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7 Best Grunge Songs of All Time

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Today we sat down in the office and started discussing the best grunge songs of all time. It was an intense, hair ripping affair, that may or may not have resulted in someone being temporarily fired for trying to suggest Smells Like Teen Spirit was the best, using some ludicrous argument about how it “broke” grunge into the mainstream.

Nevertheless, we are all still alive, although some people’s egos have been seriously damaged, and thus we present to you, in no particular order — because we couldn’t possibly come to an agreement on that either — our 7 favourite grunge songs:

1. Alice in Chains – Would (Dirt, 1992)

This one should be a crowd pleaser, given that it’s probably the band’s best known song. Would, by Alice in Chains, starts out with a deep, driving bass line, followed by a light beat and the band’s classic guitar sounds. The music builds throughout the verse, breaking into what can only be described as an epic chorus. Layne Staley’s vocals rip through your soul as he sings, “Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then, so I made a big mistake, try to see it once my way.” 

The song was written by Jerry Cantrell, the band’s guitarist and second vocalist, about their friend, Andrew Wood, who had died two years earlier. The song encapsulates a nihilistic darkness and despair that can so often be found — to varying degrees — in classic grunge tunes.

2. Green River – Come On Down (1985)

Green River are often overlooked by fans of late grunge (meaning grunge from the late 80s), yet they perhaps the grungiest grunge band of all time. A perfect fusion of heavy metal and punk rock, the two musical branches that gave rise to grunge.

And Come on Down, record in 1985, pretty much sums up the genre in one track. The song begins with random distortion noises before a scream and a couple of prolonged, heavily distorted guitar notes invite the band to start playing. A catchy guitar riff, simple punk-style vocals, and heavy drums and bass characterise the song. And it’s hella good. If you love old-school grunge, that is. 

3. Babes in Toyland – Bruise Violet (Fontanelle, 1992)

Bruise Violet is a heavy, hard-hitting, grunge anthem that has been severely overlooked. Brought to us by Riot Grrrl act, Babes in Toyland, the song is raw, in-your-face, and uncompromising.

Kat Bjelland switchs between guttural screams and girlish simpers throughout the song, demonstrating the bands understanding of dynamics and putting it to good use. Unlike a lot of grunge music, this is a song you can really rock to.

4. Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box (In Utero, 1993)

There are a lot of songs we could have chosen for Nirvana. After all, this is the band that dragged grunge into the mainstream, pretty much single handed. Lithium seemed like a good first choice, the song showcases many of the bands essential elements: dynamics, distortion, epic drumming, and catchy, albeit indistinguishable lyrics.

But in the end we settled on Heart Shaped Box, a song that contains all the above components but which also demonstrates a certain musical and emotional maturity that was generally lacking on Nevermind.

5. Hole – Violet (Live Through This, 1994)

From Kurt Cobain to Country Love; no grunge related list would be complete without an honourable mention of one the most successful female-fronted rock bands in history: Hole.

Controversy and wild speculation aside, Hole were a great grunge band and Love certainly learnt a thing or two from Cobain, because the second Hold album, Live Through This, exhibited a Nirvana like understanding of dynamics and distortion. On top of that, Courtney Love possess an impressive vocal capacity and a poetic lyricism that beats many of her contemporaries.

Violet showcases these characteristics in their full glory. The song starts out softly, gently even, before Love lets loose on the word “no,” and then the distortion kicks in. “Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to,” sings Love in the chorus. Desperation, anger, distortion, throaty roars, Violet has everything a good grunge song should.

6. TAD – Wood Goblins (Salt Lick, 1990)

While TAD are undeniably a grunge band they veer more towards the heavy metal end of the spectrum than the punk rock end. Wood Goblins has a distinctly heavy metal vibe but with all the classic grunge guitar sounds and a catchy, punk style chorus where Tad Doyle sings, “Wood [pause] Goblin,” over and over.

7. Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick

Mudhoney is essentially the reincarnation of Green River minus several of the original band members. The band moved slightly further towards the punk rock side of life than Green River and their debut single, Touch Me I’m Sick, is a catchy tune that heavily influenced the rest of the Seattle grunge scene.

But Touch Me I’m Sick isn’t on this list because of its historical importance. No, it’s here because it’s a great grunge tune that sticks in your head and makes you wanna dance around the room.


Love grunge music? Why not check out our History of Grunge article for an in depth account of the genre.

Disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comment section.

66 COMMENTS

  1. The pixies originated Grunge, without them you don’t get Nirvana he even said so himself. How is it where is my mind not on this list. Whoever made this list wasn’t around during grunge.

    • Seriously, how were they able to overlook Chris, Sound Garden, Audio Slave, Temple Of The Dog. Last but certainly not least, Eddie, Pearl Jam. It was Chris who put Eddie on the map when he invited Eddie to be in the Hunger Strike video. The rest as they say is history. Chris and Eddie would go on to be best friends to the point of being “Brothers”. Eddie didn’t attend Chriss memorial service as he did exactly what Chris would have waited him to do, that was go on tour. Needless to say both of them are my favorites to the point of loving them. Say Hello To Heaven, Chris. Rest In Peace ❤️😢

      • Say Hello To Heaven was written to Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone, who overdosed earlier the year Temple of the Dog released their one and only album. And it wasn’t Chris Cornell who got Eddie Vedder on that album, it was Mike McCready and Jeff Ament, who were to become co-founders of Pearl Jam that same year. Originally the band was too be called Mookie Blaylok after the Seattle Supersonics point guard, but then was changed to Pearl Jam, referencing Eddie’s grandmother Pearl, who had a recipe for hallucinogenic jam. In honor of Mookie, the first Pearl Jam album was called Ten, which was Blaylok’s Jersey number. So really, it was members of Green River and Mother Love Bone that were responsible for Vedder’s first musical appearance on the song Hunger Strike. Boom! Drop the 🎤

      • Yes! Kurt Cobain even tried out for the Melvins as a bass player and didn’t make the cut. Melvins were an established band before Nirvana was even an idea. Also Green River, which hast Mark Arm and Dan Peters from Mudhoney and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam… before those bands were in existence. But Soundgarden was always there, since the Deep 6 compilation, alongside Green River, Grunt Truck, Malfunkshun, and others… that was the beginning of the true grunge movement. Oh, and of course, as you mentioned… The Melvins!

    • Hell no! The Meat Puppets were around before the pixies, starting their recording career in ’79, but you have to consider prior artists like MC5 and Neil Young, even folk singers like Bob Dylan, who all wrote music in the same way, with similar idioms and imagery that was later adapted by grunge artists.

  2. Damn it I keep trying to tell the news/ media to check my tik tok @m.j.d.d.b or you tube channel @lake Washington. If you want the story and how it came about just email me. This photo is a limited claim copyright and is in fact kurt Cobain in the greenhouse.

  3. I was lucky enough to have seen 4 of the 7 bands in Seattle back in the day…Nirvana, Tad, Mudhoney, and Green River…not to mention. Soundgarden..and I unfortunately witnessed the last days of Layne Staley, because we hung out in the same bar..

      • He looked like an old lady way before he died. There’s pics & video… look up images or video from “last recording session” Layne was involved in… it’s heartbreaking that no one intervened sooner (if my friend showed up in this condition I would PEC them. Real talk, he looked that bad)

    • Reading your comment is just freakin’ INCREDIBLE!! I’m a Tn girl who missed her spot in Seattle back then. U r so so lucky! Tell me a juicy Heroin story about any of my guys please! Make my day

  4. Not good. Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana all have dozens of better songs than all your picks except “Would”. Politically correct nonsense. Just because you became popular doesn’t make it worse

    • Rain when I die (Alice in Chains), Searching With My Good Eye Closed (Soundgarden), Blew (Nirvana)… those are just personal favorites. But many many more great songs from these bands.

  5. 10? Only see 7… So Melvins/At a crawl… Soundgarden/Big dumb sex… And… Uh… Screaming Trees/Orange Airplane rounds out your list.

  6. However wrote this list is pretty clueless. Where’s hands all over , Chloe dancer and other grunge classics. It’s an insult to have hole on this list

  7. Apparently it’s fashionable to downgrade/exclude Pearl Jam on these grunge lists… Revisionist hindsight forgets that Pearl Jam were the most popular at the time… And for good reason… Pearl Jam’s “Ten” set the grunge movement on fire… “Jeremy” ought to be on this list… If not “Black”, “Even Flow”, and “Alive”.

    • I think Pearl Jam helped define the era but not the sound. Two bands that sprung from Green River, Mudhoney and Pearl Jam, went in two directions (I know MLB came in between but they were closer to Pearl Jam’s sound kinda glam). Mudhoney’s sound was virtually the epitome of the grunge sound, but Pearl Jam dropped the fuzz, and punk sneer, and were practically an arena rock band from the first day. They certainly had the look that took off with mainstream America. But I don’t think their sound had anything to do with grunge. I’m not saying you, but I see a lot of people retroactively assigning the grunge label to bands just because they were big in the 90s, but it was a sound, not an era. Big, heavy, with a dose of cynicism and irreverence (think punk, Sabbath, The Sonics, MC5). Pearl Jam didn’t really have any of that. Not saying they didn’t rock out.

  8. Mudhoney – Here Comes Sickness
    Tad – Sex God Missy
    L7 – Shove
    Nirvana – Breed
    Soundgarden – Hunted Down
    Alice in Chains – It Ain’t Like That
    Green River – Ozzie
    So many more…
    Pixies are not grunge.
    Cracker is not grunge.

      • I’m not saying they can’t be Grunge, I’m just saying they aren’t. They’re a good band, but they’re an alt-rock band from Northern California, Camper Van Beethoven were very eclectic and arty. They come from a whole different root system of rock. I think people lump a lot of bands from the 90s into Grunge, but it’s pretty specific to time and place. The Pacific Northwest in the late 80s and early to mid-90s. People like to throw STP into Grunge, but at the time they were seen as coattail riders. A SoCal band trying to cash in on the boom. Nothing wrong with Cracker, they just aren’t Grunge in the scuzzy, heavy, sneering, PNW way.

    • Oh Jim you are so very correct. She does not have even one drop off talent. Should not have been considered, let alone put on list.
      Crappy list.

    • I love the genre, but never thought Nirvana was any good at all. If course I see the talent and am a minority in this thought, but SG was the pinnacle of the Seattle grunge scene, as well as the most talented a mnemonic and ambitious sonically. AIC also great, with PJ admittedly very good but less adventurous. My favorite has always been Temple, that album always brings it all together for the genre.

  9. I mean you had 7 songs to choose from a huge library… Just 7. I would have gone into the roots of grunge which were definitely metal for all of the big four bands of Seattle. Bleach, facelift, mother love bone, and Ultramega ok definitely show case the original vibe.

    • Can’t understand how they were able to leave Chris, Sound Garden, Audio Slave, Temple Of The Dog, Pearl Jam and
      Mother Love Bone out. Correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t
      Andrew Wood (Chris best friend and room mate) the first one to die (overdose)? Andrew, Chester, Kurt, Chris, Laine. Extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary and heartbreaking. ❤️😢

  10. Sure, why not leave STP or Pearl Jam off this list. No mention of Neil Young or Sound Garden or Temple of the Dog. What a joke. Who sat in their moms basement and came up with this garbage????
    Hole……really?????

  11. Seriously, how were they able to overlook Chris, Sound Garden, Audio Slave, Temple Of The Dog. Last but certainly not least, Eddie, Pearl Jam. It was Chris who put Eddie on the map when he invited Eddie to be in the Hunger Strike video. The rest as they say is history. Chris and Eddie would go on to be best friends to the point of being “Brothers”. Eddie didn’t attend Chriss memorial service as he did exactly what Chris would have waited him to do, that was go on tour. Needless to say both of them are my favorites to the point of loving them. Say Hello To Heaven, Chris. Rest In Peace ❤️😢

  12. I love to see AIC #1. Layne deserves that!! But come on no Soundgarden!! WTF? HOLE? You have songs from Candlebox, Silverchair, STP and some them songs????

  13. Sure, that’s fine as a local Seattle thing, but the scene was a lot bigger than that and ‘7’ wasn’t gonna cap it by any means. You left out a lot of groups still who were part of the scene. Not all of them were from Seattle either–such as Nirvana. Soundgarden, Malfunkshun, Screaming Trees and Skin Yard? There’s even the outliers like Walkabouts. One thing is certain though: 80s were a great time to be in Seattle, all things considered.

  14. Screaming Trees, STP, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog. Alice in Chains best song is probably Don’t Follow, but it’s their least grunge sounding song.

  15. This list is a freaking joke. No Stone Temple Pilots, no Soundgarden, no Pearl Jam, heck anything even Sponge, Filter, something other than TAD.

  16. Nearly Lost You…Screaming Trees
    Feeling Minnesota…Soundgarden
    Smells Like Teen Spirit and I never liked…well, whatever, Nevermind…
    Chloe Crown of Thorns (together)… Mother Love Bone

  17. Who ever did this list is way the Fuck off the mark.Come on guys you left out a bunch of bands that started this wave of music.But the people who really know music totally disagree with you guys. I’ve got a great idea let the people start that own list.Let’s go these are your opinions which you agree that they are your favorites.Start are own list.

  18. Let’s start by saying……Where the hell is Tad’s “JackPepsi” in that weak ass “Best Of” list? Then we’ve got this to discuss as well…… Guys!!! If there isn’t at least 2 band members, in any of these previously mentioned bands, that weren’t at least “formerly,” if not “currently,” in a band that put out any music on the Seattle based record label called “Sub-Pop Records,” then they should be considered post grunge, or they’re coat tail riders at bare minimum!!! STP??? REALLY??? Ride those Pearl Jam wannabe waves into the Alternative scene boys, because Grunge it’s not!!! “Plush” was a “Jeremy” way of saying, “Hey, we don’t want our own money, we want some of that Mookie Blaylock skrill. And, if you didn’t understand that reference, then you know absolutely nothing about the Seattle based MOVEMENT called GRUNGE!!! Grunge was a sound that came from tuning your guitars down and/or with the use of a “Superfuzz” effects pedal. The sound created by bands like The Melvin’s, Green River, and Malfunkshun but only to be enveloped and perfected by bands like Mudhoney, Tad, The Shins, Soundgarden, L7, The Screaming Trees, Grunt Truck, and Seaweed. Y’all need to seriously go back to grunge school for some re-edumacation. Just saying…..

  19. All this arguing back and forth is so childish. Fuck the list it doesn’t mean shit and it certainly doesn’t change anything. Can’t change the past guys!!! Otherwise I’d go back and avoid this page from the jump. Btw Courtney’s neighbor actually wrote this article.

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