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Grunge Scrounge: 10 Records That Paved The Way for the Grunge Wave in late 90s music
Grunge Scrounge: 10 Records That Paved The Way for the Grunge Wave in late 90s music
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana during MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993 at Pier 28 in Seattle, Washington, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Grunge Scrounge: 10 Records That Paved The Way for the Grunge Wave in late 90s music

These artists dominated MTV airplay. Their music was something every young punk could relate to. Grunge exploded far from Seattle very early, but it had to start in Seattle. The music here was inspired from within, not without. While other cities leaned into classic rock, glam metal-this peculiar place incubated one of the biggest genre movements in history. What albums shattered the glass ceiling?

Though a lot of musicians credit bands that might not have a direct inspiration on the sound, it is important to dive into what made grunge the relatable, piercing sound it was. A fusion of elements from heavy metal and punk rock, it baked in the self-loathing, political and social turmoil of America from the mid 80s. Here are some legendary albums that defined the long reign of grunge:

Neil Young-Rust Never Sleeps (1979)

You could have never assumed Neil Young with grunge, but he was a proto-grunge pioneer. Full of live recordings that were later overdubbed in the studio, Rust Never Sleeps was the birth of a rougher, jagged sound. It was what all punk-rockers embraced, and shone a spotlight on the outcasts who expressed through music. You can hear heavy influences of Neil Young on grunge legend Pearl Jam, with Eddie Vedder. They even recorded with him on his Mirror Ball (1995) album. This progressive tone was heard in Ragged Glory (1990) as well, which is deemed equally important. 

The Stooges-Fun House (1970)

Consider this album the Fight Club of music. Though commercially unsucesseful on release, you have to remember this was The Stooges. With it’s “poorly mixed” sound, it was exactly what grunge was supposed to sound like. The instruments bled into each other, creating what would be a jam room take, not a published album result. It was punk rock that got grunge superstars weak in their knees. 

Sonic Youth-Goo (1970)

Very few grunge artists don’t credit Sonic Youth for tones and performance. Using pop culture references in grunge music came from this band, with explorations into body image as well. It broke out of the garage punk wormhole to this burgeoning, lively reflection of sound. Bringing the underground sound to the mainstream was taught within the 11 tracks of this album.

Melvins-Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)

The influence of Melvins cannot be understated in the movement. While figuring out riffs down the fretboard were heavier, their tonality was that of sludge or heavy metal. While bands like Black Sabbath inspired the songwriting and riff design-the real element was in their arrangement. With just their debut, they knew the direction to go. Dave Grohl, only a teenager then, expressed how different and revolutionary what Melvins did was. He even called it heavier and better than Black Sabbath. Listen to the album in one sitting, and you’ll know why so many were enamoured by them.

Green River- Come On Down (1985)

Though their stint was short-lived, Green River changed the course of the game in more ways than one. This album was considered to be the first grunge record, released several months before the Deep Six compilation record. The fuzzy tone was heard in all their songs, and references to American Patrotism, social disdain and self-image were made. Most importantly, members of the group went on to form bands like Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam. Talk about a treasure trove.

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Black Flag-My War (1984)

Black Flag has a footing in punk rock as one of the greatest ever. My War was the second studio album by the band, who gave the devil spirit speed on punk rock on one side. The B side however, had slower, Black Sabbath like sludge trudges. This resulted in not only inspiring grunge, but other post-hardcore movements in sound. Fun fact, Black Flag’s My War tour was when Kurt Cobain attended his first concert. Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t? Nevermind. 

Mudhoney-Superfuzz Bigmuff (1984)

With Mark Arm and Stever Turner of Green River reuniting, something magical had to happen. The fuzzy sound and aggressive attack that most of grunge adored came with this album. Songs like Touch Me, I’m Sick became instant fan favourites. Still recording and rocking, this band was one of Nirvana’s idols. The record was even named as one of Cobain’s favourite in his journal. 

Mother Love Bone-Shine (1989)

Jeff Ament, Bruce Fairweather and Stone Gossard from Green River were half of this band. With a sound so unique that it inspired even alt-metal, the influences were obvious. The tone shifting to composition and surreal lyrics changed the very tapestry of the grunge tone. The band enjoyed critical success with this release. The rawer side of Seattle’s magic could be felt in EPs like this. 

Hüsker Dü- Flip Your Wig (1985)

This band has been credited by Nirvana to be, well, the original Nirvana. With their raw punk sound, it was the speed and orientation towards melody that blew people away. Though the band was inspired by bands like Dead Kennedys and The Fartz, their sound was a more ear to instrument approach. Krist Novoselic oftentimes credits Dü for a lot of their style. 

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Black Sabbath-Vol 4. (1972)

Many, many bands could have taken this spot, but I’ve gone with logic here. Tune down, wayyy down. The lords of heavy metal. The origin of stoner rock and metal. It all began with this album. Every song better than the last, the complete collection for the origin of many bands. Vol.4 inspired not just grunge, but so many more sounds. There’s a reason this band is the collective godfather of all the sludge. 

I’d love to hear your opinions on which albums could be omitted/added to this list. Comment on your top 10 below, and make sure you dedicate an evening for those who made grunge what it is. These are the 10 albums that defined the grunge movement, make sure you seal the room before going completely apeshit on many of them!

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Self professed metalhead, moderately well read. If the music has soul, it's whole to me. The fact that my bio could have ended on a rhyme and doesn't should tell you a lot about my personality.

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