The Grunge movement was a huge part of my growing up. Having hit my teens in 1993 Grunge was the music of my early development as an individual. It was rage and melody and the antithesis of what kids my age were forced to listen to from the mainstream for the last 5 years of our childhood years. It was rebellion against the establishment that came about at the same time people my age were starting to discover their voice.
I tried making this playlist as varied within the scene as possible without putting the most obvious songs or artists in, had I done that this would have been easier, but at the same time it would have been just another regurgitation of other playlists out there. This playlist harkens back to my very first post on this blog and the first in the 90’s Albums that Refuse to Age series.
This time frame in music holds a special place for me and I hope you enjoy or discover a song you may not have remembered or known about. As always, comments are welcome and the playlist can be found on Spotify here.
Essential Grunge Playlist:
We Die Young- Alice in Chains
A lot of people will say that I should have went with “Rooster” or “Would?” For an AIC track, however, I feel that the first song on their debut album gives a good look into what their future output of heavy songs would be. Alice in Chains were more Black Sabbath and Ramones in the Grunge Scene and the heaviness of “We Die Young” showcases their ability to bring a harder side to the scene.
Hey Man, Nice Shot- Filter
While Filter is more associated with the Industrial movement, “Hey Man, Nice Shot” fit well into either the Industrial or Grunge movements with its bass driven grounding and heavy chorus.
Silverchair came at the end of the Grunge movement and were considered a pretty direct rip-off of Nirvana, “Tomorrow” still stands out as one of the better songs of the latter end of the Grunge Era.
River of Deceit- Mad Season
This one off album comprised of both Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam members was an attempt to help keep Layne Staley clean it did yield some great songs. No Grunge playlist would be complete without “River of Deceit”.
Bound for the Floor- Local H
It took me years to find out who actually played this song. It would always come on the radio when I was in my teens and I don’t ever recall them stating who it was by. A good mid-paced song to jam to.
Backwater- The Meat Puppets
The Meat Puppets were sorely underrated in the 90’s. They got a little bump from this song as well as their multi-song appearance during Nirvana’s famed “Unplugged” show where they played a few of their songs. Thankfully Nirvana helped get them some exposure along the way which tells you the great guy that Kurt Cobain was when it came to his influences.
Lounge Act- Nirvana
Quite possibly my favorite Nirvana song. While “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Heart Shaped Box” would have been the more noticeable songs to put on this list, “Lounge Act” stands out as one of the deep cuts on Nevermind.
Disarm- Smashing Pumpkins
“Disarm” is probably one of the most stand out and enduring tracks from the Pumpkins early career. It stands the test of time as a coming of age song. The track shows Billy Corgan’s fearless use of non-grunge elements to build a lush soundscape with bells and strings.
Soundgarden always managed to blend a punchy sound with a sludge tempo in their songs which was the hallmark of the bands that derived from their sound. “Outshined” is one of my favorite pre-Superunknown songs. This track still kicks ass today.
Piece of Pie- Stone Temple Pilots
While not from Seattle, Stone Temple Pilots managed to produce a sound akin to grunge and put out one of the best debut albums in an era of great debut albums. “Piece of Pie” is wedged between two of STP’s more recognizable songs from the album but is no less impactful and heavy than “Creep” and “Plush”.
Garden- Pearl Jam
Another great debut album came from Pearl Jam. While the band spawned a million Eddie Veder’s, the Ten album showcased just the right mix of steady rockers with slower and deeper songs. “Garden” has one of the best choruses out there in my opinion.
Reach Down- Temple of the Dog
This album was a one-off release by Chris Cornell and the surviving members of Mother Love Bone and introduced the world to Eddie Vedder on “Hunger Strike”, however, “Reach Down” is one of my favorite tracks and is a solid piece of Grunge history.
Nearly Lost You- Screaming Trees
The Screaming Trees were a largely overlooked band in the grunge era. This is not because they were lesser in quality than the big name acts and more because they were in the first few bands in the scene along with others like the Melvins and Mudhoney. This song from 1992 features a driving sound throughout and was their highest charting single.
I Come from the Water- Toadies
The Toadies, much like the Meat Puppets, were one of the overshadowed bands of the era. The Toadies were just fun to listen to. Whether it is the strange tail of “Possum Kingdom” or the playfulness of “I Come from the Water” they wrote great grunge songs with pop crossover potential.
Pretend that We’re Dead- L7
L7 brought the hard punk girl attitude to the grunge scene and proved women were just as capable of bringing the goods to the scene.
Crown of Thorns- Mother Love Bone
I don’t think that any playlist of the Grunge era would be complete without this song. Mother Love Bone were one of the bands that were making the transition from Glam to Grunge before the untimely death of singer Andy Wood. This song shows that he had the talent of lyrical writing that was second to none.
Mary-Christ- Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth is a band that could really fit into either the grunge or the early 90’s punk scenes. Regardless of how you classify them, they wrote great songs and influenced a ton of bands in both scenes and also the later Alternative movement.
Yeah, Right- Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. is probably one of the most overlooked bands of the era. They took a unique approach to their songs and produced some great songs throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Three is a Magic Number- Blind Melon
Everybody knows Blind Melon for “No Rain” but their contribution to the “School House Rocks!” Album is still one of my favorites. I put this song on a playlist for my son and he said it was one of the reasons he did so good at his times tables. The compilation album that this song was recorded for is well worth checking out with acts like Better Than Ezra, Ween, The Lemon Heads, Biz Markie and others included.
I remember first hearing this song in the movie “Empire Records”. While not included on the soundtrack it stuck with me as one of the good in the movie itself. Sponge wrote some good songs back in the day and still manage to put out quality work today. I still enjoy putting this song on and traveling back in my mind.
Pavement managed to produce some more atmospheric work in the grunge movement. More of a niche band than a widespread success like others, their music fit the era well and is good to throw on while cooking or performing other menial tasks around the house.