No music documentary has gotten as much hype this year as Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the document on the life of Nirvana's frontman featuring new footage, new songs, and potentially even a sex tape featuring Courtney Love (not really...but director Brett Morgen had a chance). Cobain was arguably the most influential musician of the '90s, a demigod among many music icons that emerged from Seattle's grunge scene. We can't wait to check out Montage of Heck but for the time being we recommend you check out these other five documentaries that look at aspects of Seattle's rock scene during the era, looking at Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and more. No, Singles isn't one of them.
Music come and goes in waves and trends...this isn't news to anyone. No scene has blown up as quickly as the grunge movement however. While many scenes have developed over a period of years,the grunge collective—which consisted of many bands of many differing styles—absolutely exploded after the release of Nirvana's Nevermind. Part of that album's success was due to the circulation of the iconic music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and every media outlet, from MTV to Rolling Stone, hyping the rock scene coming out of Seattle. Hence the title of Hype!, a documentary that benefits from coming out just a few short years after grunge reached its peak (Cobain had died just two years earlier, and Soundgarden had released its biggest hit, Superunknown, during 1994 as well). This documentary makes light of the media's role in blowing the grunge scene up and also gets kudos for its interviews with a plethora of bands from the era, not to mention a soundtrack supplied by Sub Pop, the central record label of the whole shebang.
The Gits (2008)
Of the many bands involved in the Seattle grunge scenes, few of the prominent acts have gotten as little attention as The Gits. The band represented the tighter, punk side of the grunge scene, compared to the heavier side represented by Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. Unfortunately the band was only able to release two albums—Frenching The Bully and Enter: The Conquering Chicken—before the group was brought to a tragic end when vocalist Mia Zapata was murdered. Her death shook the scene, and fellow Seattle rockers Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Presidents of The United States of America and Heart (from the city's '70s rock scene) all performed benefits. The film, simply named after the band, debuted theatrically 15 years after Zapata's death.
Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears (2008)
If you want to fully appreciate your favorite bands, you have to attempt to fully appreciate the music that they themselves adore. Tad, named after famed frontman Tad Doyle, was an act that never broke through when the scene's biggest acts went to the top of the charts, yet the guys from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the rest all professed their love for Tad. This documentary on that act tapped Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil and Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm (also the manager at Sub Pop) to express such feelings on tape. If you want to know what kind of music to expect from Tad, just look at the title. Definitely a more fun watch thanThe Gits, if only because of the happier ending.
Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)
No, not every documentary from the grunge scene is about the small acts you're not familiar with, nor are they all by small filmmaking teams. Pearl Jam celebrated its 20th anniversary by tapping Cameron Crowe—a huge music fan with Seattle connections thanks to his ex-wife, Nancy Wilson of Heart. Oh, and he directed Singles—to direct the documentary on the band's first two decades. The film doesn't spend as much time with guest commentators as the band could have, but when it does feature interviews, Pearl Jam isn't messing around: Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Cobain and the "godfather of grunge" himself—Neil Young—all make appearances. The film debuted during 2011 alongside a book published by Jonathan Cohen.
I'm Now: The Story of Mudhoney (2012)
We all know that Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the biggest bands to come out of the grunge scene, and they often get elected as the representatives of the movement. However, no band better sums up the Seattle grunge movement than Mudhoney. As we mentioned above, Mark Arm is still heavily involved in Sub Pop Records, and that's not a coincidence...if Seattle music were a steps-to-Kevin Bacon game, Arm would be the Kevin Bacon because of his connections with literally everyone on the scene. The same big names (as well as Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore) show up to discuss the role of Arm and company within the scene. The film describes Mudhoney as "the founding fathers of grunge" (right before adding a warning not to describe Mudhoney as the found fathers of grunge). From the same filmmakers who brought you Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears.