Top 5 Grunge Bands

oleh Lim
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Nirvana

Nirvana is undoubtedly the most well-known of these bands and considered as a pop-culture icon. This band captured the unmistakable grunge sound better than any other. They took inspiration from 80s bands such as The Pixies, who pioneered the idea of songs with the stark contrast of songs with a quiet verse juxtaposed with a surprisingly loud chorus. Nirvana had this simple technique down to a science, featured most noticeably on their acclaimed album “Nevermind.” Nirvana proved that “heavy” music could be undeniably catchy without the over-exaggerated flashiness of the 80s, producing numerous radio hits.

Part of Nirvana’s renowned status revolved around lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain’s charismatic and iconic personality as a frontman. He wrote lyrics that were extremely personal and enigmatic at the same time, often taken from his extensive journals. The band’s mystique only grew after Cobain’s tragic suicide in 1994, after which Nirvana released three stellar albums. Dave Grohl, the band’s drummer, also jumpstarted his musical career with Nirvana, going on to become the frontman for Foo Fighters, a massively successful rock band in their own right.

Soundgarden

Soundgarden was the first of these bands to form in 1984, coming out of Seattle, the city most closely associated with grunge. While starting off as a band falling more within the hard rock/metal mold, the band was able to develop their style into a singular blend of hard rock and psychedelic music. Soundgarden is also known for their experimental tendencies, such as adopting unorthodox guitar tunings and odd time signatures within their songs. Chris Cornell’s dynamic vocal range adds to Soundgarden’s diverse sound. Their breakout 1994 release “Superunknown” raised the bar for alternative music, with its high quality of productio. Although Soundgarden broke up in 1997, they reunited to release “King Animal” in 2012, sounding as fresh as ever.

Pearl Jam

If there is any band that has continued the legacy of classic rock to the present day, it would be Pearl Jam. Although they certainly fit the profile of a grunge band, Pearl Jam has a sound that is timeless enough to hearken back to bands like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC with a more moder sound. The guitar solos that pepper their albums stand in contrast to Nirvana’s more stripped down approach, yet both bands show two different sides to a similar mode of expression. After the release of Pearl Jam’s 1991 smash-hit “Ten,” Eddie Vedder’s voice became the defining sound of grunge, with countless imitators copying his powerful baritone vocals. Also, Vedder has also been the most politically vocal, unafraid to voice controversial opinions through his music. Pearl Jam has been the most consistent out of these bands, releasing 10 albums over the past couple decades and continuing to sell out stadiums around the world with their legendary live performances.

Alice in Chains

Although Alice in Chains are best known for exposing the dark sides of grunge music with the gloomy atmosphere that usually accompanies their music, they have also been the source of the genre’s highest points of musical beauty. During the band’s most successful days in the 90s, their albums featured the twin vocal attack of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell. The band is perhaps at their best in their famous MTV “Unplugged” performance, when they brought out the best in their hits with subtle acoustic instrumentation. Unfortunately, like Kurt Cobain, Staley struggled with a heroin addiction throughout the band’s career, finally culminating in his dzeath in 2002. Despite this massive blow, the band returned from a hiatus in 2008 with vocalist William DuVall replacing Staley and has been releasing well-received albums consistently since.

Stone Temple Pilots

If the timing of Stone Temple Pilots’ debut album “Core” would’ve played out differently, the band’s career probably would’ve had an easier time as a well-respected, stand alone act. However, coming on the heels of Pearl Jam’s “Ten” in 1991, “Core” was initially passed off by critics as a pale imitation of Pearl Jam’s formula, especially with vocalist Scott Weiland’s similar baritone voice. Listeners soon realized that Stone Temple Pilots were a band to be reckoned with, as they released album after album with consistently solid hits that got significant airplay.

The heart of the band has always been the songwriting team of brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo, respectively the band’s guitarist and bassist. They have attributed their strong melodic sensibilities as being influenced by the Beatles, the pioneers of melodic rock music. Weiland also proved that he was not just an Eddie Vedder clone, as he drastically changed his vocal style for different albums. Weiland was also notorious for his erratic behavior and drug use, which often caused internal strife within the band, although they released a couple albums in the 2000s. Weiland’s reckless behavior eventually caught up with him, as he was found dead on a tour bus in December 2015 from an overdose. The remaining band members however plan to move on with a replacement.

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