So in the “extensive” research I’ve done for my thesis so far (listening to music in pubs, going to gigs, etc), I’ve come across many different labels being applied to the underground/punk/hardcore/independent/alternative/grunge music scene in America (from the late 70s to the early 90s). And usually, if someone calls it one thing, they are quite adamant about the negative connotations of the other terms, especially if used to describe the music and/or scenes they were personally involved with.
The main danger I’ve noticed in applying an umbrella term is that, by doing so, a nuanced understanding of a particular scene or the bands within it becomes a challenge. For example, in labelling anything that came out of the Pacific Northwest (in the late 80s-early 90s) as “grunge,” acts as strikingly different as Nirvana and Pearl Jam* are lumped together in the same category.
So, dear friends and readers, I humbly ask for your thoughts and feedback on the issue of “labels.” Are they good? Bad? Do they even matter? And what the heck do terms like: underground, punk, hardcore, independent, alternative, and grunge mean to you?
*I mean, of course, they are different musically.