Bracket Madness is upon us once more, and this time around artists from the 90s are off and battling for the “Greatest” crown. This first round pits Nirvana against Pearl Jam, and it almost feels unfair to have to choose. Both groups emerged from the hair and flannel and sludge of Seattle in the 90s as alt-rock legends, distinguished in their tunely post-punk and oftentimes painful sincerity. Eddie Veder with his masterpiece, Ten, and Kurt Cobain with his masterpiece, Nevermind, are giants in grunge but different in the shadows they cast. Which represents the greatest of grunge?
On the one hand, there is Pearl Jam. Broader in audience, these guys pulled more weight to make Seattle the grunge capital of the nation. But as popular as they were, fame and fortune remained very much not the point, as they made abundantly clear with MTV and TicketMaster boycotts. Not to mention their music, rife with guitar and life’s inevitable ups and downs. Over echo-y riffs, Eddie Vedder sang for relief, like he might sing his melancholy sweet. Oh, I’m still alive…
And on the other, Nirvana. Pearl Jam and their certified-diamond Ten are credited with ushering alternative rock into the mainstream, but Cobain was suspicious and he famously accused them of “pioneering a corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion.” Vedder has since forgiven Cobain, and Nirvana and Kurt Cobain and his death might be similarly credited for elevating the genre to something almost more mystic. Where Vedder at his most emotive would reach for falsetto, Cobain would just completely open up, and even all these years later, the resulting wails are still wet with the condensation of his sincerity, laced with love and pain and the toxins of success. And by way of anthems of alienation, their triumph of sarcasm, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” cannot be touched.
It’s a tough choice, we know, but don’t struggle too long with it because voting for Round One closes Wednesday, August 8 at 4 p.m. And then check back daily to see who’s in the lead!