After suffering through a particularly excruciating rendition of someone’s idea of what “Crust” is, Lance Marwood is embarking on a soul-searching journey of self-righteous education, one embattled subgenre at a time. Watch as he attempts to describe an entire subgenre of heavy music using less than 300 words. There’s a bonus playlist of essential artists and releases after for your perusal. This time around… GRUNGE!

The Skinny: The only reason grunge exists is because the Pacific Northwest was an overlooked, downtrodden shithole that no one gave a fuck about up until the early 90’s. Because of this, punk, hardcore, post-punk and numerous other sub-genres merged and melted into each other. Out of this came a number of bands that eventually started turning heads. Armed with an ethos underpinned by hardcore punk and epistemic privilege, these bands would come to signify a revolt against the decadence of the 80’s (see: Hair Metal, Glam).

The grunge period really started in 1985. C/Z Records put out a compilation of various artists, including Green River, Melvins, and Soundgarden. The influential impact of piling these types of artists together was echoed in Sub Pop’s “100” and “200” compilations, giving it a cohesive appearance and sound. The scene got exposure from photographers covering shows and music journalists covering the local scene, and sure enough, it blew up. By 1990 the scene was saturated with pretenders, though that didn’t stop true grunge artists from putting out solid records, like Mudhoney and Alice In Chains.

But like all things before the internet, the scene only really blew up in 1991. That year saw the biggest records in the history of grunge from Temple Of The Dog, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and of course, Nirvana. By 1994, bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots and Hole were enjoying the commercial and critical success of major releases alongside several more by the aforementioned bands. By this time though, the death of the movement was already sounded off by various groups’ struggles with success and drug addiction. Kurt Cobain’s suicide in particular was a catalyst for the end of the movement. What followed would be post-grunge, arguably one of the most horrific things to happen to rock and music in general.

Mandatory Listening Grunge Playlist:

01. Various Artists – Deep Six Compilation (1985, C/Z)
02. Various Artists – Sub Pop 200 (1988, Sub Pop)
03. Green River – Dry As A Bone/Rehab Doll (1990, Sub Pop)
04. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1990, Sub Pop)
05. Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger (1991, A&M)
06. Pearl Jam – Ten (1991, Epic)
07. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991, Sub Pop)
08. Alice In Chains – Dirt (1992, Columbia)
09. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993, Virgin)
10. Hole – Live Through This (1994, DGC)

Watch what is arguably the most anthemic grunge song ever, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Be sure to also check out:

A Ridiculously Short History of… DOOM
A Ridiculously Short History of… GRINDCORE
A Ridiculously Short History of… CRUST
A Ridiculously Short History of… SLUDGE


Director of Communications @ V13. Lance Marwood is a music and entertainment writer who has been featured in both digital and print publications, including a foreword for the book "Toronto DIY: (2008-2013)" and The Continuist. He has been creating and coordinating content for V13 since 2015 (back when it was PureGrainAudio); before that he wrote and hosted a radio and online series called The Hard Stuff , featuring interviews with bands and insight into the Toronto DIY and wider hardcore punk scene. He has performed in bands and played shows alongside acts such as Expectorated Sequence, S.H.I.T., and Full of Hell.