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Grunge Albums

Music | By The Top 13 on February 24, 2010

Just about twenty years after the birth of grunge and the Seattle Scene, a number of the most prominent bands of that era are back with tours and/or new albums. Soundgarden recently announced it is reuniting and the band is heavily rumored to be headlining Lollapalooza this summer, Mudhoney is set to play All Tomorrow's Parties New York this year, both Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains released new material last year, and late last year Nirvana released Live at Reading, a DVD and album containing the band's legendary 1992 performance at the Reading Festival. Given the sudden burst of productivity from some of grunge's most important bands, the Top 13 takes a look at the best albums from the era, giving weight to both the quality of the album and its influence.

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Nirvana - Nevermind

1

Nirvana - Nevermind

1991

By far the most influential album on this Top 13, Nevermind wasn't Nirvana's first album (the excellent Bleach came out in 1989), but it was the album that put grunge and the Seattle music scene in the spotlight. One of the finest albums of the 1990s, Nevermind had as much an impact on a generation as any album in recent memory.

Alice in Chains - Dirt

2

Alice in Chains - Dirt

1992

The darkest and most honest album of the grunge era, Dirt is almost entirely about the late Layne Staley's battle with heroin, though "Rooster" is about Vietnam. There simply aren't many albums quite as brutally depressing as Dirt and that is one of the primary reasons this album is rightfully considered one of the best of the 1990s.

Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

3

Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

1991

Though not as successful as Soundgarden's subsequent albums, Badmotorfinger is the band's masterpiece. Released the same year as Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, but far less accessible than those peer albums and Soundgarden's own subsequent work, the album nevertheless played a significant role in the development of grunge. Lead singer Chris Cornell showed off his fantastic voice over heavy, grinding hard rock on an album that made people pay attention to Soundgarden.

Pearl Jam - Ten

4

Pearl Jam - Ten

1991

Formed by several members of Mother Love Bone after the overdose death of that band's lead singer, Pearl Jam debuted on the scene with this album, which remains the band's masterpiece and joined with Nirvana's Nevermind to push grunge into the mainstream. With "Alive" and "Jeremy," the album featured some of the most memorable singles of the era.

Mother Love Bone – Apple

5

Mother Love Bone – Apple

1990

Released shortly after the overdose death of lead singer Andrew Wood, Apple was the highly anticipated debut album from Mother Love Bone, which was comprised of former members of several well-known grunge bands (Green River and Malfunkshun). While Wood's death led to the formation of Pearl Jam, it also left us wondering what could have been. Note that only the first 13 songs below actually appeared on Apple; the additional songs were added to a self-titled compilation released after Wood’s death.

Nirvana - In Utero

6

Nirvana - In Utero

1993

Nirvana's final studio album, In Utero was both the height of grunge and the end of it. Though it had significantly less impact than Nevermind, Nirvana's earlier entry on this list, In Utero is at least as good. Indeed, as fantastic as Nevermind was, this album was at the same time more raw, more thought-provoking, and more unique.

Hole - Live Through This

7

Hole - Live Through This

1994

Released just four days after the death of singer Courtney Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, Live Through This was such a departure from Hole's debut album that rumors immediately circulated that Cobain had written much of the album. What's more likely is that Love was heavily influenced by her husband's work, and the result is an album that stands on its own as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Green River - Dry as a Bone/Rehab Doll

8

Green River - Dry as a Bone/Rehab Doll

1990

One of grunge's creators, Green River was comprised of future members of Pearl Jam and Mudhoney. Dry as a Bone/Rehab Doll includes the band's sole album, along with an EP also released by Sub Pop. It is a straight-ahead masterwork that, while hardly noticed outside of the Pacific Northwest at the time of its release, served as a fantastic building block for many of the bands on this Top 13.

Mad Season – Above

9

Mad Season – Above

1995

The only album from the supergroup that included Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, and Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees, the haunting Above was the last album in The Top 13 to be released. Recorded in little more than a week, the album demonstrated that Mad Season was far more than merely the sum of its extremely talented parts.

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles

10

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles

1990

Along with Green River's entry on The Top 13, this is one of the albums that set the grunge movement in motion. It's also probably the rawest and most powerful album on this list. Superfuzz Bigmuff is actually a compilation of Mudhoney's first EP, their first two 45s, and two covers. The album features "Touch Me I'm Sick," which was the first single Sub Pop released.

Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

11

Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

1991

The second entry on The Top 13 from a short-lived Seattle supergroup, the self-titled Temple of the Dog is a tribute to Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood, recorded by Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and the future members of Pearl Jam, including a then-unknown Eddie Vedder. The future success of the band's members alone would have made this album required listening. But songs like "Hunger Strike" and "Say Hello 2 Heaven" are angst-ridden classics that stand out among the many great grunge songs of the early 1990s.

Pearl Jam - Vs.

12

Pearl Jam - Vs.

1993

Like Nirvana, Pearl Jam places two albums on this Top 13. Unlike Nirvana and most other bands on this list, Pearl Jam continues to release new music. Replete with songs packed with political and social themes, Pearl Jam didn't miss a beat with its sophomore release. Vs. is more intense and punk than Ten, but the lack of polish is far from an indictment of this excellent album.

Melvins - Bullhead

13

Melvins - Bullhead

1991

The Melvins' influence can be heard on many of the albums ranked above Bullhead on this list. And while the Melvins never achieved the critical or commercial success of many of the other bands in this Top 13, Bullhead is a seminal album from the grunge era.

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Comments Leave a comment

tloveisready ★★

Great list. I tend to agree with the bulk of the list and your placement of these great albums as well. This era of music was seminal for me, and I still listen to a lot of these albums regularly. The only band that I thought could've been included here was Smashing Pumpkins. Though I guess their "grungeness" could be debated.

5:34 AM   Feb 24, 2010

jasun 

I love all of these albums. No real debate other than "not grunge" when it comes to Smashing Pumpkins.

7:09 AM   Feb 24, 2010

eeezoe 

I still listen to the Nevermind album like it was just released.

7:09 AM   Feb 24, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

My personal list would rank all of the Alice in Chains albums over every other album. But excellent list. No complaints.

9:01 AM   Feb 24, 2010

stillathreat ★★

I actually still listen to every album on this list. Maybe Mudhoney should be higher, though.

9:35 AM   Feb 24, 2010

nizz 

Glad to see AIC and Ten so high. Thought STP's Core deserved a place, but that may be cause I haven't heard a few of the pre-PJ and supergroup albums.

10:54 AM   Feb 24, 2010

dpow90 

where the hell is the screaming trees?

10:49 PM   Feb 24, 2010

Dillsnufus 

i agree with dpow sweet oblivion is one of the best albums of the grunge era.

4:48 PM   Jul 08, 2010

bdouble 

Great List.

3:24 PM   Jan 04, 2012

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