So, while browsing Facebook a few days ago I stumble upon this meme. I thought it was great because that’s how I felt. I know most people automatically think of Nirvana when they hear the words ‘grunge music’. For me, that’s just not the case. So, I decided that I would list my top five grunge-era bands.
5. Pearl Jam
I know this is probably an unpopular opinion as most people see Pearl Jam in the same light as Nirvana and would probably have them as Number 1 or 2 on their list. I’m just not a huge fan of the band. Yes, I enjoy most of the singles they have put out like ‘Jeremy,’ ‘Alive,’ ‘Black,’ and ‘Better Man.’ At some point, all their songs just start to sound the same and honestly can anyone tell me what Eddie Vedder is singing about on ‘Yellow Ledbetter?’ There has just never been a time where I just felt like putting on a Pearl Jam album and letting it play through. So, they sit at Number 5 on my list.
Again, I have another unpopular opinion. I mean, after all, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana have always been the poster boys for the grunge era. It’s not that I don’t like Nirvana–in fact, I actually do like a lot of their music. I just feel like they were and are overhyped. I think that the image of Kurt Cobain always overshadowed the rest of the band. I will always feel that the best thing to happen to Nirvana was Dave Grohl. Just listen to ‘Bleach’ and then listen to ‘Nevermind.’ The difference in energy that Dave brought to the band was undeniable. So, again, it’s not like I hate Nirvana, I just feel like there are better grunge bands who don’t get the recognition they deserve because of the hype surrounding Nirvana.
3. Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots have been one of my favorite bands for as long as I can remember. I always find myself going back and listening to the ‘Core’ and ‘Purple’ albums. I have always felt that Scott Weiland was one of the best front men in rock music. I was fortunate enough to see Weiland perform live twice with the supergroup Velvet Revolver. The guy was just an entertainer in the way he commanded the stage, like a mix of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison. One of my favorite things about STP is their ability to change up their sound. Listen to songs like ‘Sour Girl’ and ‘Days of the Week,’ and then go back and listen to ‘Plush’ and ‘Vasoline’ to see the difference in sound. Scott Weiland passed away in December of 2015. The band has continued on with new singer Jeff Gutt, but it’s just not the same. I happened to catch the band with Gutt at Welcome to Rockville 2018. He’s not bad, but he’s no Scott Weiland.
2. Alice in Chains
I’ll admit that I had a really tough time with the top two spots, but I had to put Alice in Chains at Number 2. I never really listened to a lot of Alice in Chains when I was younger. It wasn’t until I was in high school and my dad gave me a copy of their greatest hits that I really started to like them. By that time, lead singer Layne Staley had already passed away, but there was just something about this band that just kept me hooked. I don’t know if was Layne’s vocals or the amazing guitar playing of Jerry Cantrell. I can honestly listen to the ‘Dirt’ album on repeat for a few days and it doesn’t get old. Like most bands on this list, AiC did a performance on MTV’s Unplugged series, and it’s by far my favorite Unplugged concert (with Nirvana coming in a close second). After Staley’s death in 2002, the band took a hiatus but reunited with new lead singer William DuVall in 2006. I was really skeptical because I felt that Layne Staley was irreplaceable; however, I was pleasantly surprised with DuVall. He didn’t try to copy Staley and made the songs his own. I saw one of their first performances with DuVall in 2006 at Bayfest in Mobile, and it was a great show.
So here we are at Number 1, and it can be no other band but Soundgarden. I can remember the first time I heard Soundgarden. I was home for the summer, and my cousin was watching MTV when the video for ‘Black Hole Sun’ came on. I was only eight years old, but the moment I heard Chris Cornell’s voice I knew it was something special. Later that day I talked my dad into taking me to get the ‘Superunknown’ album. I’m pretty sure I listened to that album for a month straight. How could you not though? That album had some of the best grunge songs of all time like ‘Fell on Black Day,’ ‘Spoonman,’ and ‘The Day I Tried to Live.’ Sadly, we lost Cornell in 2017. People always say that he had a once-in-a-generation voice, and I honestly believe that. As big of an impact as all these other bands on the list had on the grunge movement in the nineties, I just don’t see another band having near the impact that Soundgarden did because of Cornell.
Honorable Mentions: Temple of the Dog, Silverchair, Candlebox, Sonic Youth.
Below is a playlist of some of my favorite songs from each band.
Brad is a tech and music know-it-all who has probably seen whatever band you’re currently listening to. He’s also the graphic designer for The Citizen.