I have been a fan of Soul Asylum for quite some time and have enjoyed the journey from the mid-80s right up to the present day. They play an exciting blend of Rock/Pop and Grunge. Furthermore, in their early days, they were also known for playing Punk.
I have tried to pick a mix of what I think are the Top 10 Soul Asylum songs to reflect their different styles that span over the four decades they have been together playing music. Hopefully, you will enjoy my choices. Now, let’s get to it and look at the first song.
Top 10 Soul Asylum Songs
A good place to start is with “Runaway Train.” That’s because it was Soul Asylum’s best-selling song, as well as their best-charting. It was released in 1993 from their sixth studio album, Grave Dancers Union. The single got to #5 in the US and earned them their highest chart position in the UK at #7. It also went double platinum in the US and Gold in Australia and Germany.
The album is also still their best-selling…
Grave Dancers Union went to #11 in the US and #27 in the UK. Additionally, it went double-platinum in both the US and Canada. Plus, it went gold in several other countries.
The song came at a very timely point in their careers. They had been struggling for commercial success. In eight years of releasing music, this was their first record, either single or album, to break into the Billboard Top 100.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that time was close to running out for them. At least as far as their future relationship with their record company was concerned. Fortunately, “Runaway Train” proved a useful shot in the arm.
One that lasted for ten years…
The fact that it also won a Grammy for Best Rock Song no doubt also helped their cause. Overall, this is a well-crafted and catchy Pop song. And it is easy to see why it was so popular.
But, I am guessing that many failed to look behind the music and listen intently to the lyrics. If they had, they might have been surprised that it was a song about depression.
“Somebody to Shove”
This was released in 1992 as the lead single for the album Grave Dancers Union. If you listen to this side-by-side with “Runaway Train,” you would be hard-pressed to guess that both of these songs were from the same band and the same album.
So, why is that?
Because “Somebody to Shove” is a pure Rock song that features a distorted short guitar intro and a nice solo. It is fast and hard, with angry lyrics and plenty of intensity. This feels like Nirvana, whereas “Runaway Train” felt like something from, well, Train.
I think “Somebody to Shove” is the better song, but the buying public disagreed with me. It failed to chart on the US Billboard charts and got to a lowly #32 in the UK. No platinum, gold, or any other kind of disc for this one. A shame because it is a great song by Soul Asylum.
“Beggars and Choosers”
This was a track from their 1988 album, Hang Time. It was never released as a single. However, I think it was strong enough to have been more than just an album track. Unfortunately, the album generated little interest as it failed to chart anywhere that it was released.
“Beggars and Choosers” took Soul Asylum back to their Punk roots. It is super-fast and is characterized by an almost machine-gun drumming beat that runs throughout the song. It is a song that continues to build tension and leaves you breathless after just three minutes.
“Veil of Tears”
“Veil of Tears” was a track from the album, And The Horse They Rode In On, which was released in 1990. The track was never released as a single. Additionally, the album was the last that failed to chart before they hit their form following the release of “Runaway Train” a couple of years later.
The song has more of a Rock/Pop feel than a lot of Soul Asylum’s early Punk style of music. It was a good indication of the way the band was progressing. And it was undoubtedly instrumental in nudging them toward commercial success with the release of their next album.
“Can’t Even Tell”
This was released as a single in 1994 and included in the Clerks Motion Picture Soundtrack. The song features alongside a host of other tracks from Punk Rock, Grunge, and Alternative Rock artists. Clerks was a low-budget black-and-white comedy that, despite being well made, only received a small cult following. It grossed little more than $4 million worldwide.
If the song had been featured on a soundtrack album associated with a more mainstream movie, it would have probably done much better. As it wasn’t, it only managed to chart at #16 on the US Alternative charts and #24 in America.
This was released in 1992 as the second single from the album Grave Diggers Union. It was Soul Asylum’s highest charting single in the UK, at #26. However, it still failed to chart in the US other than on the Alternative charts, where it got to #6.
The song has a very strong Country vibe during the intro. A feeling reinforced by the fact that they are playing on a bed of straw in the video in what appears to be a barn. Other than that, this is a Pop/Rock song.
So, what is it about?
It is an anti-war protest song that is about the hypocrisy of the first Gulf War in Iraq. The meaning of “Black Gold” is, therefore, a metaphor for oil. Even today, the song remains relevant and is one of Soul Asylum’s most popular live songs.
“Cartoon” was released as a single in 1988 from the album Hang Time. The song failed to chart anywhere, but it is still more than good enough to earn its place on my Top 10 Soul Asylum songs playlist.
The lyrics are very ambiguous but can be best interpreted as someone who is going through an identity crisis of some kind. They are possibly going through some mental health crisis and starting to lose touch with reality.
I must admit that I was more than a little nervous when I first heard this, but frankly, I needn’t have worried. The song was first sung by the incredible Marvin Gaye in 1982. This was one of the greatest Soul singers in history. So, for Soul Asylum to do a cover was ballsy, to say the least.
So, how did they get on?
They released their version in 1993 as part of a Rock compilation, No Alternative, that was put together as a charity record. All the proceeds went to AIDS charities, so all the artists should be heartily applauded. Sadly, the single only made it to #10 on the US Rock charts and failed to chart elsewhere. However, the cover was superb and a great demonstration of how good the band was and still is.
The song shows a lot of respect for the original, but they put their own spin on it to give it a new lease of life. It’s dynamic, funky, and powerful in different measures throughout. Consequently, the song demands your interest.
Something else I especially like is that no attempt was made to clean up Dave Pirner’s vocals. This was especially evident in the opening verse, where his voice quite frankly sounded raw. These imperfections draw you into the song and give it humanity that is so sadly lacking in many of today’s songs.
“I Will Still Be Laughing”
This was released in 1998 as the first single from their album Candy from a Stranger. The song got to #24 on the US Alternative Chart and #23 on the US Rock Chart. Unfortunately, it did not make it onto the main US Billboard charts.
Even more unfortunate was that this was the last song to make it on any chart despite the band continuing to release music to the present day. That is no reflection of the quality of Soul Asylum’s music. More of a reflection that they are a band that simply appears to have gone out of fashion.
I hope they continue to make music. That’s because I have a sneaky feeling that one day they will make it back into fashion and be bigger than ever before.
“If I Told You”
I am finishing off my list with this beautiful love ballad released in 2020 from the final album currently released, Hurry Up and Wait. The song is a good indication that the band has lost nothing of their talent and skill in putting together a great song.
The song has a great melody, chorus, and one of the best solos of all their songs. The harmonies are also excellent. Why it never got more airplay or charted, at least somewhere, is a mystery.
Want More Awesome Tunes From The 90s?
Well, then check out our thoughts on the Best 90s Rock Songs, the Best 90s Grunge Songs, the Best 90s Songs, the Best 90s Love Songs, the Best 90s Rock Bands, and the Best Grunge Bands of the 90s for more incredible song selections.
Also, you’ll need to hear them. So, have a look at our reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Commuting, or the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones that you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Soul Asylum Songs – Final Thoughts
I had not listened to many of these songs for quite a while. So, it has been a lot of fun putting together my top ten Soul Asylum songs. Now I am pleased I have because it has been a great trip down memory lane, and I honestly hope you have enjoyed the journey too.
The list was too short to include all my favorites. And if you think I made an obvious omission, then please let me know in the comments below. Plus, if you have any interesting stories about Souls Asylum or their music, I’d also love to hear from you.
Until next time, happy listening.