Lyrics are typically angst-filled and introspective, often addressing themes such as social alienation, apathy, concerns about confinement, and a desire for freedom.A number of factors contributed to grunge's decline in prominence.
The use of pedals by grunge guitarists was a move away from the expensive, studio-grade rackmount effects units used in other rock genres.
The positive way that grunge bands viewed stompbox pedals can be seen in Mudhoney's use of the name of two overdrive pedals, the Univox Super-Fuzz and the Big Muff, in the title of their "debut EP Superfuzz Bigmuff".
Some key individuals in the development of the grunge sound, including Sub Pop producer Jack Endino and the Melvins, explained grunge's incorporation of heavy rock influences such as Kiss as "musical provocation".
Grunge artists considered these bands "cheesy" but nonetheless enjoyed them; Buzz Osborne of the Melvins described it as an attempt to see what ridiculous things bands could do and get away with.
Both "[Kim] Thayil and Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell..great advocates of the wah wah pedal." Guitar feedback effects, in which a highly amplified electric guitar is held in front of its speaker, were used to create high-pitched, sustained sounds that are not possible with regular guitar technique.
Grunge guitarists were influenced by the raw, primitive sound of punk, and they favored "...energy and lack of finesse over technique and precision"; key guitar influences included the Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, Celtic Frost, Voivod, Neil Young Soundgarden’s guitarist, Kim Thayil, did not use a regular guitar amplifier; instead, he used a bass combo amp equipped with a 15-inch speaker as he played low riffs, and the bass amp gave him a deeper tone.
Grunge music has what has been called an "ugly" aesthetic, both in the roar of the distorted electric guitars and in the darker lyrical topics.
This approach was chosen both to counter the "slick" elegant sound of the then-predominant mainstream rock and because grunge artists wanted to mirror the "ugliness" they saw around them and shine a light on unseen "depths and depravity" of the real world.
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