Review Summary: Singles embodies some of the best of the early nineties Seattle grunge scene. From the big dogs to the small dogs, to some non Seattle rockers.
I’m pretty much a sucker when it comes to anything early nineties, especially it its alt. rock/grunge related. I guess it might come from the fact that I’ve grown up in Washington (The state) my whole life. As you most all know, Seattle, WA was the main place when it came to alternative rock in the early 90’s. As a current eighteen year old I was too young to experience the whole scene, but it's refreshing and encouraging to know that some of my favorite artists came out of my own state. I recently bought this soundtrack because a friend told me it’s a pretty good representation of the “Seattle Sound” as a whole. The soundtrack itself goes along with the movie which is set in Seattle during the same time it was made (1992).
This album really captures everything regionally as well as the impact that these artists had on alt. rock music. We hear the major bands of that time such as Pearl Jam
, and Alice in Chains
. But instead of hearing typical hits like “Even Flow” and “Rusty Cage”, we are treated to some rare tracks. I believe both songs by Pearl Jam
are only available on this soundtrack, or on the b-sides of the singles. The song “Breath” was actually recorded the same time as the album Ten
, so it sounds pretty similar to many of the tracks on that album. I can’t believe I’d never heard it. It’s become one of my favorites from them. If you enjoyed anything off Ten
you will like the song.
But in addition the big acts we hear lesser known bands that helped flesh out the Seattle scene. Mudhoney
, along with Green River
formed out of), are often thought as the main pioneers of the whole grunge genre. By twisting typical punk riffs and adding a heavy dose of distortion, they influenced more popular groups to come like Nirvana
. We hear from Mudhoney
. The track that was chosen couldn’t have been a better pick. The track is a tried and true punk/grunge song called “Overblown”. It talks of how overblown the whole Seattle thing was. With lines such as “…Everybody loves our Town” and “They got you by your big business boy”, they express how the city was becoming an over-hyped commercialized zone. With seemingly infant bands getting MTV coverage, there’s no doubt that whole scene was being blown out of proportion, but there is also no denying that Seattle was offering some serious talent as well as a breath of fresh air from the typical glam that was ever so popular.
Speaking of glam rock, another lesser known band, Mother Love Bone
is featured. MLB
was a band that formed in the late eighties out of Green River’s
ashes. Unlike Green River
took on a more glam oriented approach, with lead singer Andrew Wood sounding more like Axl Rose than anybody. Sadly in early 1990, Wood died of a heroin overdose. At the young age of of 24, Wood would never get a chance to see his band take off. The song “Would"” Featured on the album was actually made in his memory. Wood’s death would somewhat symbolizes the whole scene, with grunge music dying before ever really taking off, (or at least taking off for a sustained amount of time.) While the song is just too long, and I don’t enjoy the glam feel of it, the piano plays a very catchy jingle that anyone will enjoy. I would have wanted to see how his band would have fared into the nineties, seeing as just about every glam band was kicked to the curb with the turn of the decade.
The album also displays some of Washington’s past heritage. We get to hear from the legend Jimi Hendrix
, as well the girls from Heart
cover a Zeppelin
classic, “Battle of Evermore.” Once again instead of hearing a big time hit, we hear a lesser known track to better fit the film called “May this be love” from Hendrix
. It features interesting open tom work as well as the standard psychedelic guitar action.
The final track is by The Smashing Pumpkins
. The song “Drown” was only featured on this album until their greatest hits was released. With the pumpkins being neither Seattle oriented, or true grunge, one might wonder what they were doing on the album. I feel they’re there to show how the sound of grunge was expanding and evolving. Plus it doesn’t hurt that they were pretty damn popular at the time. The song has the type of fuzz rock you would expect to hear, although with a more laid back feel. It could have easily fit on Siamese Dreams
. The only other somewhat oddball is Paul Westerberg
and his solo material. It was made mostly to be featured in the film itself but rest assure the songs’ pop punk feel doesn’t feel at all out of place for the soundtrack or film. They are pretty fun to listen to actually even if the lyrics are a little cheesy.
So you probably are just waiting for that one song to be mentioned. Or if you checked the track list you probably feel one song is missing. Yes it’s true, the biggest Seattle hit, Nirvnas's
“Smells like Teen Spirit” is not on the album. While it was initially intended to be on the album, It got so popular by the time the soundtrack was released that they couldn’t afford the rights to the song. This was right when Nirvana's Nevermind
knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller
off the number one spot of the charts. This is a pretty big bummer since that was THE song of the era, but hey, they tried.
So my buddy was right. This album truly does represent the “Seattle Sound” well. I could already tell when I saw the artists that were on it, but I was happy to see the songs were chosen brilliantly. The soundtrack is also pretty monumental due to the fact that it went platinum and reached the top ten. The only real thing keeping it from perfection is the absence of Nirvana
. So for fans of grunge and early nineties alterative this is a must. For the rest of you I would recommend it as a disc featuring the best of one of the nation’s biggest musical hotbeds. Now go out and watch the flick and see your favorite head-bangers make some quirky cameos!