Better Men: Why the Gods of Grunge Beat the Victims of Britpop 30 Years Later (2023)

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TKicking off his recent tour in New York, grunge elder statesman Eddie Vedder opened with a cover of REM's "Drive." The 1992 original is a minimalist dirge - but, as interpreted by the Pearl Jam frontman, it's been reborn as a celebration of his 30th anniversary of music. "Hey Kids... Rock 'n' Roll / Ain't nobody told you where to go," sang Vedder in his sweet croon, flanked by ruffled folk Glen Hansard and cardboard cut-outs of Coen Brothers dancers wearing cone-shaped headdressesThe Big Lebowks. Vedder smiled as he blinked, appreciating the irony of the text. As a young man in Pearl Jam, he really had no idea where he was going. But here he was now, 57, on the first night of a tour promoting his upcoming solo album.Erdling, revels in his status as the grandmaster of angst rock.

The contrast to peers on the other side of the Atlantic could not be greater. In the early 1990s, grunge and Britpop represented rival musical visions: one angry, serious and very American; others with a peacock-like quality, an obvious guilt about the pop past and a playful irony that, in the UK at least, was considered incomprehensible to our American cousins.

In 2021, the division is just as serious - but in a very different way. As Vedder strides confidently into his middle years, his Britpop contemporaries have evolved from channeling the spirit of the Carry On film series to living in grumpy old man purgatory. Noel Gallagher demolishes face masks; Ian Brown issues anti-lockdown anthems; and at one point, Blur frontman Damon Albarn whined about Taylor Swift, one of the great songwriters of her generation. What a twist: the groovy Britpoppers have become permanent weirdos, while the sad grunge generation are the cool dads we'd all love to hang out with.

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Three decades later, it's easy to forget how diametrically opposed the two movements were. Since 1991 with Nirvana andNevermind, grunge bombarded popular culture with impenetrable gloom, making tattered plaid shirts a fashion must-have. And then Britpop opened its shutters and smelled the Americans and their endless despair. The battle lines have been drawn: either glaring at Kurt Cobain or striking a cheeky pose to new single "Pulp" — or, a little later, the latest Oasis patio croon. "If punk had to get rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge," said Damon AlbarnNMEin 1993.

Today, Eddie Vedder isn't the only grumpy warhorse galloping in the swing. Check out former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who continues to churn out feel-good Foo Fighters records roughly every 36 months, while maintaining his enduring beacon of positivity across the cultural landscape in his various media appearances. Even Mark Lanegan, one of those imaginary anti-heroes who shined only to fall to earth when drug addiction exerted its unrelenting gravitational force, found new meaning in life as a memoirist with two stirring autobiographies.


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It wasn't supposed to end like this for grunge. With snarling guitars and lyrics expressing 50 flavors of self-loathing, the genre was not an opus made for happy endings. There have certainly been victims - from Cobain to Alice in Chains' Layne Staley to Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, who committed suicide in his Detroit hotel room in 2017. Meanwhile, Billy Corgan of grunge neighbors Smashing Pumpkins was a bit of a lunatic himself in 1993 whining — and hasn't mellowed significantly since.

In the early 1990s, as the music industry awaited Cobain's death, it seemed that Britpop, not grunge, would ride off into the sunset. Oasis released their debut,Definitely maybe, six months after the death of the Nirvana frontman. As the sizzling boy rock of "Live Forever" and "Supersonic" took over, it was easy to imagine Noel Gallagher becoming the new Paul McCartney. Or imagine Blur's Damon Albarn - whose defining LP,life in the park, came out in April 1994 - ended up being the elder statesman of Cheeky Chappie's dominance.

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The future did not develop as expected. Vedder shrugged off the discomfort that led him to refer to fame as if it were a nasty rash. No one was more affected by the success of their album than Pearl Jam.TenIn 1991, he became a sensation. "I don't want to be a star," Vedder saidAgain!October 1993. “It's not worth taking pictures of me and having my face everywhere. It's scary; It scared me."

But furtherErdling, Vedder seems to have fully settled into his status as the King of Rock. The LP features cameos from Ringo Starr and Elton John - establishment figures grunge saw as false idols to be destroyed. It was produced by Post Malone and Miley Cyrus' hit whisperer Andrew Watt, resulting in about an hour of hustling, heart-pounding rock that positions Vedder as Tom Petty's Generation X successor.

Better Men: Why the Gods of Grunge Beat the Victims of Britpop 30 Years Later (1)

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The Foo Fighters, meanwhile, continue to rumble. He will premiere his new "comedy horror movie" later this month.Studio 666, which Grohl describes as "absolutely insane" and features him and the rest of the band mixing up acting while recording the album in a haunted house. It's as if the 90s never happened. And considering what the 90s did to Nirvana, that might not be a bad thing.

It could be argued that Mark Lanegan's journey is the most surprising of all. With his band Screaming Trees, he seemed destined to burn out rather than die out. Chemical oblivion was his priority, and while his exceptional singing voice marked him as perhaps the most natural of the grunge generation, he seemed to have decided to ditch it all.

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But three decades later, Lanegan has written two autobiographies and lives neatly in County Kerry on Ireland's west coast. True, life was not sweet and easy. In March 2021, he almost died of Covid and was in a coma for three weeks. But he's clearly no longer the shaken character who roamed the 1996 masterpiece Screaming Trees.Staub. The first thing he did when he came to and found himself in hospital in Tralee was to record his experiences on his mobile phone. This is expanded upon in his other memoirs,the devil in a coma, published at the end of last year.

Liam Gallagher was... a playground bully. Like all bullies, he was... a total cunt

Mark Lanegan in his memoir Sing Backwards and Weep

Lanegan also found time to engage in a fun spat with Liam Gallagher - and he won. Bad blood boiled over between the two when Screaming Trees toured the US with Oasis in 1996, and Gallagher mocked the Americans by calling them "Howling Branches". INSing backwards and cryLanegan hit back by dismissing Gallagher as an "obvious poser". He continued: "Liam Gallagher was... a playground bully. Like all bullies, he was... a total cunt."

Just as the grungesters have mellowed, so have the jovial fools of the era of cheeky chauvinism and zip-up trackies afflicted with chronic awkward old weirdo syndrome. Liam's recent solo career is a brazen attempt to recapture the glory of early Oasis. He's a 49-year-old who dresses like a 24-year-old - to the extent that he'll be playing two gigs this summer at Knebworth, the site of Oasis' era-defining gig in 1996 (ironically, Dave Grohl turns up and plays drums on Liam's new single " Everything's Electric"). And in September 2020, his estranged brother Noel revealed he had breached regulations on wearing a face mask while shopping. "I chose not to wear it, and if I get the virus, it's my fault, no one else's," he said on Matt Morgan's podcast. Gallagher sounded less like one of the greatest British songwriters in recent history and more like a dork who had been on Facebook too long.


Noel had no shortage of kindred spirits. In the fall of 2020, while the pandemic was at its height, former Stone Roses talisman Ian Brown recorded the song "Little Seed Big Tree", questioning the need for quarantine. "A forced vaccine, like a bad dream / They'll microchip every woman, child and man," he sang. As it turns out, Brown was just warming up. In March 2021, he resigned as host of Warrington's Neighborhood Weekender due to a requirement for a vaccination record (mandatory under then government guidelines). "I refuse to accept proof of vaccination as a condition of entry," he thundered on Twitter. He was still at it last month, calling the Covid vaccines that have saved millions of lives "Pfizer poisons". As if he wanted to be ignored.

It highlighted the extent to which these veterans of British rock had become increasingly grumpy over the decadesDamon Albarn last month, claiming that Taylor Swift didn't write her own songs. Although the dispute over Swift and the authorship of her music clearly does not fall into the same category as the denial of Covid, the remarks still drew (rightly) criticism. Although they weren't exactly a bolt from the blue from Albarn. In 2017, he dismissed Adele, arguably the most influential artist of her time, as "Middle of the Road." That's not how you sail off into the sunset with dignity.

Contrast this dinosaur logic with the words of Dave Grohl, who was one of the first to recognize Billie Eilish as the future of pop and claimed that her influence on Generation Z was comparable to that of Nirvana and punk on Generation X. "My daughters are obsessed with Billie Eilish." , he said at the PollstarLive 2019 conference. "And what I see in my daughters is the same revolution that happened to me when I was her age."

Or with the actions of Mark Lanegan, who spent much of his post-90s career humbly serving as a musical antagonist to former Belle and Sebastian cellist Isobel Campbell. She wrote most of the songs on the three albums they recorded together from 2006 to 2010. Lanegan gladly yielded to Campbell as an instrument for her musical vision.

Paradox is loud and smashing like the guitar riff at the beginning of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Vedder and his colleagues were the original angry young brooding minds of music. And yet they aged into pensive, middle-aged men. An ocean away, these are the former princes of Britpop who once sputtered in champagne supernovas, who became freaks screaming at the clouds, and eventually became obsolete and irrelevant.


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While Vedder sang with this backgroundThe Big LebowksLast week, it was hard not to think about "The Dude" — the film's eponymous aging hippie, played with disheveled charm by Jeff Bridges. Vedder was that guy and he consciously stayed.

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Why did Britpop hate grunge? ›

Similarly, the rise of Britpop was, in many ways, a reaction against grunge, a musical movement which wanted to identify more with an English lyrical culture of story-telling and reflection on its own cultural landmarks (the Kinks, the Beatles), than to (a)pathetic American grunge.

What did Britpop bands think about grunge? ›

Stylistically, Britpop bands use catchy hooks and lyrics that were relevant to young British people of their own generation. Britpop bands conversely denounced grunge as irrelevant and having nothing to say about their lives.

What killed Britpop? ›

Despite this, the album is credited with being the moment that the Britpop moment died, blown away by a mixture of ego, drug use, and a general lack of self-awareness.

How did Britpop differ from grunge? ›

Britpop wasn't defined by a specific musical style, but the music tended towards lighter sounds than grunge and included more melodic hooks and choruses. It built on the guitar-based British pop music created by classic 1960s bands such as The Beatles and The Kinks.

Who won the Britpop war? ›

Regardless, Blur won the battle after selling 274,000 copies, with Oasis selling 216,000. Blur bassist Alex James famously sported some Oasis merch in a display of triumph at the band's 1995 performance on Top Of The Pops, marking them the kings of Britpop.

What band popularized grunge? ›

Nirvana are generally the predominant band associated with grunge, but as we've pointed out, there were quite a few groups that started out before them. However, it's impossible to deny their importance to the scene. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed the group in Aberdeen, Wash.

What was grunge rebelling against? ›

Grunge, as a movement was, at its core, a protest against the capitalist sense of identity and personhood based on commercial success. It rebelled against the ideas of commodity and shunned the glitz and glamour of music for the sake of gold records.

What was the most important grunge band called? ›

Stone Temple Pilots were another band that brought something unique to the table, they're instantly recognisable, and easily one of the most important grunge bands.

What replaced grunge? ›

Post-grunge is an offshoot of grunge that has a less abrasive or intense tone than traditional grunge. Originally, the term was used almost pejoratively to label mid-1990s rock bands such as Bush, Candlebox and Collective Soul that emulated the original sound of grunge.

Who was the most popular grunge group of the 90's? ›

As arguably the most successful mainstream grunge band, Nirvana is synonymous with the genre. Their second album, 1991's Nevermind, burst onto the airways as a surprise success and cultural phenomenon, making the group a household name.

Who is the king of Britpop bands? ›

Andy Starkey (King Of Britpop) has appeared on tv shows and radio shows over the years keeping the 90's flame alive. Recently he discussed tribute bands on BBC Radio 2.

Who were the bad Britpop bands? ›

The 50 Worst Britpop Albums
  • Denim – Back In Denim, 1992 (not technically Britpop – Ed)
  • James – Laid, 1993 (not technically Britpop – Ed)
  • Echobelly – Everyone's Got One, 1994.
  • Placebo – Without You, I'm Nothing, 1998 (not technically Britpop – Ed)
  • The Divine Comedy – Casanova, 1996.
Mar 29, 2017

What album killed Britpop? ›

Radiohead released OK Computer in May 1997, a few months before Oasis released Be Here Now (known as 'the album that killed Britpop' in some parts of the press), with Radiohead's album being followed by Mansun's Six album the next year (released on Parlophone at the time, but now available on progressive rock label ...

What relationship did Britpop bands have to grunge? ›

Britpop was in part a reaction against grunge, and its sort of American cultural imperialism in the UK. The grunge side didn't seem to notice the Britpop side, beyond actually praising bands like Oasis.

What inspired 90s grunge? ›

Pop-culture influence on 1990s grunge

One of the biggest influences on grunge fashion was rock star Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the hugely successful band Nirvana. It is widely believed that Cobain represents the core of the grunge movement and the phenomenon of the grunge scene's influence.

Why was the 90s so grunge? ›

First of all, it was a way for young people to express their individuality. In the early 1990s, many young people were searching for an alternative to mainstream culture. Grunge fashion provided them with a way to do that. It also allowed them to express their feelings of frustration and anger.

Who was Oasis biggest rival? ›

Country House went up against Roll With It as the Britpop Wars hotted up.

Why do Blur and Oasis hate each other? ›

The thing about the rivalry was that it was about more than a title or even music — it was a battle between the British class systems. Blur was from the South, which, by stereotypes, meant that the bandmates were better educated and more financially stable than Oasis, who were from the North.

Who was the rival of Oasis in the Battle of Britpop? ›

Two decades ago, Blur and Oasis released their highly-anticipated new singles on the same day, setting up the biggest showdown in chart history. The Battle Of Britpop gripped the nation, reinvigorated the UK music scene and defined an era.

Who actually started grunge? ›

The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle's independent record label Sub Pop and the region's underground music scene. The owners of Sub Pop marketed the style shrewdly, encouraging the media to describe it as "grunge"; the style became known as a hybrid of punk and metal.

Who was best singer in grunge? ›

When people think of the quintessential grunge frontman, it's probably Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain. He had the look, style and sound that the genre is known for possessing, and is usually credited as being responsible for it to begin with.

Who is the king of grunge music? ›

Neil Young is one of the most integral rock musicians of all time.

When did grunge decline? ›

While grunge's wave of popularity did last the early 90s, by the time the mid 90s were coming around, the movement declined. Many “grunge” bands became disgruntled at their sudden fame and started to resent it.

What came first grunge or punk? ›

Grunge is a genre of rock music and a subculture that was created in the late 1980s and early 1960s in the United States, while punk is an aggressive variety of rock music that was created in the mid-1970s in the United Kingdom.

Is grunge out of style? ›

The look is making a comeback (again). What started as local street style for musicians on the West Coast soon found its way onto the catwalk. Allow us to (re)introduce “grunge,” the latest look to make its comeback on our trend radar for fall.

What song made grunge popular? ›

Touch Me I'm Sick” by Mudhoney

Before the word grunge became synonymous with the '90s, Mudhoney was at work laying the foundation for the genre. “Touch Me I'm Sick” is a barrage of irony and buzzing guitars. The song put Mudhoney, and their label SubPop, on the map. It inspired legions of future grunge bands.

What is the oldest grunge band? ›

"Green River were arguably the first grunge band, forming around the same time as the rest of Seattle's first wave (the Melvins, Soundgarden, and Malfunkshun). In 1985, they became the first grunge band to release a record, kickstarting the Seattle music scene and later helping to establish the Sub Pop label.

Who are the Big 4 grunge bands? ›

It's been said that grunge and Seattle made it big, but the majority of the commercial success went mainly to four bands – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

Do people still make grunge? ›

Though the '90s have come and gone, the music and fashion elements of grunge still exist among artists and fans alike. However, each has been imbued with a modern twist.

What did grunge do for society? ›

Grunge created a huge social impact in everything from fashion and movies, to literature and politics. The outspoken musicians became advocates for equality and human rights “through their music and emotional, introspective lyrics wrapped up in aggression” (Korać, 2014).

Are there any modern grunge bands? ›

Spirit Tower. Formed in Indianapolis in 2020. FFO Superheaven, Drug Church, Angel Du$t, and other similar artists in the wake of "modern" Grunge / Emo.

Who is the king of 90s grunge? ›

He looks the part, but can he sing?

Who was the first black grunge band? ›

In 1983, the Seattle band Bam Bam, fronted by a talented, elegant Black woman named Tina Bell, created a sound and lyrical foundation for a genre that white men with knit hats and plaid shirts would later make famous as “grunge.” Bell was backed by husband Tommy Martin and lifelong friend Scott Ledgerwood (“Scotty ...

Who was the first successful grunge artist? ›

The first grunge album to hit big was Alice in Chains' debut, Facelift (released in August 1990), while Soundgarden broke through with their second major label album, Badmotorfinger. But each band reacted differently to its initial success.

What was the first Britpop song? ›

Suede - The Drowners (May 1992)

Released on 11th May 1992, Suede's debut can lay claim to being the first Britpop single - certainly in terms of sound, presentation and its general intention of clearing out the old guard.

Who is the majesty of rock band? ›

Majesty of Rock is a group of five crazy good musicians who take great care to re-create the exact sound and feel of the two American super groups: Journey and Styx. The band captures every nuance of these iconic legends so precisely, they are in constant demand.

What band influenced Britpop music? ›

Britpop music drew inspiration from alternative rock icons like the Smiths, Morrissey, and the Stone Roses. It also drew from early 1980s new wave music, plus classic rock acts like the Beatles and the Kinks.

Was Britpop influenced by the Beatles? ›

Britpop, movement of British rock bands in the 1990s that drew consciously on the tradition of melodic, guitar-based British pop music established by the Beatles. Like nearly all musical youth trends, Britpop was about songs, guitars, jackets, and attitudes—though not necessarily in that order.

Who did Britpop originate from? ›

Britpop is a type of alternative rock that started in the United Kingdom. Britpop came out of the British independent music scene of the 1990s and affected, or changed, by British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s.

Why is Britpop so popular? ›

Britpop's pop culture dominance came at a turning point for 90s music, a reaction to the emotional, riff heavy sound of 'grunge', Britpop was equally as guitar driven, but a more lighthearted aesthetic, relatable songwriting and infectious nostalgia.

Who was the best Britpop band? ›

Best Britpop Bands
  1. 1 Oasis Oasis were an English britpop band formed in Manchester in 1991. ...
  2. 2 Blur Blur are an English rock band, formed in London in 1988. ...
  3. 3 Pulp Pulp were an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 1978. ...
  4. 4 Suede.

What groups of the 90s were Britpop? ›

It was truly a wonderful era for music, giving the world many great bands and artists, that are still hugely popular in 2020.
  • Sleeper. Kicking off our list, our London band, Sleeper. ...
  • Elastica. Another Britpop band that featured female members were Elastica. ...
  • Supergrass. ...
  • The Charlatans. ...
  • The Verve. ...
  • Pulp. ...
  • The Stone Roses. ...
  • Blur.
Oct 26, 2020

How do the Beatles link with Britpop? ›

Without a doubt, the depictions of 'Britishness' portrayed in Beatles' songs — and in the work of the Kinks and the Small Faces — has been a primary source of inspiration for the Britpop phenomenon.

Why did grunge start? ›

It was loud, angry, and rebellious. It came at the perfect time for angsty teens in the 90's. Metal music had become corporate and over-saturated; something had to give. Many believe grunge music in general was a response to the overblown hair metal of the 80's.

Why did Kurt Cobain wear baggy clothes? ›

A third reason was that he was self-conscious of his own thinness. He often wore baggy sweaters and two pairs of jeans to make himself look bulkier. His thinness, and his addiction to heroin, also helped launch the “heroin chic” look of the 90s, one of his more unfortunate legacies.

Who were the biggest influences on grunge? ›

Influenced by punk rock, by the hardcore-punk inheritors of its do-it-yourself ethic such as Hüsker Dü, and by the sound of 1970s heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC, grunge came to fruition on Seattle's independent Sub Pop record label as Mudhoney, Nirvana, Screaming Trees, and Soundgarden ...

Is grunge in style 2023? ›

When supermodel Kate Moss herself, a master of all things tattered and slouchy in her own right, took the brand's catwalk in a plaid shirt, simple tank, and baggy jeans, the message was clear: The grunge trend is back in a big way for spring 2023.

What are 4 grunge bands from the 90s? ›

Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all enjoyed their biggest successes in the '90s and here we are ranking all of the albums of grunge's "Big 4."

What band did Oasis feud with? ›

The band had some pretty epic moments (read: “Wonderwall“) and almost reached the level of fame that comes synoymous with bands like The Rolling Stones. A bitter sibling rivalry, however, plagued the brothers and Oasis by extension. Keep reading for a blow-by-blow breakdown of the Gallagher brothers' infamous feud.

Do Oasis still hate each other? ›

2009 split

The Gallaghers continued to publicly insult each other in the press whilst still in Oasis and Noel eventually quit permanently in 2009 saying he couldn't work with Liam for '"a day longer". The band has never reunited since then but the siblings' public fight has continued in the press and on Twitter.

Why do Oasis hate each other? ›

The iconic band split up in 2009 and fans have pined for their return ever since. But Noel has admitted the real reason he and brother Liam called it quits - with clothing brands being involved. Noel, 54, said he fell out with younger brother Liam, 49, after he was gifted clothes from Liam's brand that he didn't like.

Why did Oasis wear sunglasses? ›

Watching on screen an early interview conducted by Zoe Ball, Noel laughs and says: “I had a black eye that's why I had sunglasses on. It was from one of the many fights on stage. "I remember having a black eye, I wore sunglasses for about six months because I always had a black eye or a busted nose or something.

Who is better Blur or Gorillaz? ›

Blur can be a wonderful tonic when you're in the right frame of mood to listen to their cocksure sound. Conversely, Gorillaz have a sound for every mood or emotion, which not only makes them Albarn's most outstanding achievement but the quintessential modern band, who refuse to be pigeon-holed or pinned down.

Are Blur and Oasis friends? ›

Oasis and Blur were famously involved in a Britpop chart battle during the '90s, but Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn have since become friends. They collaborated most recently in 2017 on 'We Got The Power', which appears on Gorillaz's 'Humanz' and also features Savages singer Jehnny Beth.

Does Blur hate grunge? ›

If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge!” was how Albarn phrased it to the NME's John Harris back in 1993.

What genres influenced Britpop? ›

the Jam, British rock group that emerged at the height of the punk rock movement but whose sound and image were greatly influenced by the British mod bands of the early 1960s.

When did grunge lose popularity? ›

While grunge's wave of popularity did last the early 90s, by the time the mid 90s were coming around, the movement declined. Many “grunge” bands became disgruntled at their sudden fame and started to resent it.

What did Kurt Cobain think of Blur? ›

Despite Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain calling Blur's “There's No Other Way” his favorite song of the moment when asked back in 1991, the feeling wasn't mutual.

What emotion is grunge? ›

Grunge lyrics are typically dark, nihilistic, wretched, angst-filled and anguished, often addressing themes such as social alienation, self-doubt, abuse, assault, neglect, betrayal, social isolation/emotional isolation, psychological trauma and a desire for freedom.

What triggered the start of Britpop? ›

Britpop came out of the British independent music scene of the 1990s and affected, or changed, by British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. This kind of music began as a reaction against some trends, or styles, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as grunge from the United States.

Who started the grunge trend? ›

Grunge fashion is characterized by durable and timeless thrift-store clothing, often worn in a loose, androgynous manner to de-emphasize the silhouette. The style was popularized by music bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.

Who started grunge? ›

But the band responsible for launching grunge beyond the local scene is very clear to Jerry Cantrell, guitarist for the long-running grunge pioneers Alice in Chains.


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