Edited by Brett Buchanan
You know this feeling. You put an album on, and the music begins. Immediately you become strapped into an audio assault of a roller coaster ride, destined for musical bliss. Albums by definition are a collection of songs, but the opening track of an album is vital. The first second when your senses are overcome can often times set the stage for what is to follow.
If you take a close look at all-time great albums, they almost exclusively have one thing in common: the opening song is a powerhouse. It’s the initial gut punch that leaves you wanting more. Here are alternative rock’s top ten album openers.
- Stop! – Jane’s Addiction
For their second studio album, alt-rock legends Jane’s Addiction waste no time in proving that 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking was no fluke. Led by the jagged, punk infused guitar playing of Dave Navarro, “Stop!” kicks off Jane’s most ambitious effort, Ritual de lo Habitual, in a big way. From the Spanish, spoken word intro, through the song’s hypnotic, whaling bridge, “Stop!” is Jane’s Addiction at their finest.
- My Name is Jonas- Weezer
“My Name is Jonas” not only kicks off Weezer’s eponymous ‘Blue Album,’ but it kicks off their entire discography. “Jonas” tells you everything you need to know about Weezer in three minutes and twenty-four seconds. It has instant sing-along-able melodies, a huge walls of distorted guitars, and some tongue in cheek lyrics for good measure. Weezer knew who they were right out of the gate, “My Name is Jonas” proves that.
- American Idiot- Green Day
Believe it or not, by 2004 Green Day were thought of almost as has-beens. Their mid-90’s heyday had slowed down as the decade drew to a close. While critically loved, 2000’s Warning left something to be desired by rabid fans of the California punks. When American Idiot was released in 2004 as the lead single from the upcoming album of the same name, it was a smash hit, going straight to number one on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. The single catapulted the band back into the forefront of rock music, and helped the trio score their first number one album.
- Stinkfist- Tool
Haunting, off-putting, and incredibly intriguing, “Stinkfist” literally sounds like it is exploding as it kicks in, leading off Tool’s second album, Ænima. The album as a whole stands out as one of rock’s standout moments of the 90’s. The sheer musicianship, odd time signatures, and mysterious lyrics from frontman Manyard James Keenan are on full display on “Stinkfist.” Keenan pleads, “I don’t want it, I just need it. To feel, to breathe, to know I’m alive.” Tracks like “Stinkfist” are what make albums like Ænima endure for years to come.
- Smells Like Teen Spirit- Nirvana
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the sound of a generation. This song is the blueprint not only for what the rest of 1991’s Nevermind would sound like, but for the alternative music scene of the 90’s as a whole. It is Kurt Cobain’s masterpiece, with a clean chugging guitar intro seamlessly giving way to the ballistic onslaught of the full band. With its iconic guitar solo, as well as unbelievably catchy melody and memorable lyrics, “Teen Spirit” will be talked about long after we are all gone.
- Them Bones- Alice in Chains
1992’s Dirt is Alice in Chains’ finest hour. It is remarkable how Alice in Chains were able to take topics such as despair, depression, drug abuse, and death, and make it so amazing. The album is a journey to the darkest aspects of the human condition, and album opener “Them Bones” touches on just about every one of them. One of Jerry Cantrell’s finest compositions, his chugging, down tuned guitar playing, ridiculously swift guitar solo, and the absolute vocal dominance of the late Layne Staley leave this grunge classic as not only a great album opener, but one of the best Alice In Chains tracks to date.
- Around the World- Red Hot Chili Peppers
With 1999’s Californication, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on top of the world. Reunited and rejuvenated, with John Frusciante back in the fold, the Peppers could not be stopped. “Around The World” provided a little bit of everything you love about RHCP: fat, funky bass, Anthony Keidis alternating between rapping verses and singing choruses, and top notch melodies, not to mention Flea’s absolutely insane opening, fuzz-drenched bass line. “Around the World” remains a fan favorite to this day, and helped push Californication to legendary album status.
- All My Life- Foo Fighters
While some fans may say “Everlong” is the definitive Foo Fighters song, I respectfully disagree. The opener to 2002’s One By One, “All My Life” pushed Foo Fighters to new critical and commercial heights. Peaking at number one on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart and number three on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, the track was an absolute smash. The opening guitar riff is one of rock’s most instantly recognizable riffs, while the fire fury of the instrumentation make it nearly impossible not to jump up and down while listening.
- Go- Pearl Jam
Not much can be said about “Go” that hasn’t already been said. One of Pearl Jam’s greatest songs, it opens up their greatest album, Vs. “Go” serves as former drummer Dave Abbruzzese’s creative pinnacle with the band. Eddie Vedder’s talent as a singer is on full display throughout the track. Vs. represents Pearl Jam at the absolute top of their game. “Go” not only set the stage for that, but showed Pearl Jam was more than capable of creating another unforgettable album.
- Dead and Bloated- Stone Temple Pilots
Think of a band, any band. I dare you to take their debut album and find a better album opener. Stone Temple Pilots may have been slightly late to the Grunge party, but make no mistake, they were more than deserving of their spot as one of the titans of the genre. “Dean and Bloated” is excruciatingly dark, yet the music has a certain swing and push and pull that sucks you in. The a capella intro by Scott Weiland and his trusty megaphone is legendary. Stone Temple Pilots consistently opened all of their albums with very, very strong tracks. But none stand stronger, or more endearing, than “Dead and Bloated.