Grunge rock was a music revolution like no other. It was filled with raw emotions, anger and rage. It enthralled the youth of that period; providing an outlet for teen angst; acted as an anti-depressant. Till this day one can hear the voices of grunge echoing. The fuzzy guitars, heavy distortion, the guitar smashing, it had it all. Grunge rock, according to me, was an era where one could let go of personal attachments and let the music take control. And now, here I am trying to voice out the most definitive grunge albums of all time. The list might be a bit subjective but I have tried to avoid as much bias as possible. So here goes.
01 Pearl Jam- Ten
The thing about Pearl Jam is that they make it sound all too easy.
The manner in which Vedder uses his vocal capabilities and making it sound easy and fun at the same time is really very admiring. The thing about this album is that it is simply amazing. There are no words which could actually describe this album. It has a very smooth flow to it. Tracks like “Once”, “Even Flow”, “Alive” and “Jeremy” are still regarded as anthems.
But four tracks don’t make an album top draw. You have tracks like “Black”, “Release Me” and “Oceans” which really make the album unique and complete. A perfect blend of songs make this album the most definitive grunge rock album of all time.
Moreover, the drums on this album are pretty much out of this world. Just listen to “Why Go” and you will have a clear idea of the amazing drum intensity. Apart from that Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament keep it tight and simple. Ten also deals with issues such as loneliness, depression, suicide and murder. One has to hear it to truly understand the sheer beauty of the album. A tip. Hear it in its entirety.
02 Nirvana – Nevermind
Writing a grunge list without Nevermind being mentioned is a sin. Some might find Nirvana to be over-rated. Some love them. Others hate them. But we are not speculating about which album was technically better or musically sound. We are talking about the most definitive grunge albums. Keeping that in mind Nevermind has to be on the top.
It practically brought grunge rock into the mainstream audience. People started taking notice. I have always adulated Kurt Cobain. Hell. I always wanted to be like him. It’s a real shame I can’t. This album had it all. Pure rawness. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” maybe a grunge anthem but it’s the least favorite track of mine from the album. Cobain also never liked ‘teen spirit’.
The album really revolutionized the way audiences looked at grunge rock. The fuzzy distortion, the raw vocals and Dave Grohl beating the hell out of his drum kit is pure awesomeness. “Drain You” is a classic example of it. Cobain’s raw and crass voice is a testament to all grunge rock lovers. A voice of a generation.
03 Alice In Chains – Dirt
This album is so unique. Its probably the darkest album on this list, and the one with the most soul.
The thing about Alice in Chains was that they were never really a typical grunge rock outfit. They had a quite a bit of metal influence in them. They just came out of Seattle and were conveniently labeled as grunge. I have never really been able to classify Alice in Chains into a particular genre. Jerry Cantrell’s guitar work is quite exquisite. Blend in Staley’s vocals, and Mike’s bass and you have a masterpiece.
The most interesting part about the album or, as a matter of fact the band itself, is the way Staley and Cantrell seemingly synchronize vocal harmonies. Listen to “Down In A Hole” or “Would” and one can literally feel a chill down the spine. Staley is by far one of the best vocalists I have ever come across. The falsetto’s and his unique low tenor voice is heavenly. The scream on “Them Bones” is epic. Cantrell is a riff lord. All in all, this is one of the darkest albums I have come across. Songs like “Junkhead” and “Dirt” are perfect examples of Staley’s constant failure to overcome his drug addiction.
04 Mother Love Bone – Mother Love Bone (Stardog Champion)
Andrew Wood (vocalist) inspired all the above bands so he really does deserve some credit. Hell. He deserves a lot of credit. Temple of the Dog created an album in tribute to Andrew Wood (more on that later.)
Mother Love Bone in a lot of ways kicked off the entire grunge rock revolution (as I would call it.) This album is epic. Every song is unique in its own way. Andrew Wood is just mind blowing when he sings. There is this amazing acoustic yet grungy feeling about the entire album. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard (currently in Pearl Jam) played the guitar and one can easily hear resemblances in Pearl Jam’s more acoustic oriented tracks (Black and Oceans). The lyrics of the album are also quite thought provoking. Songs like “Man Of Golden Words” and “Bone China” bear testament to this.
05 Soundgarden – Superunknown
Superunknown is the fourth album by Soundgarden and arguably their breakthrough album. Chris Cornell possesses the voice of an angel. He is just breath taking. This album saw a lot of variations. The guitar tuning ranged from Drop D to various open tunings. The time signatures used in this album were also very unconventional. Black Hole Sun (the most famous Soundgarden song) starts with a normal 4/4 and slowly graduates to a 9/8.
The running themes of this album revolved around revenge, annihilation, seclusion, fear, loss, death and discovery. According to me, the lyrics on this album were a big ‘eff you’ to the world. Soundgarden believed in doing their own effing thing. Black Hole Sun might be their most popular song off this album but other standout out tracks include the blistering but short Kickstand, the melancholic undertones of Fell On Black Days and the dark down tuned growl of 4th of July.
Yeah, so five down, and five more to go. Which do you think will complete the list? Comment below.
Read Part 2 to find out. And keep rocking!