Grunge

Take a refresher course in punk rock as it once was with Grunge, Michael Lavine and Thurston Moore’s photographic ode to alt.

The aesthetic of the underground music scene has been co-opted endlessly over the past few decades, straying further and further from its roots each time a pristine Sex Pistols T-shirt appears in the window of a Hot Topic. Grunge, a collection of photographer Michael Lavine’s work, is the antidote to all that fakery, a brash photo-documentation of the alt-rock street kids and musicians who’ve been mimicked endlessly since the 1980s. In the book’s foreword, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore tells the story of how Lavine rose from Seattle college kid, snapping pictures of eyelinered punks and grimacing skaters, to shooting promo photos of most of the bands on the burgeoning late-’80s Sub Pop label, including Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. While on set, he effortlessly got inside the heads of these music pioneers, creating eye-popping images and earning a steady stream of progressively higher profile assignments. Many of the photos he’s since produced (of artists like Hole, Pearl Jam, and even Notorious B.I.G.) are now a part of the cultural canon, like the shot of Courtney Love kissing a pink-haired Kurt Cobain on the cheek. Grunge arranges Lavine’s output chronologically, starting with gritty images of 1980s counterculture teens and moving into shots of then-baby-faced rock idols like Billy Corgan and Chris Cornell. Moore discusses the roots of these rock legends in the foreword, and their role in the unfortunately named “grunge” scene. Lavine’s envelope-pushing style—with its inventive angles, distorted backgrounds, and candid joyfulness—helped define and expose that genre, and the gonzo shots he’s captured prove that while punk style can be bought and sold, attitude and imagination aren’t for sale.