Readers' Poll: The Best American Rock Band Ever — Pearl Jam Vs. Soundgarden

When Labor Day came and went earlier this month, it reminded us of the American labor movement and the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the good ol' U.S. of A.

However, since we're Guitar World people, we couldn't help but apply those sentiments to music and the American people who made and make it—bands!

This, in turn, led to thoughts and theories about the greatest American band of all time, which led us to our latest readers' poll—the Best American Rock Band Ever! Yes, the gangs from Guitar World and Sweetwater (opens in new tab) want to get GW readers—you people!—involved as we attempt to crown the Best American Rock Band Ever!

Although we had thousands of bands to choose from, we decided to narrow things down to 32, which is perfect for a month's worth of intense—and fun (it's supposed to be fun, people!) matchups. All the bands were carefully selected by Guitar World's editorial staff.

Note that this poll includes current bands and bands that disappeared into the woodwork years ago. Also, if you're wondering why the Jimi Hendrix Experience aren't on this list, they weren't an American band. Hendrix was American, but he's not a band. Band of Gypsys were American, but they simply didn't make the cut based on the music released under the "Band of Gypsys" moniker. It's one of many tough sacrifices we had to make along the way. Speaking of which, be sure to read "How the Bracket Was Compiled" at the bottom of this story.

Anyway, here are our 32 American bands, which are presented in alphabetical order. You also can check out the entire 32-band bracket below.

Aerosmith, Alice In Chains, the Allman Brothers Band, the Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, Eagles, Foo Fighters, Grateful Dead, Green Day, Guns N' Roses, Heart, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Soundgarden, Steely Dan, Steve Miller Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Styx, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Van Halen, the White Stripes and ZZ Top.

Enjoy our Best American Rock Band Ever Poll, which is sponsored by Sweetwater (opens in new tab)!

Today's Matchup

Pearl Jam

Although their close geographical proximity towards Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden meant that Pearl Jam would forever be a “grunge” band, they’ve always been so much more. In a way no other rock band was at the time, Pearl Jam’s angry, distorted anthems were political and focused. Eddie Vedder’s pointed songwriting, with assistance from searing guitar work from Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, set them apart from their peers. And though some of the band’s experiments have fared better than others, they’ve showed a willingness to evolve that few of their peers have been able to emulate.

  • Soundgarden

Soundgarden, from their beginnings in Seattle’s late-Eighties rock scene, were always a strangely intriguing hybrid. Their mix of arena-rock, punk and disparate genres like funk helped set the template for the sound that would come to be known as “grunge.” And though they didn’t get their due until after Nirvana had flamed out in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death, and after Pearl Jam began to withdraw from the public eye, get their due they did. Their 1994 album, Superunknown, is still a rock masterpiece 20 years later. With Chris Cornell’s beautifully controlled shrieks, Kim Thayil’s monumental guitar playing and the thunderous rhythm section of Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron, Soundgarden were an unstoppable force in their prime.

Vote Now!

Sorry, the polls are closed on this one. Soundgarden have advanced to the next round. This is why social media is so important, folks.

Behold the Latest Bracket!

Cecil and Zooey (opens in new tab)

How the Bracket Was Compiled

Here's how the bracket was—very unscientifically—compiled.

We drew the artists' names out of a hat (It was, in fact, a smelly Quebec Nordiques baseball cap) to help us create our bracket, which is available for your viewing pleasure below. Obviously, none of these of bands are ranked or come from a previously compiled list, so we chose purely random matchups to have as little impact as possible on the final outcome. We're actually pretty pleased with the way the bracket turned out.

Remember that, as with any poll, genre might occasionally clash against genre, so you'll just need to decide which artist has (or has had) the most to offer within his/their genre, perhaps which one has or had more natural talent or technical skill, which one had the biggest influence on other live acts, etc.

As always, you can vote only once per matchup (once per device, that is), and we'll be posting match-ups pretty much every day of the month, sometimes more than once per day, just to give you an early warning.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.