Listomania: Ranking the 10 Best Seattle Grunge Bands of the '90s
On December 31, 2009, when Chris Cornell tweeted that the "Knights of the Soundtable" would "ride again," fans assumed 2010 would become known as the year of Soundgarden, finding the '90s grunge legends reforming and regaining their once dominant form.
Disappointingly, they were only half right; the rockers did ultimately regroup, but only ended up making a handful of select live performances, and an appearance on Conan. As the year winded down, the whole thing began feeling more and more like a ruse cobbled together to hawk copies of their new greatest hits album -- or copies of Guitar Hero, depending on who is being asked.
Then, this week, seemingly from out of the blue, the band made a somewhat surprising announcement on their website and posted a black-and-white image of themselves jamming in a studio. Said the statement:
Over the past few months, we've been busy jamming, writing and hanging out together -- exploring the creative aspect of being Soundgarden. It feels great. We have some cool new songs that we are going to record very soon. Thank you for all of the support!
After a lackluster 2010 from the band, we won't blame anyone for treating this news with a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it attitude. But, despite our doubts, we're still pretty darned jazzed.
Enough so to rank our top 10 bands from the 1990s Seattle grunge scene, anyway.
10. Screaming Trees
After a batch of albums recorded for SST, Screaming Trees became one of the first of the Seattle bands to earn a major label deal when they signed with Epic in 1990. Their subsequent album, Uncle Anesthesia , produced by Chris Cornell, never managed to sell a ton of copies, but still served as a sign of things to come from the burgeoning scene.
9. 7 Year Bitch
Somewhat prophetically, the band lasted just seven years. In that time, though, they were some of the most aggressive and dominating punk rocker chicks in the grunge scene. Eat your heart out, Courtney.
8. Mother Love Bone
Mother Love Bone featured Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament -- but this is more than just a way to shoehorn some Pearl Jam-ers onto this list twice. Though the band's short-lived career was largely overshadowed by the death of frontman Andy Wood just days before the release of their debut album, Apple is still considered one of the biggest catalysts to bringing national attention to the then still-underground Seattle grunge scene.
Tad Doyle and his bandmates were responsible for some of the heaviest, most ungainly sounds of the grunge era. Unlike most of their peers, their sound was more influenced by '70s metal than '80s punk. Nonetheless, TAD still never quite managed to successfully segue their popularity within the Seattle scene into commercial success.
Originally formed as a hardcore punk band, the Melvins eventually transitioned into the more stoner-friendly sludge rockers we know today. Still, they were the favorite band of many other folks in this list (members of the top two bands included). Kurt Cobain once auditioned to be their bassist, and, though he didn't wind up with the gig, Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne has been credited by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic for introducing him to future bandmates Cobain and Dave Grohl.
While they really never fully got the credit they deserved, Mudhoney was one of the most important bands of the Seattle grunge scene -- even to the point that they were, at one time, considered Sub Pop's flagship band. Their heavily fuzzed-out sound influenced most everyone that came after them. Incidentally, Mudhoney vocalist Mark Arm is also often cited as one of the first people to refer to the region's sound as "grunge." But it's not like they got no credit whatsoever: They did have that one cameo in Chris Farley's Black Sheep.
4. Alice in Chains
The versatile rockers could just as easily pull off the heavy grunge sound one minute and then put out an all-acoustic EP the next. And they had something no other grunge band could boast: the oddly complex and endlessly haunting vocal harmonies between guitarist Jerry Cantrell and singer Layne Staley. Their magical performance of "Got Me Wrong" on their episode of MTV Unplugged will always have a special place in our hearts.
3. Pearl Jam
OK, so maybe they only had one really killer album (their first one), but something has to be said for the fact that they've pretty much gone strong for over 20 years with really no lengthy hiatuses or breakups to speak of. It's somehow still a huge deal every time they release a new record -- but, then again, moving 60 million units worldwide usually does tend to have that effect.
The first issue of Guitar World magazine we ever bought featured an interview with Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil -- as well as tabs for "Black Hole Sun." Needless to say, we've been hooked ever since. Thayil's guitar style was wholly unique at the time, and his heavy riffing was cited by most other grunge guitarists as the pioneer of the "Seattle sound." When paired with Chris Cornell -- who is still generally regarded as being one of the top five rock vocalists of all time -- the result was a badass beast of odd-metered riffs and mind-crushing power.
Any doubt they were the greatest of them all? After Cobain and Co. unleashed Nevermind on the unsuspecting masses, nearly everyone started wearing flannel shirts and ripped jeans. Hell, even our moms knew about them -- and they pretty much listened exclusively to Michael Bolton at the time. Their huge commercial breakthrough in 1991 pretty much opened the floodgates of grunge, widening the genre's perceived appeal, and making possible the success of nearly every other band on this list. Ironically, though, they were pretty much the only band on this list that didn't appear on the pivotal Singles soundtrack.
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