Known as a musical movement that began in the 1990s out of Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest, grunge music really began as far back as the ’80s. And, depending on who you ask, the musical style might even go as far back as the ’60s and ’70s.
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Seattle guitarist Jimmy James has even talked about Jimi Hendrix being the first grunge musician. But while that may be up for some debate, the genre is known for its dark, brooding style, buzzy and sludgy electric guitars, and emotional song lyrics.
Of course, we all know the big grunge songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Black Hole Sun.” But what about the lesser-known songs from lesser-known bands?
Here are 10 Deep Cut Grunge Tracks
1. “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns,” Mother Love Bone
Mother Love Bone, in some ways, started it all. While Green River (see below), Mudhoney, and other bands may have been around at the same time, or even slightly earlier, Mother Love Bone boasted the charisma and the songs to rise to the top. Sadly, the band’s frontman Andrew Wood died from a heroin overdose just days before the band’s debut LP, Apple, came out. This song, “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns,” was released on the group’s debut EP, Shine, in 1989.
2. “Swallow My Pride,” Green River
While Green River, formed in 1984 in Seattle, didn’t boast much success outside of the Pacific Northwest, its members would go onto bigger things. Singer Mark Arm would later front Mudhoney and bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard would later play in Mother Love Bone and then Pearl Jam. Check out the band’s buzzy song, “Swallow My Pride,” from its 1988 album, Rehab Doll.
3. “Reptile,” Skin Yard
The opening song on Skin Yard’s 1987 self-titled LP, this song features droning vocals and heavy guitars and rhythms. Skin Yard famously included guitar player Jack Endino, later known as “The Grungefather” for his work recording music in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Seattle for Sub Pop. Included in his vast catalog was the first Nirvana album Bleach.
4. “Out of Focus,” Love Battery
From the band’s 1992 album, Dayglo, this song sounds like a mix of Oasis and Skin Yard. While Love Battery never got the love it deserved in its heyday, the band lives on in the Emerald City today thanks to tracks like this with a rhythm that could be sampled for a new-age hip-hop track.
5. “Bed of Roses,” Screaming Trees
The Ellensburg, WA-born band is known best for being fronted by gravelly-voiced singer Mark Lanegan and for its track “Nearly Lost You” from the 1992 Singles movie soundtrack. But the band’s 1991 song “Bed of Roses” is equally compelling with its big soaring guitars and Lanegan’s gutter vocals.
6. “Villains Also Wear White,” Bam Bam
Before Kurt Cobain, before Eddie Vedder, there was Bam Bam, led by the powerful-yet-diminutive Tina Bell. Many today call her the Queen of Grunge, for her brand of big-voiced music rooted in low, rumbling guitars. The band also included iconic drummer Matt Cameron, who would go on to play in Skin Yard, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, amongst other projects. Check out Bam Bam’s hit, “Villains Also Wear White,” below. And read more about Bell, HERE.
7. “Suck You Dry,” Mudhoney
The first single from the 1992 studio LP, Piece of Cake, by grunge band Mudhoney, this song showcases the guttural nature of the genre, which vocalist Mark Arm helped create, perfect and promulgate, even though other bands may have taken it to greater and greater heights.
8. “Far Behind,” Candlebox
This 1993 song is well known but it might be lesser known that Candlebox came from the Seattle area and helped spread the grunge gospel. The song is also notable in that it was inspired by the death of Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood. So while you may have heard it, listen to it with fresh ears given those details.
9. “Drive to Lifer,” IMIJ
This band, named IMIJ (or Jimi, as in Hendrix, spelled backward), is of great interest in Seattle today, though few of its records are on YouTube and little of its history is known. The album you want to try to track down is The In Gods You Lust EP, which features the hit “Medgar Evers DGC Bill Clinton And Me/I.” But for now, check out the song “Drive to Lifer” music video from the early ’90s. You can read more about the band here via KEXP 90.3 FM.
10. “River of Deceit,” Mad Season
Mad Season was a supergroup formed in Seattle by icons like Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, and Barrett Marti of Screaming Trees. While those names are big, the group has lost a bit of its luster over the years. So, check out this 1995 single from the group, which only put out one album in its day, Above.
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