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100 Greatest Grunge Bands of the 80s and 90s

Updated on March 14, 2018

The grunge sound developed in the 80s and became a phenomenon in the 90s. The roots of grunge emerged in the late 80s when bands in the underground movement started experimenting with a heavier sound in alternative subculture. The grunge sound evolved as musicians from varied rock genres formed musical collaborations and started exploring ideas based on a riff-based sound. The diverse collaborations among musicians in alternative genres spawned a new sound that gave grunge its musical identity. Elements of punk rock incorporated in a heavy sound of distorted electric guitar, bass drums and snarly vocals form the core sound of grunge expression.


The Emergence of Grunge in the 80s

The underground grunge scene in the late 80s paved way for the grunge revolution in the 90s. Seattle is considered the birthplace of grunge by purists. Towards the late 80s, the underground music scene helped many bands emerge on the Seattle scene with their eclectic mix associated with alternative music. Sub Pop, an independent record label established by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Washington is credited to being one of the early record labels to promote grunge bands in a big way.

The alternative music scene helped many musicians from diverse musical background emerge with their brand of grunge. The Seattle music scene was an amalgamation of varied musical forms coming from diverse musical backgrounds. The collaborations of metal and punk sounds in the 80s paved the way for grunge. The post punk garage bands in the local punk scene in many ways helped grunge evolve with a brand new identity. Bands such as The Accused, The Fartz, The U-Men, Fastbacks and 10 Minute Warning played a influential role in helping the grunge sound evolve.


The 90s Grunge Scene

With the 90s came commercial success for grunge bands. Releases by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots propelled the popularity of grunge to new heights. A number of grunge bands achieved phenomenal success with their albums in the 90s. The commercial success grunge achieved gave alternative music a boost making the genre popular in mainstream. Kurt Cobain, singer of Nirvana instantly became an iconic figure in the grunge scene, influencing and inspiring a grunge generation.


The introspective and angst-filled lyrics in grunge about socially conscious issues such as apathy, confinement, desire of freedom, social alienation, depression and withdrawal struck the right chords with listeners, especially youth. The explorations of concepts such as being ‘true to oneself’ were aesthetically expressed through lyrics. Grunge phenomena had mesmerized the world. Major record labels started signing record deals with grunge bands. By the mid-90s grunge had become one of the most popular subgenre in rock. The popularity of grunge globally led to the fall of glam metal and hair metal bands in the 90s. Many glam metal bands and hair metal bands disbanded after being dropped by record labels that started favoring grunge acts. Only few glam metal and hair metal managed to survive the grunge onslaught in the 90s.


Grunge reached its peak in the 90s. The tonal qualities in grunge were awe-inspiring which helped connect with fans of rock music globally. The deep vocal style consisting of garvelly or raspy voice texture formed the characteristic sound along with down-tuned guitar sounds and dark lyrical themes. Moans, screams, groans and mumbles used by grunge vocalists in songs became an excessively popular expression in the realms of alternative music. Grunge also had a big impact on clothing and lifestyle in the 90. The grunge culture witnessed the ‘everyday style’ showcased in new light. Members of grunge bands and grunge fans typically wore ripped jeans, Doc Martens boots or combat boots, band tees, plaid shirts, and oversized knit sweaters. Grunge actually went onto become an anti-consumerist movement that associated attitude and coolness that represented spending less.


While it seemed the grunge movement would go on forever, the late 90s witnessed the decline of grunge. Many grunge bands disbanded as the nu metal sound and post grunge emerged in the late 90s. The tide had suddenly turned in favor of new rock and alternative rock subgenres that paved a new direction for musical soundscapes. While the grunge prominence ended towards the end of the 90s, the genre remains influential in inspiring a new breed of musicians in post grunge, nu metal and other genres in metal. The glory days for the biggest movement in rock history are over, question is… Will grunge make a big comeback?

The lines below showcase a diverse list of bands associated with grunge in the 80s and 90s.


100 Greatest Grunge Bands of the 80s and 90s

  1. Nirvana
  2. Mudhoney
  3. Alice In Chains
  4. Melvins
  5. Mother Love Bone
  6. Soundgarden
  7. Blood Circus
  8. Tad
  9. Mad Season
  10. Skin Yard
  11. Stone Temple Pilots
  12. Temple of the Dog
  13. Love Battery
  14. Pearl Jam
  15. Jane’s Addiction
  16. The Gits
  17. Green River
  18. Silverchair
  19. Candlebox
  20. Screaming Trees
  21. The U-Men
  22. Paw
  23. Everclear
  24. Dinosaur Jr.
  25. Foo Fighters
  26. Willard
  27. Killdozer
  28. Tripping Daisy
  29. Bush
  30. Hole
  31. L7
  32. 7 Year Bitch
  33. The Smashing Pumpkins
  34. Pixies
  35. Beasts of Bourbon
  36. Sonic Youth
  37. Witness
  38. Feedtime
  39. Seaweed
  40. Local H
  41. Babes in Toyland
  42. Veruca Salt
  43. Toadies
  44. Wooden Stars
  45. Eric’s Trip
  46. Moist
  47. Truly
  48. The Nymphs
  49. Brad
  50. Pond
  51. Hater
  52. The Scientists
  53. Ammonia
  54. Treepeople
  55. Dandelion
  56. Blind Melon
  57. SixTwoSeven
  58. Flowerhead
  59. Sloan
  60. The Presidents of the United States of America
  61. Flipper
  62. Girl Trouble
  63. Cosmic Psychos
  64. Sweet Water
  65. Meat Puppets
  66. Ween
  67. Napalm Beach
  68. Gruntruck
  69. Matthew Good Band
  70. Pavement
  71. King Snake Roost
  72. Wool
  73. King Cobb Steelie
  74. The Fluid
  75. Nudeswirl
  76. Cat Butt
  77. Dig
  78. My Sister’s Machine
  79. Wipers
  80. Lubricated Goat
  81. Hammerbox
  82. Scratch Acid
  83. Dickless
  84. Failure
  85. Salamander Jim
  86. Gas Huffer
  87. Tree People
  88. Hazel
  89. X
  90. Malfunkshun
  91. Girl Trouble
  92. Fecal Matter
  93. Bundle of Hiss
  94. Coffin Break
  95. Fastbacks
  96. Mr. Epp & The Calculations
  97. Big Black
  98. Gumball
  99. Marytree
  100. Solomon Grundy

Other Notable Bands Associated with Grunge

  • Thrillhammer
  • Sunny Day Real Estate
  • Orangutang
  • Sprinkler
  • Kerbdog
  • Rein Sanction
  • Helmet
  • Guided By Voices
  • Barkmarket
  • Splendora
  • The Jesus Lizard
  • Greta
  • Sharp Nine
  • Dover
  • Smile
  • My Name
  • 10 Minute Warning
  • For Squirrels
  • Sebadoh
  • Big Stick
  • The Accused
  • Volcano Suns
  • The Thrown Ups
  • Silverfish
  • Catherine
  • The Fartz
  • Softy
  • Gravel

Which is the best Grunge Band of The 80s and 90s?

See results

© 2018 Ansel Pereira


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    • Ansel Pereira profile imageAUTHOR

      Ansel Pereira 

      22 months ago

      Hi Dan, Glad you enjoyed the read. The grunge days were special, It was a different vibe. Yes, Blind Melon was so much a part of the entire scene. i do hope the good old days of grunge make a comeback.

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Reed 

      22 months ago

      Lived this era. Miss this era. So glad to see Blind Melon on this forgotten. Thanks for the time trip.


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