Aah, those words feel good in my mouth.
Recently, grunge seems to have climbed its way out of its early grave by the grubby hands and crawled its way back into our consciousness. Although, I don’t think it was really dead (though some argue that it died with Kurdt Cobain.) NIRVANA was one of the biggest groups of the 90s. A band like that isn’t just forgotten because they don’t make records anymore. I, for one, can say that I listen to a Nirvana record at least twice a week and there are tons like me. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the steady release of post-humus ‘new’ Nirvana paraphernalia to buy.
But GRUNGE goes beyond Nirvana. It’s a movement. It’s an identity. So much of grunge music is poetry. A shy person’s poetry. Painfully honest lyrics wrapped up in metaphors and delivered in an aggressive, sometimes incoherent way. Like a teenager having a tantrum.[ I think that was the side of me that instantly got drawn to its emotive power.] But deeper than that, the grunge/riot grrl! movement that was happening in the early 90s is not dissimilar to what was happening with Punk in the late 70s. Kids had never been more creative, experimenting with words and language, (L7’s ‘Wargasm’ being an example.) They found modern ways to express political opinions through the music and the fanzines, and found a way of slipping melodies into hard rock music. But the core of the movement was the juxtaposition between all things light and beautiful and all things scruffy and dark.
Grunge fanzine 'Bikini Kill'. 2nd edition
This was also reflected in the fashion. The ‘Kinderwhore’ thing began: girls wearing cute babydoll dresses, mary-janes, makeup and hair clips. Though the dresses and tights were often ripped, the makeup smudged and/or heavily applied, and the hair a Punk hairspray mess. The style, roughly translated from German means ‘Child Whore’ and was concoted by either Courtney Love (Hole) or Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland). It is not known which, as both seem to have staked claim on the look. It is a look that sums up how so many young girls feel; child-like, young and carefree, however, sexualised by men and the media. It was a way of owning the sexualisation that was (involuntarily) happening, a way of reclaiming their sexuality. Feminism, at its most jaded, was in the youth. And this look is one that can still be seen today, in tea dresses/vintage dresses teamed with biker/’grunge’ boots. The ultimate juxtaposition between beautiful and dark was Mr Grunge himself, Kurt Cobain. Blond, beautiful, but a complete mess.
The 90s was a time when people were coming down from the heady heights of the 80s. The hedonism, indulgence, greed, and vanity had taken its toll, the economy had since declined and this left a gaping hole for the disaffected youths to re-package Punk and scream out their frustrations. With the dawning of this new decade, maybe the same thing is needed to combat the similarly indulgent Noughties?
And it seems to be the case.
Over the last few years we have seen the return of grunge bands Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Faith No More, Pixies, Alice in Chains and more recently, Hole and Soundgarden. Grunge did not die. Many bands came and went in between, including new ones like French band Sassy. What I’m saying is that Grunge cannot and will not die. As long as there are kids with guitars, a decent CD player and things to worry about, it will live forever. What happens is that it just becomes unfashionable every decade or two.
GRUNGE went away while the 00s attitude of ‘party party money money’ leant itself to Pop, Dance and R&B music. With the recent recession looming and lingering, GRUNGE, is back.
Things to check out:
Book – Grunge is Dead
Book – Grunge