It’s unlikely I’ll write about many bands this year that had as seismic a cultural impact on the planet as Nirvana.
When the grunge movement first began to form, especially in Seattle, it was as though a new generation that had grown up seeing oppositional scenes in thrash metal and punk decided there could be a middle ground. It was an alternative rock sound, but combining the messy DIY attitude of punk with the bite and aggression of metal, albeit focussed more inward.
And when speaking about grunge, it’s simply disingenuous to do so without mentioning Nirvana.
A simple, rough guitar riff. A punk edge. Tortured yet melodic vocals. Bleached hair, a flannel shirt, and ripped jeans. Such simple elements, in the world of popular music, game changing. As unavoidably corny as it sounds, that simple formula defined a generation.
Nirvana spearheaded the grunge sound and brought it to the mainstream, whether they meant to or not. There was no denying grunge had gone mainstream – it permeated culture, fashion, and even spawned a subgenre of labels and bands trying to manufacture that same lightning in a bottle (‘post grunge’).
But grunge had its day, and as all popular music movements do, it passed. A lot could be said about the how and why of the end of grunge – some would obviously point to the moment Nirvana came to an end, but it was also apparent the commercialisation of the grunge movement was already forcing it into a tailspin.
Grunge may be old news now, but the incredible music it gave us is still here. For one brightly burning moment, grunge captured the zeitgeist like few musically driven scenes before, and the unwilling poster child for that moment was Nirvana. In such an incredibly short time, the mark Nirvana left on the musical landscape is undeniable and has left us with some of the most iconic rock songs in modern history.