10 Most Underrated Grunge Albums



Soundgarden has one of the most underrated grunge albums of all time, according to Audio Ink Radio – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Michael Lavine

What are the most underrated grunge albums of all time? Audio Ink Radio highlights its picks

Grunge became the heartthrob of popular music in the 1990s. Following the booming success for Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album in 1991, suddenly, grunge was everywhere. Names such as Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell became household names. But, some grunge albums never got their due. So, what are the most underrated grunge albums of all time?

While grunge is known for being a 1990s musical genre, some of the most underrated grunge albums came out before grunge went mainstream. Before Nirvana were ruling the airwaves, bands such as Green River and Mother Love Bone were beginning a new musical movement, one that was very different from the hair metal of the 1980s.

So, what are these underground gems that deserve to be dusted off and played loud and proud? Audio Ink Radio is naming its 10 most underrated grunge albums of all time. Send us your picks via social media here.

10. Seaweed, “Despised”

Seaweed crafted an eclectic sound, one that combined grunge rock with punk, sludge and a dash of metal. Their dark, brooding style is all over their 1991 “Despised” EP, which arrived on Seattle’s Sub Pup Records. The set features raw, fast, catchy riffing and melodies, and it’s simply a joy of a listen. Then, Seaweed’s first full-length studio album, “Weak,” arrived in 1992 on Sub Pop, but it didn’t quite have the earnest feel of “Despised.”

9. Love Battery, “Dayglo”

Love Battery was another Sub Pop find, and their 1992 release, “Dayglo,” is an imaginative listen. The album, named after a 1978 song by Buzzcocks, brought together a bevy of performers from the Seattle sound, including members of Mudhoney, Green River, Skin Yard, The U-Men and more. It’s an infectious, catchy listen and really highlights some of the lesser-known, but very talented, Seattle players.

8. Soundgarden, “Ultramega OK”

Soundgarden were one of the earliest bands in the grunge movement that eventually blew up to superstar status. While bands such as Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam released their first albums in the 1990s, Soundgarden released their debut studio album, “Ultramega OK,” in 1988 via SST Records. Furthermore, the album wasn’t Soundgarden’s first release, as they had released two EPs prior: “Screaming Life” in 1987 and “Fopp” in 1988. On all of their early releases, including “Ultramega OK,” Soundgarden laid the groundwork for their heavy grunge sound, which also worked in heavy metal and psychedelia.

7. Melvins, “Gluey Porch Treatment”

Melvins were one of the earliest forces in grunge music, although they incorporated a range of sounds and styles into their wild music. Notably, Melvins’ 1987 Alchemy Records debut, “Gluey Porch Treatment,” introduced them with a strong, dark set of music that brought together musical influences from metal to hardcore punk. It’s was extremely unique, and to this day, nobody can really sound like Melvins except, well, them.

6. Screaming Trees, “Buzz Factory”

Screaming Trees were the middle ground for grunge bands, in that they weren’t huge like Pearl Jam or Nirvana but did achieve some commercial success. “Buzz Factory” arrived in 1989 on SST and featured a mesh of colorful sounds, all spearheaded by husky-voiced frontman Mark Lanegan. “Buzz Factory” was a hit, and Screaming Trees signed with Sony shortly thereafter. Here, the album cut “Black Sun Morning” is a journey of a listen.

5. Mother Love Bone, “Shine”

Mother Love Bone could have been as big as Nirvana or Pearl Jam. But, frontman Andrew Wood sadly died of a drug overdose in March 1990, right when the band’s debut album, “Apple,” was set to drop. Before “Apple,” in 1989, Mother Love Bone signed to Mercury and released their “Shine” EP. The pedigree was there, with Wood, drummer Greg Gilmore of Ten Minute Warning and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Green River. Of course, Gossard and Ament would go on to form Pearl Jam, too. “Shine” is a special moment for grunge, and “Apple” makes for a great listen, too.

4. Mad Season, “Above”

The term supergroup is overused today, but back in the 1990s, Mad Season were a real supergroup. Mad Season brought together Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, as well as Barrett Martin and John Baker Saunders. The project didn’t last long, but they created a gem in “Above.” What’s more, as “Above” arrived in 1995, it was refreshing to get some new, inspired grunge music following Kurt Cobain of Nirvana’s passing in 1994. “Wake Up” and “River of Deceit” are choice tracks off this set.

3. Tad, “8-Way Santa”

For grunge fans, “8-Way Santa” is the one that got away. This album could have been huge, but it was sadly plagued with political issues and lawsuits, delaying its release until the moment was gone. The record’s singles, “Jinx” and “Jack Pepsi,” are catchy as all get-out. This album also stands out because it’s just fun, slap-happy rock in a genre that’s more known for its tortured introspection. Find Audio Ink Radio’s recent interview with Tad vocalist Thomas Andrew Doyle here.

2. Green River, “Dry as a Bone”

Green River is said to be the band that inspired the term “grunge,” so it’s a travesty that they never got more mainstream attention. At least two of the band’s members, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, went on to form one of the biggest grunge bands of the movement in Pearl Jam. Moreover, vocalist Mark Arm went on to launch Mudhoney. So, Ament, Gossard and Arm got their due. But, 1987’s “Dry as a Bone,” which arrived on Sub Pop, was a huge moment for the grunge movement. It was years before Nirvana’s “Nevermind” would break. But, “Dry as a Bone” showed the pieces were all there for a mammoth takeover.

1. Nirvana, “Bleach”

I know what you’re thinking. How can Nirvana, the biggest band in all of grunge music, have the most underrated grunge album of all time? It’s simple. Nirvana’s 1991 release “Nevermind” put them on the map. By the time their third studio album arrived, 1993’s “In Utero,” they had blown up so big that it would have been impossible for that record to not get widespread attention. But, far too many grunge fans have never gone back to appreciate Nirvana’s Sub Pop debut, 1989’s “Bleach.”

Those looking for a more lo-fi, raw, down-and-dirty grunge sound from Nirvana will find it on “Bleach.” The album has a simplicity and charm that wasn’t there on any of the major-label grunge releases. Moreover, it really shows an early incarnation of the band, as Chad Channing is on drums, not Dave Grohl. For its pure sound and promise, “Bleach” is No. 1 on our list of the most underrated grunge albums of all time.

Now that’s we’ve gone through the albums, which classic grunge bands deserve more attention? Find Audio Ink Radio’s list of 10 grunge bands that should have been bigger here.

Have an idea for a feature? Contact Audio Ink Radio head writer Anne Erickson at anne@audioinkradio.com.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Alternative, Features, Grunge, Music, Rock, Rock News