Readers' Poll: The Best Grunge Albums of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The Best Grunge Albums of All Time

Your picks include ‘Bleach,’ ‘Ten’ and ‘Temple of the Dog’

pearl jam ten

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The term "grunge rock" has never been properly defined. Some say it was merely a way for the media to characterize the rock music coming out of the Seattle in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Certainly very few of those bands referred to themselves as grunge. But this term has stuck with us, and many of the groups remain incredibly popular. This month Soundgarden released their first album in 16 years. We figured it was a good time to poll our readers and determine their 10 favorite grunge albums. Click through to see the results. 


3. Alice In Chains – ‘Dirt’

Alice In Chains fall somewhere between heavy metal and traditional grunge, but they came out of Seattle in the early Nineties and thus had the grunge label firmly affixed to them. Their 1990 debut Facelift was a hit, featuring the classic "Man in the Box." Their follow-up album, 1992's Dirt, was an even darker affair. It connected with a huge audience, putting them on the charts with singles "Rooster," "Them Bones" and "Down in a Hole." The album hit the same week as the soundtrack to Singles, and many compared Layne Staley's vocals to Eddie Vedder's singing style. "We all play rock music, so there is some similarity,'' guitarist Jerry Cantrell told Rolling Stone in 1992. "But the bands are different. Ours is a little more brooding and introspective. Pearl Jam is a soul that's full of life and invigorating, and Nirvana is kind of beautifully dysfunctional . . . These are just words I'm pulling off the top of my head. Even if I can't put my finger on it, there's an individual identity to the bands.''


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2. Nirvana – ‘Nevermind’

Nirvana had a staggering amount of classic songs ready to go when they began recording Nevermind in the summer of 1991. "What I've realized is that you only need a couple of catchy songs on an album, and the rest can be bullshit Bad Company rip-offs, and it doesn't matter," Kurt Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1993. "If I was smart, I would have saved most of the songs off Nevermind and spread them out over a 15-year period. But I can't do that. All the albums I ever liked were albums that delivered a great song, one after another: Aerosmith's Rocks, the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks . . . Led Zeppelin II, Back in Black by AC/DC."

Just months after it came out, Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson's Dangerous out of the Number One spot. It went on to top the charts all over the world, selling millions upon millions of records. While it didn't change the record industry quite as quickly or dramatically as you often read, it certainly did cause record labels to start looking towards less mainstream bands. Giant Eighties bands like INXS, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe and Dire Straits suddenly seemed very old. Everyone knows how the Nirvana story ended, but when Nevermind started selling like crazy, it truly seemed like Nirvana was going to rule the music world for years to come. 

pearl jam


1. Pearl Jam- ‘Ten’

Just one month before Nirvana released Nevermind, a new Seattle band named Pearl Jam dropped their debut album, simply titled Ten. It was inevitable that these two discs would compete in this poll for the title of the greatest grunge album, and in the end only 12 votes separated them. (Both albums got over twice as many votes as any other disc on our list.) The two bands had a bitter rivalry at the height of their fame. "I'm pretty sure that they didn't go out of their way to challenge their audience as much as we did with this [In Utero]" Kurt Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1993. "They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes."

Much like Nevermind, the track listing of Ten looks like a greatest hits package. Songs like "Jeremy," "Alive," "Black" and "Even Flow" remain the group's most famous works to this day, and they've been played live countless times. Many of these songs were written very shortly after the members of Pearl Jam first met. They discovered the amazing chemistry that's carried them for these past two decades, through setbacks that would have destroyed lesser bands.

Though Pearl Jam has made it clear they don't love the production of Ten – they even had Brendan O'Brien remix it a couple years ago – the debut remains their most successful album to date. 

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