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Top 10 Grunge Bands

VO: Rebecca Brayton
What better way is there to describe the subgenre of alternative rock known as grunge than with its angst-ridden lyrics, distorted guitar, feedback-heavy sound and stripped down sense of fashion? The bands that exemplified the Seattle sound weren't all necessarily from Seattle but they all knew how to rock out. They subsequently impacted alternative rock and music for good and that's why they're on our list. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 most influential grunge bands in history.

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Distorted guitar, disgruntled lyrics and flannel: These bands exemplified the Seattle sound. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most influential grunge bands in history.

#10 – L7

With their background as a heavy metal act, this all-female band from Los Angeles rocked even harder than some of their male counterparts. L7 was soon linked to the grunge movement as a result of their punk influences and tough attitudes. They earned even more grunge cred with their breakthrough success, Bricks Are Heavy, as the album was produced by Butch Vig, the man behind Nirvana’s Nevermind.

#9 – Melvins

While they’re considered more a sludge metal band, the Melvins are the most commonly cited influence of grunge rockers everywhere. Their raw sound and experimental attitude towards music made them truly unique and the fact that they’re still making music serves as a testament to their talent and longstanding impact.

#8 – Sonic Youth

These New Yorkers broadened the definition of grunge with their do-it-yourself punk philosophy and their use of fuzz pedals and distortion. Sonic Youth also changed the way we thought about the guitar by playing with tone and unconventional tunings. While they achieved cult status early on, they remain one of alternative rock’s most legendary bands.

#7 –Pixies

Without this Boston band, grunge as we know it may never have existed: Kurt Cobain himself admitted that he was attempting to imitate the Pixies’ musical style of radical dynamics. In fact, this contrast between quiet and loud soon became one of alternative rock’s most recognizable features. By combining angry vocals with their indie, punk and surf rock-influenced sound, the Pixies left such a mark on music they were prompted to reunite eleven years after their 1993 breakup.

#6 – Mudhoney

Before Pearl Jam, there was Mudhoney but before Mudhoney, there was Green River. Green River innovated with their hard rock and hardcore punk blend, and was the first band to issue a grunge release. The group’s members splintered off into other influential bands, and Mudhoney introduced a down and dirty sound with the grunge classic “Touch Me, I’m Sick” that left an undeniable impression on later bands.

#5 – Stone Temple Pilots

Despite their San Diego roots, STP was one of grunge’s most successful acts thanks to their fusion of hard, classic and alternative rock as well as Scott Weiland’s rich, baritone vocal style and dark lyrics. Though both their music and Weiland’s singing evolved throughout the decades, the Stone Temple Pilots are still remembered for their grunge days and remain highly influential to this day.

#4 – Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains distinguished themselves with their striking riffs, broody melodies and Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell’s harmonized vocals. They became one of the Big Four of grunge by adding blues and acoustic touches to their blend of heavy metal and punk rock. Indeed, they so struck a chord among the youth that they’ve continued to find success despite Staley’s death.

#3 – Soundgarden

With their aggressive mix of punk, metal and psychedelic influences, Soundgarden was the first grunge band to land a major label deal in the late-‘80s. They broke through to the mainstream with 1994’s Superunknown once fellow Seattleites Nirvana and Pearl Jam paved the way for the grunge explosion. Thanks to their technical prowess, willingness to experiment and the versatility of Chris Cornell’s vocals, Soundgarden took their place in grunge’s Big Four.

#2 – Pearl Jam

With a grunge lineage consisting of Green River, Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog, it’s no wonder Pearl Jam became one of the subgenre’s biggest acts. However, Pearl Jam did this via their own merits, which included memorable hooks and choruses as well as socio-politically driven lyrics. They cemented themselves as one of the Big Four thanks to their classic and punk rock-inspired sound, as well as Eddie Vedder’s often-imitated but never duplicated growl. Decades after Ten’s breakthrough success, Pearl Jam is still enjoying popularity.

#1 – Nirvana

Alternative rock and music in general were never the same after these Seattle rockers burst onto the scene with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Thanks to Nevermind’s incomparable success and their blend of heavy music with pop tendencies, the band brought the Seattle sound to the masses and became leaders of grunge’s “Big Four” in the process. When it’s all said and done, no other musicians spoke to a generation quite like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.

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