Saturday, April 25, 2009

URBAN LEGEND: Seattle Sound

*Originally Posted April 29, 2008*

It is fairly clear that the zenith of my musical taste, my two roommates, and any sane person who thinks they know music surrounds the rise of grunge is the late 1980s and early 1990s in Seattle, Washington.Also being crystal clear is the fact that the height of grunge is embodied in four bands, the somewhat Mount Rushmore of grunge: Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.Both Nirvana and Pearl Jam have received the most popularity out of their respective releases in 1991, Nevermind and Ten.Nirvana gets perhaps the most fame as a result of Kurt Cobain’s thankful suicide.When looking and listening closely to all four bands, maybe public perception, as it always is, is wrong.Let’s take a look.

4.Nirvana (1987-1994)
Main Members: Kurt Cobain (Vocals and Guitar), Kris Novoselic (Bass), Dave Grohl (Drums)
Is the most famous Seattle band really the worst out of the main four?Yeah, probably.A spearheaded popularity as a result of Nevermind and specifically Smells Like Teen Spirit.The hit single was everywhere, MTV and the radio specifically.What do songs that appear on MTV and are all over the radio have in common?A repetitive, unsophisticated, high school girl following.Smells Like Teen Spirit is a little better than that description, but it is a simple good song, nothing more.Nirvana had 3 albums.One nobody cares about, one everybody owns, and another solid effort.Cobain is easily the fourth best vocalist of the Seattle scene and Dave Grohl is not as good as Matt Cameron.All of this adds up to a solid but vastly overrated and over hyped band.

3.Pearl Jam (1990-present)
Main Members: Eddie Vedder (Vocals), Mike McCready (Lead Guitar), Stone Gossard (Rhythm Guitar), Jeff Ament (Bass), Matt Cameron (Drums)
Ten is probably my second favorite album of all time.Pearl Jam is still reaping its benefits.How many times have Even Flow, Alive, Jeremy, and Black been on the radio.Vs and Vitalogy were solid efforts but nothing outstanding.They did “change” their direction in music, but nothing has really been good in about 10 years, maybe 15 years come to think of it.Even though Eddie Vedder whines about the state of the country, he is still an excellent front man, and with the addition of Cameron, Pearl Jam has added one of the best drummers around.Their body of work is much more impressive than Nirvana, but as with Nirvana, some of their songs, Daughter and Better Man come to mind, are rather simple and lack a lot of sophistication.

2.Alice in Chains (1987-2002)
Main Members: Layne Staley (Vocals), Jerry Cantrell (Vocals and Guitar), Mike Inez (Bass), Sean Kinney (Drums)
Yeah, sophistication.The fast (Them Bones, Again), the slow (Done in a Hole), the heavy (Man in the Box), the mellow (Brother), and the perfect (Would?).These songs are intricate, sophisticated, and they even have a radio-play sound.Staley’s vocals are distinctive, but the driving force behind the band is the prime songwriter, guitarist, and oftentimes primary vocalist, Jerry Cantrell.Him and Chris Cornell deserve to be at the top of the grunge movement, not Kurt Cobain.One setback, some AIC songs are quite depressing, you know, whatever sometimes, but the complete voices of death and despair can sometimes put a listener in a destructive mood.That one setback may have prevented AIC from being number one.

1.Soundgarden (1984-1997)
Main Members: Chris Cornell (Vocals), Kim Thayil (Guitar), Ben Shepherd (Bass), Matt Cameron (Drums)
The first, formed in 1984 and released the first major label Seattle grunge album with 1988's Louder than Loud.The last, Down on the Upside was released in 1997, and is probably the last great grunge album.In Utero was 1993, Vitalogy 1994, and Alice in Chains 1995.In a sense, Soundgarden went out on top, a la Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.How about their songs, radio-heavy hits (Black Hole Sun and Outshined), heavy, heavy, heavy (Slaves and Bulldozers and Jesus Christ Pose), mellow (Overfloater).Chris Cornell is the best vocalist since Robert Plant.A very distinctive voice, he can sing heavy metal songs as well as lighter tracks.Kim Thayil is an underrated guitarist whose guitar solos (Like Suicide and Tighter and Tighter) are some of my favorites.Ben Shepherd was a talented bass player who wrote many songs.Matt Cameron is perhaps the best drummer since Neil Peart.Ohh I forgot to mention, Superunknown, the greatest album of all-time, any genre.Variety, sophistication, long lasting greatness that didn’t outlive its welcome, that’s directed at you Eddie Vedder, and great musicians equals the best band of the Seattle grunge era.
Quick Rankings
Band - 1. Soundgarden, 2. Alice in Chains, 3. Pearl Jam, 4. Nirvana
Albums - 1. Superunknown, 2. Ten, 3. Dirt, 4. Nevermind
Songs - 1. Slaves and Bulldozers, 2. Would, 3. Black, 4. In Bloom
Vocals - 1. Chris Cornell, 2. Eddie Vedder, 3. Layne Staley, 4. Kurt Cobain
Guitar - 1. Jerry Cantrell, 2. Kim Thayil, 3. McCready/Gossard, 4. Kurt Cobain
Bass - 1. Mike Inez, 2. Ben Shepherd, 3. Jeff Ament, 4. Kris Novoselic
Drums - 1. Matt Cameron, 2. Dave Grohl, 3. Abbruzzese/Irons 4. Kinney
Adding Up Rankings
Soundgarden - 9
Alice in Chains - 15
Pearl Jam - 19
Nirvana - 26

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