The 10 best Grunge albums

15 June 2022, 17:42

Classic grunge albums from the 90s
Classic grunge albums from the 90s. Picture: Press

Break out the plaid shirt, get ready for the mosh pit and crank up the volume for the best examples of grunge - from Nirvana and Pearl Jam to Mudhoney and Soundgarden!

  1. Nirvana - Bleach

    Nirvana - Bleach album cover
    Nirvana - Bleach album cover. Picture: Press

    Fans love Nevermind, noise lovers enjoy Steve Albini’s take on the band on In Utero. But true grunge acolyte will point you towards the first Nirvana album, recorded in Seattle, released on Sub Pop. It’s hard and uncompromising, but still has gems in songs like About A Girl.

  2. Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger
    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger. Picture: Press

    Superunknown was the big crossover moment, but its 1991 predecessor put Chris Cornell on the map. Rusty Cage and Jesus Christ Pose are anthemic, Outshined is still a classic. Cornell is much missed.

  3. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

    Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
    Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream. Picture: Press

    Gish was the world’s introduction to Billy Corgan’s muse, but the 1993 follow-up was more polished and featured some amazing songs: Today, Rocket and Disarm. So what if Corgan played most of it himself, the rolling sound of the guitars makes this a distinctive record.

  4. Pearl Jam - Ten

    Pearl Jam - Ten
    Pearl Jam - Ten. Picture: Press

    Released a month before Nevermind, Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament had played in a number of other Seattle bands and Ten was the result of this experience. Less harsh than other grunge acts, Pearl Jam tapped into the history of great American rock in songs like Alive, Even Flow and the controversial Jeremy.

  5. Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

    Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff
    Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff. Picture: Press

    Technically an EP, but it’s got six songs and lasts nearly half an hour, so let’s have it. This Seattle band was more irreverent and much looser than their contemporaries and you have to love an album named after the group’s favourite guitar pedals.

  6. Hole - Live Through This

    Hole - Live Through This
    Hole - Live Through This. Picture: Press

    Courtney Love has attracted much controversy over the years, but you can’t deny this album’s power - it was given even more poignancy when it was released a week after Kurt Cobain’s death. Doll Parts is the high point of this uncompromising, confessional howl into the abyss.

  7. Alice In Chains - Dirt

    Alice In Chains - Dirt
    Alice In Chains - Dirt. Picture: Press

    Another Seattle band that were drawn into the orbit of grunge, Alice In Chains had a more metal sound, and the ongoing backstage dramas within the group (singer Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose in 2002) mean that this 1992 is a dark, heavy record. Tracks like Them Bones, Would?, Down In A Hole and Angry Chair are grunge essentials.

  8. Stone Temple Pilots - Core

    Stone Temple Pilots - Core
    Stone Temple Pilots - Core. Picture: Press

    Hailing from San Diego, frontman Scott Weiland became a grunge icon and this 1992 debut album spawned some alt.rock classics in Sex Type Thing, Wicked Garden and Creep.

  9. L7 - Bricks Are Heavy

    L7 - Bricks Are Heavy
    L7 - Bricks Are Heavy. Picture: Press

    The all-female band L7 may not have been taken as seriously in a overbearingly masculine genre such as grunge, but the LA rockers created a scuzzy classic which was made famous by the single Pretend We’re Dead. Produced by grunge master Butch Vig.

  10. Various Artists - Singles

    Singles soundtrack album cover
    Singles soundtrack album cover. Picture: Press

    Released in the summer of 1992, the soundtrack to the Seattle-based comedy Singles is a who’s who of grunge legends: Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and the genre’s could-have-been-massive Mother Love Bone. A perfect snapshot of a particular time in rock music.


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