Nirvana's In Utero turned 25 a few weeks ago, a momentous milestone for an album that remains undeniably abrasive and heavy, both sonically and thematically. For some — like noise-rock accountants KEN mode — that 1993 LP stands as the creative pinnacle of the grunge movement that flipped popular music on its head in the Nineties. But for others, it's a record by Soundgarden, or Alice in Chains, or someone more left field, like Tad and or the Melvins. Grunge brought us so many great albums that we thought we'd open the floor to you, the fans, to pick the best, and you hit social media with a wide range of opinions. Below are the ranked results.
Temple of the Dog formed in 1990 as the brainchild of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, as a tribute to his late friend, Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood. But the band's singular release, 1991's self-titled album, took on a life of its own, once the rest of the group — including Eddie Vedder, who sings on four of the record's tracks, most notably the single "Hunger Strike" — came to fame as Pearl Jam. After that, what was a collection of friends honoring a fallen peer became a hit-making supergroup, and as such, the project remains a beloved touchstone in the halls of grunge history.
Regardless of where you consider Nevermind to fall in Nirvana's catalog, there is absolutely no arguing the album's value as a cultural milestone. Yet, it's when looking at the record from a musical, not historical, standpoint, that it's true genius becomes apparent. Each song on the album has the opportunity to get lodged in your head for an eternity — the initial rush of the opening three songs, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "In Bloom" and "Come As You Are," is insane to say the least, combined with the twin exuberance/melancholy of cuts like "Drain You" and "Something In the Way." Whether or not Kurt Cobain and Co. grew to hate the LP's supernova popularity, it's proof that pop sensibilities can take form in more aggressive kinds of rock music without sacrificing integrity.
In an age of spandex, teased hair and sleazy hits like "Girls, Girls, Girls," it was records like Badmotorfinger that proved to the world that hard-rock music could be smart, forward-thinking and still heavy as hell. Soundgarden helped shift the paradigm — using interesting tunings and weird time signatures, addressed headier lyrical themes and, in general, pushed the boundaries of what heavy music was and is. Forget "greatest grunge" — Badmotorfinger should be nominated as one of the most influential heavy albums of all time.
While some may argue that Nevermind kicked down the door for grunge, it could be said that Ten normalized it. After all the dust has settled, Pearl Jam's debut is the record that helped solidify the whole "grunge" phenom, pointing toward Seattle as the mecca for the "alternative music" revolution. It didn't hurt that Ten is basically a series of hit singles — "Alive," "Jeremy" and "Black" are all key tracks that have since become classic-rock radio staples.
Spawning such inescapable hits as "Rooster" and "Down in a Hole," Alice in Chains' heroin-rock classic Dirt leaned heavily into the group's metal influences and perfected the balance between the defining traits of the Seattle grunge scene and the doom-laden Sabbathian influences that paved the way for its inception. Singer Layne Staley's candid exorcisms on the despairs of addiction add a thick layer of depressive angst, making Dirt not only one of the most well-composed albums of its genre, but also arguably the most heart-wrenching. After all, is it even grunge if it doesn't crush your soul?