Our top 10 Soul Asylum songs introduce us to a Grammy award-winning band reputable for its grunge, country rock, and alternative rock music. The band was in Minneapolis in 1981 with a lineup fronted by singer-songwriter and producer Dave Pirner. Soul Asylum recorded three studio albums with Twin/Tone Records and the other two with A&M Records. With the five albums, the band achieved little success in the then competitive rock music industry. The band has gone through tough times, including poor sales at the beginning of its career and Dave Pirner’s hearing problems. At some point, Soul Asylum thought of disbanding, but this proved hard for Dave Pirner felt that the band was destined for success.
However, the 1990s brought the band to some new height in its career, achieving critical acclaim, thanks to the band’s album Grave Dancers Union. Released in 1992, the album was rated triple-platinum, featuring one of the band’s greatest hits, “Runaway Train.” Soul Asylum played this song at President Bill Clinton’s at his inauguration in early 1993. Grave Dancers Union set the pace for other Soul Asylum’s releases helping the band’s next album Let Your Dim Light Shine score a platinum record. Rising from dust to glory didn’t come without bruising the band, having it lose all its original members but Dave Pirner. While Dan Murphy and Pat Morley might have left Soul Asylum, Karl Mueller was dragged from the band by cancer. The band organized a benefit concert on Mueller’s behalf to save his life, but cancer proved stronger, having him die in 2005, a year after his diagnosis. Soul Asylum has seen better days having the band play sold-out shows and earning global recognition for their impact on alternative rock. Here are the top 10 Soul Asylum songs sampled from the band’s twelve studio albums.
#10 – Heavy Rotation
Ushering us to the top 10 Soul Asylum songs is the ballad “Heavy Rotation” from the band’s album Hang Time. “Heavy Rotation” is a chaotic rocker that features some raw energy from the band. Frontman Dave Pirner penned the song whose lyrics allude to remaining true to oneself while handling life pressures. The song’s title is an industry term that means a song that gets a lot of airtime. However, Pirner rebelled against demands for a hit since the band was on the brink of stardom and being hard-pressed to reach those levels.
#9 – Can’t Even Tell
“Can’t Even Tell” is a soundtrack song to the 1994 movie Clerks. Soul Asylum bagged the chance to deliver the soundtrack for the movie and forged a friendship with director Kevin Smith. Later on, their song “We 3” was used for Kevin Smith’s film Chasing Amy, while “Misery” was used for the sequel Clerks II. The song’s video featured Clerks’ movie characters, Silent Bob and Jay.
#8 – Cartoon
The song is best known for its self-denigration and alienation themes. Released on the band’s album Hang Time, “Cartoon” is a Dan Murphy tune whose lyrics are credited to the Soul Asylum’s principal songwriter Dave Pirner. Soul Asylum received quite some attention thanks to the dual lead vocal from Dan and Dave, who delivered the song in a thick and enraged sound.
#7 – Promises Broken (Remix)
After Soul Asylum achieved commercial success with the album Grave Dancers Union, the band picked up momentum to release even greater songs for the next album, Let Your Dim Light Shine. “Promises Broken” is one of the songs from the album that has proved too strong not to list in our top 10 Soul Asylum songs. The song is one of the most underrated releases from Soul Asylum. You ought to love the song’s calm but melodic tune.
#6 – Just Like Anyone
Number six on our top 10 Soul Asylum songs is “Just Like Anyone.” The song is also featured on the band’s 1995 album Let Your Dim Light Shine, with its lyrics penned by lead vocalist Dave Pirner. Thanks to its sublime composition, the song entered singles charts in the UK and Canada while making it to the US Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song received quite some exposure on MTV, reaching the most-played chart on the network. “Just Like Anyone” peaked at number fifty-two on the UK Singles Chart.
#5 – Without a Trace
Soul Asylum was one of the most hardworking bands in the late 1980s, and the band’s efforts paid off with its release of the album Grave Dancers Union. “Without a Trace” is the default title song of Grave Dancers Union, having it feature the lyrics that had the album given that name. Frontman Dave Pirner dedicated the song to the memory of former band member Karl Mueller who succumbed to cancer after a year after diagnosis.
#4 – Black Gold
“Black Gold” is a war-themed ballad released on the band’s most successful album Grave Dancers Union. The title “Black Gold” means oil, with the song’s lyrics alluding to the first Gulf War. Soul Asylum used the lyric “Two boys on a playground” metaphorically to refer to Iraq and the USA. While political songs might usually have a short shelf life, “Black Gold” has beaten all odds to remain in the band’s setlist thanks to its relevance to date. The song peaked at number twenty-six on the UK Singles Chart.
#3 – Somebody to Shove
Written by frontman Dave Pirner, “Somebody to Shove” is yet another ballad featured on the band’s album Grave Dancers Union. Featured as the first song of the album, “Somebody to Shove” starts with a fast and strong pace making it an absolute upbeat rocker. The song peaked at number one on the US Alternative Airplay Chart.
#2 – Misery
“Misery” is Soul Asylum’s second-biggest success having it peak at number one and two on the US Alternative Rock and Mainstream Rock Chart, respectively. Featured on the band’s album Let Your Dim Light Shine, the song was written by Dave Pirner to express his frustration with the aftermath of the band’s newfound success. The song was later used by Kevin Smith, a big fan of the band, for the film Clerks II.
#1 – Runaway Train
Number one on our top 10 Soul Asylum songs list is the ballad “Runaway Train” from the band’s album Grave Dancers Union. Written by the band’s frontman Dave Pirner, the song’s lyrics allude to depression. The song became the band’s first pop hit, changing the band’s fortunes after five albums of little commercial success. Its video was unique, featuring images of missing people, most of whom were young children and teenagers. “Runaway Train” peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
Feature Photo: Jonathunder, GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>, via Wikimedia Commons
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