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Yes I am a crazy man.

No, this is not a continuation on yesterday's April Fool's joke.  I'm really doing this.

God help me, I'm really doing this.

Back in 2013, I came up with an exercise to get me writing something every day.  I thought "Well, what if I start with the first songs on the first albums of the Big Four thrash metal bands, pit them against each other for points, lather rinse repeat?"  I thought it'd be fun, and after about a week or two I'd forget about the whole thing and I would move on to something else.

That.  Didn't.  Happen.

I stuck with it all 171 posts and it took six months to do the whole thing.  Unfortunately, this wound up being the beginning of the end of being a writer for me, as by the end of 2013 I was burnt out and have yet to really recover.  I'm only doing this because my "OCD" demands I keep writing crazy crap like this.  (see also The Tournament To End All Tournaments.)

So anyway, I came up with this idea back in August, but I already had the idea for yesterday's April Fool's joke, so I figured to engage in maximum mind-fuckery I would start this on April 2nd.  There are approximately 127 entries in this rabbit hole, so strap on in for the ride!

There are a few things I need to address before we get started:

Nirvana was an active band from 1985-1994.  Alice In Chains was active from 1987-1996, then again from 2009 to basically 2013.  Soundgarden was from 1984 to 1997, then again since 2010, but with a hiatus because they share a drummer with Pearl Jam.  (This is why Pearl Jam are on hiatus currently while Soundgarden writes another album and gears up for a tour.)

Pearl Jam has been an active, technically-not-broken-up band for 25 years.  They may currently be on pause, but because they stuck together and barreled through for a quarter century, they almost have as many studio albums as Nirvana, Layne-era Alice In Chains and pre-breakup Soundgarden COMBINED.  As a result, I've had to include boxed sets, live albums and in Alice In Chains' case, an unsavory cheaty option which we'll get to about half way through.

Pearl Jam however had some important B-Sides that I couldn't put in here as a result, such as "Yellow Leadbetter" and "Last Kiss" because I had to cut the 30 song "Lost Dogs" B-Side collection.  If I'd included it, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden would have had no way to make up the difference, and I would have had to include a TON of chaff from Nirvana's "With The Lights Out" box, which has plenty of original material, but there's like four versions of "Polly" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" apiece, some of which were recorded on boom boxes.

As things stand, this won't be a perfect deal, but I have done my best to eliminate as much extraneous material as I could.  Blame Pearl Jam for not self-destructing, I guess?

The other thing I'd like to point out is the scoring system.  The "winning" song of a Matchup will be awarded four points, second place gets three, third two and fourth one.  It's not perfect, it's arbitrary, and in the end it's my opinion.  This is not meant to be a definitive statement on which band is objectively the best, or even which song is the best.  Hell, it's not even a perfect gauge of which band I like the most.  It really depends on what I'm listening to and what mood I'm in, just like any other music.  So if I give a song a 1, it's not necessarily because I hate it.  There will be matchups where I love all the songs, and there will be ones where I give a 4 to something that's merely okay because somebody's gotta win.

All right.  With that out of the way, let's get to it (if you're still reading this): Matchup Number One!

Alice In Chains "We Die Young" (1990) VS Nirvana "Blew" (1989) VS Pearl Jam "Once" (1991) VS Soundgarden "Hunted Down" (1987)

"We Die Young" is the perfect song to open up with, because a) It's the first song on the first album by any of these four bands that had widespread popularity, and b) the obvious "life-imitating-art" theme that colors it in retrospect.  Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain and Mark Starr didn't make it very far once fame came calling.  (Hell, two of those three are on this song.)  In fact, Pearl Jam only existed because Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone died, otherwise it might be that band in the running, or maybe some other entity altogether.

Jerry Cantrell says he wrote the song about literal 10 year olds dealing drugs (10 year olds that would be almost 36 now, if they did not indeed Die Young.)  It's a good, snarling kick in the door type of track that gives you the rock from moment one and lets you know what you're in for.  One of Alice In Chains's tougher tracks overall.

"Blew" is tuned stupid crazy low for 1989: C.  As a result, this is one of Nirvana's more bruising tracks, even though the vibe is more sludge than aggro.  The cheapness of the recording is apparent after hearing "We Die Young", but that isn't necessarily a detraction in this case.  Even though it wasn't their scene, this could be biker gangs beating you with chains music.

"Once" has an intro that I've never really cared for that has nothing to do with the song itself, but matches up with the bonus track at the end of the CD, so whatever.  When the song gets going it's one of Pearl Jam's most energetic bursts.  It's a reminder that this band used to know how to ROCK.  It also features the iconic storytelling lyrical structure that pervaded "Ten".  According to an article by Peter Fenzel for Overthinkingit, the character in this song is a later version of the one in the song "Alive".  [As a matter of fact, it was this article that inspired me to do this Grunge Match bullshit in the first place.  Thanks a LOT.]

Soundgarden was a little more dodgy on their first couple of releases, not really solidifying for my money until "Badmotorfinger".  But that's not to say they were without gems.  "Hunted Down" is much better than I remember it.  Not peak Soundgarden good; for one, it stops right when you think it's going into a mid-section and leaves you wanting more when there's no more to be had, but better than I thought going in.  As a result:

"Once": 4
"We Die Young": 3
"Hunted Down": 2
"Blew": 1

That did not turn out how I expected.  I thought "We Die Young" would take it and "Blew" would come in second.  Guess we'll have to stay on our toes!


Pearl Jam: 4
Alice In Chains: 3
Soundgarden: 2
Nirvana: 1

Match 002 tomorrow!


  1. Whoo gunge for the win! No surprise that "Blew" blows. heh heh (Beavis)


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