The Essential Albums of Grunge

Nirvana - Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Chris Novoselic, 1993. Photo by Stephen Sweet/REX/Shutterstock (261411g)

Back in the early ’90s, grunge was the biggest thing in music. Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam made a revolution and marked the entire decade while bringing the underground sound to the mainstream. 

Unfortunately, it’s been a while since grunge music ruled the charts or event got significant attention, but that doesn’t mean people have forgotten about it. The likes of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains are still keeping this genre relevant with critically acclaimed albums, while new generations are beginning to appreciate classical grunge records.

This is why we decided to present our picks for the top five essential grunge albums and remind you of their greatness, or introduce it to you if some of them did not previously catch your attention. The ranking was made by taking in consideration the albums commercial success, critical receptions, the way they stood the test of time and of course, our subjective opinion about them. So let’s get it started.

Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger

People often forget that Soundgarden was already seven years old and had two albums under their belt before the grunge craze started. With Badmotorfinger, however, the Chris Cornell-fronted group made their first breakthrough. Thanks to the band’s focus on songwriting, heavy sound, and the emergence of grunge, Badmotorfinger quickly became a huge hit and managed to sell a million copies in a year. It was also praised by the critics and even got Grammy considerations.

Standout songs: Outshined, Rusty Cage, Jesus Christ Pose

Temple Of The Dog – Temple Of The Dog

Temple Of The Dog is one of the unique projects in the whole of grunge. It was conceived as a tribute to Mother Love Bone’s late frontman Andrew Wood and consisted out of members of Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The band released only one album in 1991, but that was enough to make them one of the grunge legends. The record wasn’t as commercially successful but ended up receiving praise from the critics and achieved cult status over the years.

Standout songs: Hunger Strike, Call me a Dog, Pushin Forward Back

Pearl Jam – Ten

Pearl Jam is one of the most recognizable rock bands in the world, which isn’t so surprising considering they had a monster debut record. Ten wasn’t an immediate success, as it saw slow sales following the release while critics were not crazy about it. Following the success of other grunge bands, however, the album gained traction, and it managed to crack the Top 10 on Billboard 200 a year after its initial release. The music fans and critics found a new appreciation for the record afterward and it is now considered one of the greatest albums ever. 

Standout songs: Even Flow, Black, Jeremy

Alice in Chains – Dirt

Alice in Chains already found some success with their debut Facelift, but Dirt was the album that really established them as one of the grunge greats. The record featured a heavier sound than most of the other grunge album at the time but still dealt with dark and gritty themes like depression, pain, and anger. Dirt is now considered as a classic that influenced numerous acts afterward.

Standout songs: Would?, Angry Chair, Rooster

Nirvana – Nevermind

When talking about the best albums in grunge, people often intentionally fail to make Nevermind their top choice. This is mostly because it’s not cool enough to make the commercially most successful album also the best one. But we won’t make that mistake.

Nevermind is undoubtedly the greatest thing that grunge has given us. It was an album that summed up the voice of an entire generation and introduced a different way to make music. It has made grunge mainstream, which in return gave a chance to awesome bands that would never get a record deal otherwise.

Even if we disregard the impact that Nevermind had on not only grunge but music in general, we are still left with an album that is engaging and exciting to listen from start to the end. It was like that back in 1991, and things haven’t changed a bit today.

Standout songs: All of them