I’ve been listening to all the music on my computer this weekend, and I decided today would be the day I post the best list of all time!
10 Definitive Grunge Songs.
Grunge holds a massive place in my heart, and in the history of all rock and roll. Grunge signified something new and exciting in the mainstream that hadn’t happened in years-since the dawn of punk. For a decade, rock lovers had three choices: to listen to the hair metal that dominated the era, choose “safe” pop rock like Air Supply and Rod Stewart, or just give up and play old Black Sabbath albums. Grunge broke through the glass ceiling at the time.
If you’re not familiar with the term “Grunge”, let me (and Wiki) give you a brief history. In the mid 80’s a new sound from the Pacific Northwest (mainly the Seattle area) started receiving attention due to its, well, grungy sound. The guitars were distorted and heavy, the songs were usually full of despair or nonsensical, the singers tended to have rocks in their throat and looked like they just woke up.
If you know anything about Grunge, you’ll recall that it was Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that made the first, and largest impression. When that exploded, the handful of other bands that shared the same characteristics just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
In the mid-90’s the grunge sound started to slow down and give way to post grunge (think the bands Bush, Candlebox, Foo Fighters) and rap rock (Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock). Grunge is by far my favorite genre of music because it was when I discovered how important music was to me. You can say I was in the right place at the right time.
This list is just a nice guidebook for discovering Grunge on your own. If you’d like to learn more about this awesome music, please consult your local media store for the DVD of “Singles” and the soundtrack of the same name, and the documentary “Hype!”
10. Screaming Trees, “Nearly Lost You”. Although not as well known as the other bands in the era, Screaming Trees (along with Mother Love Bone, Green River and Mudhoney) was one of the first Grunge bands. This song is from the aforementioned “Singles” album, and it is a nice starter song for the Grunge virgin-not too heavy, not too loud, and something you can sing along to.
9. Smashing Pumpkins, “Cherub Rock”. Believe it or not, once upon a time the Smashing Pumpkins were considered part of the Grunge movement, and all it takes is a listen to their album “Siamese Dream” to verify this. A few years later they changed their sound and leaned more into the “Alt-rock” scene, which fit Billy Corgan’s voice a little better than the Grunge label.
8. Hole, “Violet”. If Kurt Cobain was the proclaimed “King of Grunge”, Courtney Love was the queen. Hole’s second CD “Live Through This” is a masterpiece, and she held her own with the male singers of the time. No matter what you think of Ms. Love as a person, that bitch can SANG. I still wish I could sing like her, damn it.
7. Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”. This has all the classic Grunge characteristics: heavy riffs, a growling singer, lyrics that sound like they were written while drunk, (“freezer/rests his head on a pillow made of concrete/again”), and…Eddie Vedder! During the 90’s Vedder was my EVERYTHING. Seriously. The album “Ten” got very heavy rotation on my cassette player, and twenty years later they released a “Legacy Edition” that comes with the DVD of their “MTV Unplugged”, which is a can’t miss if you’re a Pearl Jam fan.
6. Stone Temple Pilots, “Crackerman” or “Dead & Bloated” (tie). I was annoyed when STP came out. Not because I didn’t like them-I loved them!-but because Scott Weiland was always compared to Eddie Vedder. There was no comparison! Weiland always had this lounge-singer quality to him, and if you listen to their debut CD “Core” and any other CD after you’ll hear it in their music. I couldn’t choose between the two songs because they both are equally grungy and awesome, so take your pick and enjoy!
5. Alice in Chains, “Would?” I took the “safe” Grunge song by Alice in Chains because when I was going through their discography this is the one song that sticks out to me as their grungiest. In my opinion AIC WAS GRUNGE. There were no other bands that sounded like them, there are no other singers with the perfect harmonies of Layne Stayley and Jerry Cantrell. Their second CD “Dirt” is just that: dirty and full of despair, and something you probably shouldn’t be listening to if you feel like shit. You may jump in front of a truck. They proved how versatile they could be by putting out two almost acoustic EP’s after “Dirt-“Sap” and “Jar of Flies”.
4. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”. Okay, this may be actually considered the Grunge anthem. Temple of the Dog was a “band” created as a tribute to Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone (FYI: Mother Love Bone + Green River – Andrew Wood =Pearl Jam) who died. Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden got Wood’s old band mates and made an amazing, almost bluesy album in 1990 that didn’t get any airplay until Grunge made it big a couple of years later. Plus, you know…Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder is like Grunge heaven.
3. Nirvana, “Sliver”. Nirvana is said to epitomize Grunge, so it’s hard to choose a song to show their essence. “Sliver” was a single made in 1990 (before “Nevermind”) and released in 1992 on their “Incesticide” EP. I’m a sucker for bass, so it’s the opening of the song that stuck out to me-not very heavy until the chorus. But it’s still a great (and not oversaturated) song to add to your list!
2. Soundgarden, “Outshined”. Chris Cornell to this day makes my eyes water. He is a damn beautiful man. Aside from that, he has one of the most melodic screams you’ll ever hear (that makes sense in my head, okay!). I was almost going to put “4th of July”, from their album “Superunknown” on this list (go listen to it, best downtuned guitar ever)-but “Outshined” just sticks out as an amazing song and a nice gateway from the punky Grunge of Nirvana to more of the hard rock Grunge variety. Plus he’s shirtless in the video. Holla!
1. Pearl Jam, “State of Love and Trust”. When I was thinking of this list in my head I thought, but what song would be number one? It took all of about two seconds to pick this song, another gem from the “Singles” soundtrack. This was never released as a single, so only owners of the “Singles” album or hardcore lovers of PJ (hi) really know how great of a song this is. I leave you with the perfect and wonderful “MTV Unplugged” previously unreleased video.
Did I miss a song? What is your favorite Grunge song of all time? Let me know! I’m off…I need to jump up and down and sing at the top of my lungs now.