Beyond Nirvana: 10 essential under-the-radar grunge records from the Seattle era

Beyond Nirvana: 10 essential under-the-radar grunge records from the Seattle era

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Fresh from compiling the brilliant new No Seattle compilation of forgotten grunge from the North West for Soul Jazz, authority Nick Soulsby introduces ten essential under the radar ‘Seattle Sound’ records from the bands that surrounded Kurt Cobain before he took over the world.


Words: Nick Soulsby


Does it make you feel old knowing the ‘Seattle sound’ peaked a quarter-century ago? There’s a new generation thinking of your record collection the way you studied your parents’ early Seventies’ sonic vinyl abortions — but that’s life! As the kids grow most will stop caring and will use music as little more than aural wallpaper. But never forget there’ll be that core who come to truly love music, who keep seeking new sounds. It’s those kids who might someday admit that the past you love is worth respecting.

But the past ain’t what it was when you were young. Every moment in music gets stripped down, summarised, simplified. Today, those seekers who look toward the North West, all they’ll see is the thin skim of guys who got to play rock star on a major label. Sure, those half dozen bands were awesome, but what they show is what an LA/NY music corporation thought was worth saying about the North West — it doesn’t show the diversity and variety of what was really there.

That’s the truth; no riot, this is a war going on — a fight for ears on strings. There’s a chance to remind people that the North West’s musical heritage is deep, nuanced and complex — surely that’s a battle-cry worth sticking on a flag? And that’s where the motivation for No Seattle came from; the desire to lend a small hand in bringing overlooked glories and to help some deeply talented individuals win a few more trophy ears. So, while it would have been easy to make this list read Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees with a sprinkling of others to make it a little less repetitious — while I’d have liked to call out new bands from the region like Vaporland, Sleeper Cell, King Black Acid or Mico de Noche — instead, what the hey, here are ten State of Washington bands and albums deserving of rediscovery.

Listen to the full playlist here or each record individually as you read on the following pages.

Cover image taken from No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97 (Soul Jazz Records)