Release Year: 1992
In the early 90s grunge exploded on the music scene, which meant several companies wanted to cash in on the phenomenon. Fashion shows featuring flannel, “grunge lingo,” and even movies wanted to adapt the genre, which is why we have Singles. It’s a romantic comedy about the lives of people in their twenties blah blah blah. The movie is notable for two things: it has a brief appearance by Alice in Chains and the soundtrack. Look up any best soundtracks of the 90s list and this will most likely make an appearance. But now that every record company isn’t trying to sign the next Nirvana, is it really any good?
The album is pretty much a compilation of the big Seattle bands along with some underdog players of the grunge scene. Some of the tracks were written for the LP while others were featured in the movie. It begins with Alice in Chains’ “Would?” their dedication to Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Similar to most of their songs, this one is great, even a little haunting thanks to Layne Staley’s eerie echoing vocals. It would later appear on their amazing album Dirt. Pearl Jam make two contributions here with the first being “Breath.” I’ll admit, I’m not their biggest fan, but I thought this song was pretty cool, though typical for the band. “State of Love and Trust” is the more interesting of the two since it’s surprisingly upbeat and makes you want to dance. It’s pretty fun to listen to and catchy, especially when the mindless “hey na na na na” singing comes in. This track was apparently inspired by the events of the film itself.
Chris Cornell is featured a couple times too both solo and with Soundgarden. “Seasons” is a slow, acoustic song that has a sense of foreboding. The music is soft, yet is not comforting and you can’t understand why. The song works really well because you can hear the awesomeness and power of Cornell’s voice. “Birth Ritual” is one of the best on the album. With clashing music, a heavy vibe, and Rob Halford-esque vocals from Cornell, the song is intense as fuck. Again, Cornell shows his vocal range while hitting some pretty high notes. If all you listen to is Superunknown, you may not’ve known his voice could reach those heights. Mudhoney’s contribution “Overblown” is guaranteed to make you smile since it takes the piss out of the grunge hype. With shaky groovy music, Mark Arm sings about everybody loving their town and how it’s getting creepy. He talks about how the Seattle scene went from friends playing music together to being a mainstream thing. Even though he’s rebelling against the whole thing, it’s kind of ironic that the song appears on soundtrack made to appeal to the masses. Or maybe that was the point.
The rest of the tracks are pretty solid and none of them are what I would call bad. “Dyslexic Heart” and “Waiting for Somebody” both by Paul Westerberg, are upbeat, melodic, and have sing song qualities to them providing some uplifting moments on the album. Lovemongers AKA Heart provide an excellent cover of the Led Zeppelin epic “Battle of Evermore” and the fantastic “May This Be Love” by Jimi Hendrix adds a bit of classic Seattle history. One of the most powerful and moving songs here is “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone. It starts out sounding like the typical piano ballad, but Andrew Wood’s vocals add this grittiness and edge to it that keeps you listening. As the song goes on the music keeps building with slight changes to keep away from cheesy ballad territory. By the end, everything clashes at the end of the bridge and everything turns up until you reach the harrowing end. It’s beautiful, yet kind of eerie considering the many references to death Wood drops.
The album closes with “Drown” by Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a slower number from the band with soft light music that sounds like it’s lulling you to sleep. The music is very dreamy with a hint of psychedelia, something Smashing Pumpkins does well. What keeps it from getting dull is when a single electrified note rings out in the middle of the song signifying things are about to kick up followed by heavy, energetic music. Billy Corgan sounds like he’s flying as he sings “ I wish, I wish, I wish/I could fly.” The solo that closes the track sounds out of this world with it’s harsh notes and stark vibe, but it goes on a bit too long.
Final verdict? Yeah, it’s a good soundtrack. All of the songs are enjoyable with some that definitely stand out from the others. The line up is solid, though with most of the grunge Big 4 featured, you gotta wonder where Nirvana is. The album is like grunge for beginners, but it’s a nice mix of the big name acts along with some underground ones. If someone asked me where they should start with grunge music, I would probably point them to this album. I still think the soundtrack and the movie were made solely to cash in on the Seattle trend, but it at least helped to push grunge into the mainstream, which could be good or bad depending on who you ask.