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1991: The Year That Grunge Broke

By 1991, grunge had outgrown the dives of Seattle, and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice In Chains and more were about to release albums that would change the face of rock forever

There have been few times in popular music history that you can pinpoint when a true rock revolution took place, where musicians and their work reached beyond their sounds, and influenced and/or shifted fashion, politics and the way you looked at the world in general. Case in point: the late-60s psychedelic set, punk in 1976 and then… grunge in the early 90s.

If you think back to the dawn of the 1990s, rock music was in flux. As far as metal went, the vast majority of bands could be neatly categorised into two separate camps: the glitzy fashion of hair-metal, and the anti-fashion of thrash. The only problem was that by this stage both genres were becoming predictable and played out – with most newer bands merely serving as copycats of the earlier trailblazers.

And then came 1991. Bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Pixies, Faith No More, Primus, and Jane’s Addiction had hinted that rock didn’t have to be so one-dimensional, while also attracting mainstream attention. But there were hints that something special was brewing in the US Pacific Northwest.

First was Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and Alice in Chains creating a buzz with acclaimed major-label releases. And then, incredibly, within the span of barely over a month, 25 years ago, three albums were issued in rapid succession, and rock music would experience one of its biggest (and quickest) shifts ever, with the arrival of Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger.

Suddenly, rock bands looked like they could have been the same as the people in the audience. And overnight, flannel shirts, Doc Martens, shredded jeans and second-hand guitars replaced spandex, tight jeans, mile-high hair and sharp/pointy guitars. Will we ever experience another rock revolution like we did in 1991? We’re still waiting…


From the archive

From the archive

From the archive

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