominate the national music scene and emo seemed to be the pitiful last gasp of the genre.

 Stadium Arcadium released in 2006 by the Red Hot Chili Peppers with its lead single Dani California, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 proved to despairing fans that rock wasn’t dead. Contrary to the ramblings of metal fans Grunge and the Alternative revolution it spawned are the culmination of Rock’s ascendancy; from its roots in the Blues to its current place in the pantheon of sound.

The 2000’s were not the first trial to the existence of rock. The decadent hair metal of the 80’s nearly washed away two decades of hard work on the part of cosmic bards like Robert Plant and Mick Jagger. I’m not saying that the 80’s were a barren wasteland. I love New Wave, but electronic music for the most part can’t elevate the soul the same way rock can; and self indulgent showmanship (i.e. metal) can’t compete with the simple, well composed songs of alternative music.

Grunge, which I’m loosely using to describe the alternative rock of the 90’s modernized rock, changed it from something that only aging baby boomers could enjoy into something fresh and vital. Real emotion and meaning began to seep back onto the airwaves, and the youth of America could connect to its music again.

Unfortunately, grunge and 90’s music in general are unfairly characterized as bleak and angsty, music only suited to the unstable temperament of teenagers. Underneath this façade, though, is some of the best music of all time, songs and bands that still have an enormous impact on the lives of many.

Aside from the obvious Nirvana, bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden have secured for themselves a place amongst the greats without compromising their musical vision. And bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring, and to an extent Green Day still feel young and exciting despite having been around since before many of their fans were born.

Across the pond, bands like Blur and Oasis were tuning into the same discontent affecting American youth and writing songs that captured the real feelings of the day and didn’t serve purely as a distraction to real world difficulties faced by many.

Those who would argue that Grunge and Alternative music are dead point to there lack of presence on the charts; this is not due to a lack of interest, however. Like it or not, a large portion of those who listen to music other than ol’ Bieber and Bruno Mars don’t pay for their music and as a result the true popularity of many bands is difficult to gauge.

Even so Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins (or more accurately the Billy Corgan band) still sell out enormous venues, and thanks to Grunge, indie rock compatriots like the Flaming Lips are able to bring their special brand of weirdness to the masses.

Metal is the embodiment of Rock’s potential shortcomings, it’s loud and repetitive, self indulgent, and ultimately leaves the listener wanting for substance. Alternative on the other hand can perfectly capture any mood you’re in (yes that includes happy) and put it to song.

Metal started off fine with Black Sabbath, but by the end of the 80’s it was for the most part just a jumbling of course lyrics screamed over repetitive riffs and unimaginative melodies.

If I could make one last argument in the case of Alternative v. Metal it would be this: ask a random sampling of teenagers which they prefer: Sublime and Nirvana or Mettalica and Megadeath, and I think the former would win hands down.