We are Rockin the night
There was a time in history when the youth of the 90s were called “Generation X.” Edgy as it may sound, the term pertains to the perceived lack of morals, the lack of social awareness and the degeneration of teens and young adults at that time. Much to the chagrin of many old timers, grunge music was ruling the airwaves at that time. In fact, grunge was being tagged as one of the main factors in the creation of Generation X. It voiced a lot of young individuals disenchantment and cynicism. Fortunately, those same attributes led a lot of people to become open minded and become more in touch with their passions, which was hugely misunderstood by the corporate world. Negative as it may seem, Generation X will always be a movement marked with mixed reactions and grunge music. Anyway, here are ten of the best grunge bands that pushed the Generation X movement:
10. The Pixies
Pixies in Kansas City
It’s true that Nirvana was the main reason for the blossoming of the grunge era, but without the influence of Frank Black, Kim Deal, and the Pixies, the whole grunge music movement may not have happened. The Pixies were the main influence of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Some of Nirvana’s early material and Cobain’s vocal style resembled the brash music of The Pixies. The Pixies did not really play grunge music, nor did they play hard rock, but they had the “I don’t care…I’m just angry about something!” attitude that paved the way for grunge music. This is the primary reason why an innovative punk rock band made it to this top ten list.
9. Sonic Youth
The Sonic Youth Album
Along with Alice in Chains, Sonic Youth showcased a different side to grunge. They widened the definition of grunge music. They played music that crossed the boundaries set by musical genres. Through their diverse music, Sonic Youth is considered a grunge band, an alternative band, a punk band and some people believe that they are actually an indie band. Sonic Youth gained fame for making music with unorthodox and radical guitar tunings and drew a cult following in an era dominated by more traditional grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. They released an album in 2006 and got exceptional reviews from both music critics and listeners, making them successful recording artists regardless of music movement.
Bush was one of the cornerstones of the grunge era’s latter days. They released a handful of good albums and each of those albums contained at least one or two songs that did well in radio countdowns.
Their first two albums, Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase, produced some of grunge anthems and were preferred by less angry grunge fans. Bush popularized a pacified take on grunge music and most of their songs are regarded as catchy and radio-friendly. Unfortunately, they peaked at a time when the grunge era was about to end. They were forced to modify their music to conform to the current musical trend. Their efforts produced a couple of lackluster albums, where the songs sounded too experimental and forced. They eventually broke-up due to low record sales and lack of fan support.
With their potential and a strong initial showing, Bush could have been one of the biggest grunge bands, but theirs was a case of being in the right place at the wrong time.
Silverchair on stage
At a time when the Generation X was being maligned for being a bunch of underachievers, a trio of fifteen-year olds shocked the world by releasing one of the best grunge albums in history. Silverchair was borne out of high school classmates Daniel Johns and Ben Gilles. They later recruited Chris Joannou to complete what would be one of the most successful Australian bands of all time. Upon the release of their debut album, “Frogstomp,” Silverchair became an instant local hit. Soon, their songs gained worldwide fame and became instant classics. They came up with an equally successful follow-up album and another album at the dawn of the grunge era. At the young age of 28, Johns is now considered as one of the greats during the grunge era and is still collecting milestones to add to his already illustrious career.
6. Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosour Jr at Stockholm
Dinosaur Jr. existed before the grunge era was born. It just so happened that they played music that closely resembled what would soon be called grunge rock. Characterized by jangly guitars and the heavy use of guitar distortion and feedbacks, Dinosaur Jr. would soon pioneer the default sound of grunge, without them knowing it. By the time grunge was already the rock music trend, they were major players in the industry as they released three successful albums. They immediately gained a bigger following upon releasing those albums, since a lot of young grunge fans appreciated their music. The band eventually broke-up due to infighting, but they later reunited and released an album in 2007. Dinosaur Jr. is currently active and is still touring constantly. These long-running rock stars are now known as both pioneers and major players during the grunge era. They are probably waiting for the next rock music movement to dominate.
5. Stone Temple Pilots
The Stone Temple Pilot
Isn’t it a wonder that “Plush” is usually one of the first few songs that you learn on guitar? It comes as no surprise since it is one of the biggest 90s rock hits. Stone Temple Pilots’ career can be defined by its 30 million album sales and its string of number one hits. Regardless of record sales, all of their albums are considered gems by CD collectors and a lot of their unreleased songs are held in high regard by rock music lovers. One of their non-released songs, “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart,” even made it to the wildly popular game Guitar Hero 2 (Master the Five ways to become a true guitar hero
). Stone Temple Pilots is definitely one of the more successful and prominent acts on the grunge music scene.
Soundgarden enters this list as the first member of the four cornerstones of grunge music (Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden). Among the four, Soundgarden was the first one formed. It heavily influenced the musical framework of grunge and was one of the best artists in that genre.
Soundgarden in 1991
Along with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden is considered by music purists to be the most talented grunge band, but it didn’t achieve the commercial success of grunge giants Nirvana and Pearl Jam. This is because Soundgarden didn’t play a lot of radio-friendly material until they released the multi-platinum album “Superunknown.” “Superunknown” was a huge commercial success and is considered by hardcore grunge fans as the best grunge album ever released. The band followed-up with another critically acclaimed album called “Down on The Upside.” It didn’t sell as well as “Superunknown,” but grunge purists praised it for being just as good as its predecessor.
3. Alice in Chains
The grunge music scene has never seen lyrics as beautifully written as those done by Alice in Chains. The late Layne Staley made lush poetic tragedies out of his songs and introduced a unique vocal style that influenced dozens of newer acts.
Alice in Chains Unplugged
He, together with his band, went on to become one of the four cornerstones of grunge. Playing grunge music fused with blues, hard rock and heavy metal, Alice in Chains brought to the table probably the most intelligent form of grunge.
Alice in Chains defied the standards set on how a grunge band should sound and showcased music that is distinctively theirs. Their music was highlighted by slow heavy guitars with occasionally blending vocals and a dark feel. Most of the songs are about depression, drug addiction and suicide. Avid listeners claim that Alice in Chains are absolutely the best band during the grunge era but their distinct style is not something easily appreciated by the average listener. This writer agrees.
2. Pearl Jam
Music magazines, grunge fans and purists used to have lengthy debates over who deserves to be known as the greatest grunge band. Of course, it is usually a toss-up between Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
The Pearl Jam Members
Pearl Jam fanatics claim that Nirvana may have more hits, but Pearl Jam created masterpieces instead of grunge anthems. True enough, Pearl Jam went on to be one of the most influential bands of the decade as it outlasted most of their contemporaries. It also paved the way for succeeding music trends such as Nu Metal and alternative rock.
Pearl Jam has collected tons of accolades and has been perennial poster boys for grunge rock. Angst-driven, Pearl Jam’s songs are about social injustice, family problems and failed romantic endeavors. A lot of people relate to their themes and soon this translated into favorable record sales. It wasn’t long before they started outselling their greatest rival, Nirvana. They were even awarded as “The Greatest American band in History” by some award-giving bodies.
A great movement is usually sparked by a simple action. A great invention is said to be sparked by a single significant idea. As for the entire grunge era and The Generation X, it was fueled and carried by a single song. That song is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. When it was released in 1991, the youth of the world instantly fell in love with it. Youngsters left and right were found singing their own made-up versions of the song, since its vocals are quite difficult to understand. Soon, millions of fans followed Kurt Cobain’s cause and brought about one of the most significant music movements in history.
Nirvana in 1992
Very few artists can match the impact of Nirvana on the music industry and in society. Considered the fathers of grunge, Nirvana was able to dislodge pop icon Michael Jackson from the top of the Billboard charts upon the release of their “Nevermind” album. It went on to bring the grunge genre into the music map and proclaimed by listeners as probably the most important album of the decade. They followed up with the critically-acclaimed “In Utero,” which featured a cleaner recording and smarter lyrics. Before they could continue their domination in the music industry, frontman Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, leaving behind a stellar musical career and a generation looking for a new flag-carrier. Nirvana continued to sell records after Cobain’s death and had a number-one hit eight years after.
Grunge is a genre filled with angst and a subculture marked by misunderstanding. Everyone may have his own thoughts about the term but one thing is for sure, it was an era highlighted by great music. If you enjoy this article, you’ll surely be pleased in reading how to learn music.
Since Nirvana was on the top of our Grunge Bands lists, it’s not a surprise that Nirvana made their way to be on the to of our 90’s Rock Bands list and the Top Ten Most Amazing Rock Bands of All Time lists.