A couple of weeks ago, Pearl Jam played the American Airlines Center and rocked the hell out of the place. But after all of these years, can anyone still call Pearl Jam a grunge band? As someone who was in college when the grunge sound came wallowing out of Seattle, I can attest to the greatest of much of the music and the ridiculousness of seeing so many guys wearing flannel. But as guitars get more and more scarce on the Billboard Hot 100, we pine for distortion more and more. In tribute to what may prove one of the last great rock movements, we offer our ten favorite grunge bands.
10. Pearl Jam From the beginning, Eddie Vedder and crew had a very tangential connection to the grunge scene and the grunge sound. Sure, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard served time in two real grunge bands, Green River and Mother Love Bone, but Vedder's presence was always that of a rock god, a far cry from every other front man. And exactly what albums from Pearl Jam can really be considered grunge? Maybe 1993's Vs. For strictly sentimental reasons, Pearl Jam hits the list at number ten.
9. Mother Love Bone Basically Pearl Jam before Vedder. Sadly, singer Andrew Wood died just months before the band's debut album, Apple, was released. The album featured some good songs, but pointed to the corporate leanings that would define Pearl Jam.
8. Tad Led by the magnificently rotund Tad Doyle, the band Tad was a chaotic, Black Sabbath-inspired mess. Most importantly, these guys defined the grunge aesthetic: they were ugly and they didn't give a shit.
7. L7 Hailing out of Los Angeles, this all female band became grunge by association. Although their music was based more in old school punk and metal, L7 looked grungy. Plus, they had the best album title of the scene: 1992's Bricks are Heavy.
6. The Melvins Definitely the heaviest of all the bands associated with the grunge scene, The Melvins also rivaled Tad in the ugly department. But my contention has always been the least attractive bands make the best music. Buzz Osborne and crew are still slinging the sludge some three decades after the fact.
5. Soundgarden Fronted by the hunk known as Chris Cornell, Soundgarden began life as a legitimate grunge act. The band's 1988 debut, Ultramega OK, was one of the defining releases on Sub Pop, the defacto grunge label. But slowly, popularity morphed Soundgarden into a slightly better than average, run of the mill rock act.
4. Screaming Trees Singer Mark Lanegan may well have been grunge's best front man. By far the most consistent songwriter the movement ever produced, Lanegan is still making great music today. In their prime, Screaming Trees were one powerful unit. Not even signing to a major label in 1990 dulled their edge. They are a band well worth re-investigating.
3. Green River Sort of the holy grail of the grunge scene, Green River, while never nationally popular, were still hugely influential. Led by the terrifically untalented Mark Arm, Green River's sole album and two EPs are the grunge real deal. "Good things come to those who wait," sings Arm on "Searchin'", "So I want to come."
2. Nirvana Too much has already been written about Nirvana, but I always loved seeing Cobain wearing that "Corporate Rock Sucks" t-shirt.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Mudhoney After Green River, Mark Arm assembled Mudhoney and the band has been pushing out quality grunge since 1988. Remarkably, this year brought Vanishing Point, a signature statement from what may well prove to be the last grunge band standing.