Guest List: Caspian picks their 12 favorite ’90s grunge songs of all time

photo: Marc Lemoine

Welcome to the Guest List, Substream’s new feature where we ask your favorite musicians to tell us about their favorite musicians.

Today’s installment: Post-rock sextet Caspian picks their all-time favorite ’90s grunge songs.


Triple Fast Action was a Chicago-based band active from 1995-1998. They seemed to be just on the edge of grunge and early indie. Although they are not very well known at all, they influenced some significantly more famous bands later on. Foo Fighters listened to Triple Fast Action’s Broadcaster constantly during the recording of The Colour And The Shape. I still crank this track on a regular basis. It always takes me back to a place full of great memories. —Jonny Ashburn, guitar

2. FAILURE, “Wonderful Life”

Failure’s earlier work is the best grunge I’d ever heard. Released in 1994 in the heat of the grunge movement, Magnified and specifically “Wonderful Life” blew me out of the water. I don’t think I actually heard it until 1997 but nonetheless. After releasing Magnified, they changed directions and more or less invented space rock as a genre and have remained at the very top of my favorite bands list. —Jonny Ashburn, guitar

3. SOUNDGARDEN, “Slaves And Bulldozers”

Soundgarden has always been my go-to grunge band. They didn’t get the limelight as much as Nirvana and Pearl Jam but did break into commercial success with Superunknown (still one of my favorites). “Slaves And Bulldozers” off of Badmotorfinger truly captures Chris Cornell’s voice in all its badass, Zeppelin-esque screeching aura. Just wait for the chorus. —Cal Joss, guitar

4. PEARL JAM, “State Of Love And Trust”

This was recorded during the Ten sessions (and appearing on some import versions of Ten) but never made the cut for the official release. This B-side found its way onto the Singles soundtrack (Pearl Jam makes an appearance in the movie as well) and really captures the early energy and emotion of the band. It’s not one of the stereotypical over-played Ten tracks, but still sets the edge for a whole music scene that was ready to explode. —Cal Joss, guitar

5. THE TOADIES, “Possum Kingdom”

This song was my first foray into the world of odd time signatures. Nothing incredibly complicated going on here (the song alternates between 4/4, 7/4 and 8/4), but it was just enough rhythmic weirdness to confuse and excite 12-year-old me at the same time. Not to mention singing along with the “Do you want to dieeee” part at the end still pumps me up 20 years later. —Joe Vickers, drums

6. SILVERCHAIR, “Israel’s Son”

Sometimes I forget these guys were just teenagers when they released Frogstomp! Certainly an inspiration for a young kid with big dreams. I bet a lot of kids at the time were thinking, “If they can do it, so could I.” I was for sure one of those kids. This is the opening track from that record and it sets the tone for an exceptionally heavy grunge album. —Joe Vickers, drums

7. LIVE, “Lightning Crashes”

This song was one I heard when I started to play guitar and it was one of the very first tunes I mastered. I couldn’t help but be engulfed in what appeared to be such depth but also just rock at that point in my young musical career. Definitely a 90’s campfire anthem, I’ve sung this around a couple firepits in my days. —Erin Burke-Moran, guitar

8. BUSH, “Glycerene”

What this dude is singing about in this song, I have no idea, but it’s another ’90s classic to me. My brother still sings this when out for karaoke and I can’t help but hum along little, especially the third verse. Common-man lyrics right there. —Erin Burke-Moran, guitar

9. THE JESUS LIZARD, “Monkey Trick”

The Jesus Lizard’s Goat is one of the best records created in the ’90s. Not only is the songwriting amazing, but it features Steve Albini at the height of his powers. The bass tone is insane and the snare sound is one of my go-to drum references when recording. I love the bass line from “Monkey Trick” and normally sound check with it. —Jani Zubkovs, bass

10. TEMPLE OF THE DOG, “Hunger Strike”

I’m including this song for two reasons. One, because it’s fucking amazing. But two, it’s one of the few songs that I can very accurately and truly remember the first time that I heard it. I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10, and my cool older cousins took me to a hard-rock laser light show at the local planetarium. “Hunger Strike” came on as a laser Snoopy battled a laser Red Baron. A truly magical moment. —Jani Zubkovs, bass

11. PEARL JAM, “Corduroy”

Vitalogy, No Code, Yield and Binaural comprise one of the finest consecutive runs of albums any band has ever worked on, and “Corduroy” is the best way to begin the journey. Pearl Jam diehards may be the only ones who understand what Eddie Vedder is saying with these lyrics and the song title, but it is the ultimate statement of purpose and it is all here. When I heard this song back in the day, it changed how I approach their music and what they were all about. From there on out, I was committed. They lost some fans with this record but gained an army of faithful in return and it starts, for me, with this track. The bridge alone is life-affirmingly good. —Philip Jamieson, guitar/keyboards


If you haven’t heard the Judgment Night soundtrack, do yourself a favor and listen to the entire thing immediately. Grunge music was always about more than flannel shirts and Seattle; it was about ambitiously, sometimes clumsily but always earnestly merging different genres of music and nowhere is that more blatantly on display than the collaborations on this record from the grand year of 1993. (Onyx + Biohazard, Faith No More + Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., Pearl Jam + Cypress Hill and Slayer + Ice-T to name a few). Not your typical kind of grunge song, I guess, but very representative of the era to me. This one holds heavy nostalgic sway as it reminds me of going to basketball camp, riding mountain bikes through nowhere all day long and just plain kicking it—wearing a flannel shirt of course. —Philip Jamieson, guitar/keyboards

Caspian’s new album, the Matt Bayles-produced Dust And Disquiet, will be released September 25 via Triple Crown Records and can be pre-ordered here.

Catch Caspian on tour with Circle Takes The Square all across North America this fall:

September 19th @ Rough Trade in Brooklyn, NY
September 22nd @ Petit Campus in Montreal, QC
September 23rd @ Lee’s Palace in Toronto, ON
September 24th @ The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI
September 25th @ Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL
September 26th @ MidPoint Music Fest in Cincinnati, OH %
September 27th @ Pygmalion Music Fest in Champaign, IL %
September 29th @ Jackpot Music Hall in Lawrence, KS
September 30th @ Slowdown in Omaha, NE
October 1st @ Moe’s in Denver, CO
October 3rd @ Neurolux in Boise, ID
October 4th @ Barboza in Seattle, WA
October 5th @ Mississippi Studios in Portland, OR
October 7th @ Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, CA
October 8th @ Club Bahia in Los Angeles, CA
October 9th @ The Hideout in San Diego, CA
October 10th @ The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, AZ
October 11th @ Launchpad in Albuquerque, NM
October 13th @ The North Door in Austin, TX
October 14th @ Prophet Bar in Dallas, TX
October 16th @ The High Watt in Nashville, TN
October 17th @ Vinyl in Atlanta, GA
October 19th @ King’s Barcade in Raleigh, NC
October 20th @ The Camel in Richmond, VA
October 21st @ Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, PA
October 22nd @ DC9 in Washington, DC
October 23rd @ The Sinclair in Boston, MA