“Alternative Rock” may work as a catch-all description, but no single word is more uniquely or closely identified with the music of the 1990s than "grunge"... even though most of the artists identified by that term hate it.

Today it may stand for a limited contingent of bands, largely originating in the city of Seattle, but grunge became a global phenomenon, and the term was liberally used to shift millions of compact discs to eager young fans, swept up by the latest musical craze -- never mind that most of the artists wanted nothing to do with the trend.

That’s how things go along the ever-blurry line between art and commerce, and, like any other musical genre, Grunge emerged from a similarly hazy historical mish-mash, drawing from a range of prior influences that, taken separately, seem to have little in common.

But consider them -- and specific, key albums -- through the prism of Grunge’s composite ingredients: garage rock, punk rock, heavy metal, hardcore, College rock, noise rock -- and the final picture eventually assumes a pretty cohesive shape.

At least we hope so, as we summarize these formative clues into a list of just 10 Proto-Grunge Albums You Need to Hear, which you’ll see stretch over an eventful quarter century leading up to the style’s explosion onto the mainstream consciousness in the early 1990s.

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