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Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of
rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no ...
that emerged from the
independent music Independent music (often referred to as indie music or indie) is music produced independently from commercial record labels or their subsidiaries, a process that may include an autonomous, do-it-yourself approach to recording and publishing. The ...
underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from
mainstream The mainstream is the prevalent current thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, r ...
or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent,
DIY "Do it yourself" ("DIY") is the method of building, modifying, or repair The technical meaning of maintenance involves functional checks, servicing, repairing or replacing of necessary devices, equipment, machinery, building infrastruc ...
ethos of
punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, ...
, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.di Perna, Alan. "Brave Noise—The History of Alternative Rock Guitar". ''
Guitar World ''Guitar World'' is an American monthly music magazine for guitarist A guitarist (or a guitar player) is a person who plays the guitar The guitar is a fret (in the background, coloured white) and first four frets A fret is a space bet ...
''. December 1995.
In September 1988, ''Billboard'' introduced "alternative" into their charting system to reflect the rise of the format across radio stations in the United States by stations like
KROQ-FM KROQ-FM (106.7 FM, pronounced "kay-rock") is a radio station licensed to Pasadena, California Pasadena () is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United S ...
in Los Angeles and WDRE-FM in New York, which were playing music from more
underground Underground most commonly refers to: * Subterranea (geography), the regions beneath the surface of the Earth Underground may also refer to: Places * The Underground (Boston), a music club in the Allston neighborhood of Boston * The Underground (S ...
, independent, and non-commercial rock artists. The genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as
the Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
and other artists, continued to evolve alternative rock throughout the 1980s. Traditionally, alternative rock broadly consisted of music that differed greatly in terms of its sound, social context and regional roots. Throughout the 1980s, magazines and
zine A zine ( ; short for ''magazine A magazine is a periodical publication Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial Serial may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Th ...
s,
college radio Campus radio (also known as college radio, university radio or student radio) is a type of radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσ ...
airplay In radio Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, groups thr ...
, and
word of mouth Word of mouth or ''viva voce'', is the passing of information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sense, data ...
had increased the prominence and highlighted the diversity of alternative rock, helping to define a number of distinct styles (and music scenes) such as
noise pop Noise pop is a subgenre of alternative ''AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples'' (formerly ''AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Scholarship'') is a quarterly peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluat ...
,
indie rock Indie rock is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and ...
,
grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of that emerged from the underground of the 1970s and became wi ...
, and
shoegazing Shoegaze (originally termed shoegazing and sometimes conflated with "dream pop Dream pop (also typeset as dreampop) is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that is characterized for its breathy vocals, use of guitar effects, dense ...
. Most of these subgenres had achieved minor mainstream notice and a few bands, such as
R.E.M. R.E.M. was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chem ...
and
Jane's Addiction Jane's Addiction is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compou ...
, were signed to
major labels A record label, or record company, is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and adv ...
. But most alternative bands' commercial success was limited in comparison to other genres of rock and pop music at the time, and most acts remained signed to
independent label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels; they are a type of small and medium-sized enterprise, small to medium-sized enterprise, or SME. The labels and artists are o ...
s and received relatively little attention from mainstream radio, television, or newspapers. With the breakthrough of
Nirvana ' (, , ; sa, निर्वाण} ''nirvāṇa'' ; Pali Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples sp ...
and the popularity of the
grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of that emerged from the underground of the 1970s and became wi ...
and
Britpop Britpop was a mid-1990s British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity a ...
movements in the 1990s, alternative rock entered the musical mainstream and many alternative bands became successful.


Origin of term

In the past, popular music tastes were dictated by music executives within large entertainment corporations. Record companies signed contracts with those entertainers who were thought to become the most popular, and therefore who could generate the most sales. These bands were able to record their songs in expensive studios, and their works then offered for sale through record store chains that were owned by the entertainment corporations, along with eventually selling the merchandise into
big box retailers A big-box store (also hyperstore, supercenter, superstore, or megastore) is a physically large retail establishment, usually part of a chain store, chain of stores. The term sometimes also refers, by extension, to the company that operates the s ...
. Record companies worked with radio and television companies to get the most exposure for their artists. The people making the decisions were business people dealing with music as a product, and those bands who were not making the expected sales figures were then excluded from this system. Before the term ''alternative rock'' came into common usage around 1990, the sorts of music to which it refers were known by a variety of terms. In 1979,
Terry TolkinTerry Tolkin was the Vice President of A&R at Elektra Records from 1992 to 1996. He signed a number of critically acclaimed alternative rock bands, including Luna (1990s American band), Luna, Stereolab, Afghan Whigs, Vaganza, Scrawl, Jennyanykind and ...
used the term ''Alternative Music'' to describe the groups he was writing about. In 1979 Dallas radio station
KZEW KZEW (101.7 FM, "The Zoo") is a radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge ...
had a late night
new wave New Wave may refer to: Music * New wave music, a genre of popular music that originated in the 1970s Albums * ''New Wave'' (Against Me! album) or the title song, 2007 * ''New Wave'' (The Auteurs album), 1993 * New Wave (Dizzy Gillespie album ...
show entitled "Rock and Roll Alternative." "
College rock College rock was the alternative rock music played on student-run university and college campus radio stations located in the Higher education in the United States, United States and Higher education in Canada, Canada in the 1980s. The stations' pl ...
" was used in the United States to describe the music during the 1980s due to its links to the
college radio Campus radio (also known as college radio, university radio or student radio) is a type of radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσ ...
circuit and the tastes of college students.Reynolds, p. 391 In the United Kingdom, dozens of small
do it yourself "Do it yourself" ("DIY") is the method of building, modifying, or repair The technical meaning of maintenance involves functional checks, servicing, repairing or replacing of necessary devices, equipment, machinery, building infrastruc ...
record labels emerged as a result of the
punk subculture The punk subculture includes a diverse and widely known array of ideologies An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Ps ...
. According to the founder of one of these labels, Cherry Red, ''
NME ''New Musical Express'' (''NME'') is a British music, film and culture website and brand. Founded as a newspaper in 1952, with the publication being referred to as a 'rock inkie', the NME would become a magazine that ended up as a free publi ...
'' and ''
Sounds In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and psychology, sound is the ''reception'' of such waves and their ''perception'' by the br ...
'' magazines published charts based on small record stores called "Alternative Charts." The first national chart based on distribution called the Indie Chart was published in January 1980; it immediately succeeded in its aim to help these labels. At the time, the term ''indie'' was used literally to describe independently distributed records. By 1985, ''indie'' had come to mean a particular genre, or group of subgenres, rather than simply distribution status. The use of the term ''alternative'' to describe rock music originated around the mid-1980s; at the time, the common music industry terms for cutting-edge music were ''
new music New Pop was a loosely defined British-centric pop music movement consisting of ambitious, DIY ethic, DIY-minded artists who achieved commercial success in the early 1980s through sources such as MTV. Rooted in the post-punk movement of the late 19 ...

new music
'' and '' post modern'', respectively indicating freshness and a tendency to reontextualize sounds of the past. In 1987, ''
Spin Spin or spinning may refer to: Businesses * or South Pacific Island Network * , an American scooter-sharing system * , a chain of table tennis lounges Computing * , 's tool for formal verification of distributed software systems * , a Mach-like ...
'' magazine categorized
college rock College rock was the alternative rock music played on student-run university and college campus radio stations located in the Higher education in the United States, United States and Higher education in Canada, Canada in the 1980s. The stations' pl ...
band
Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven is an American Rock music, rock band formed in Redlands, California in 1983, later based in Santa Cruz, California, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Their style mixes elements of Pop music, pop, ska, punk rock, Folk music, folk ...

Camper Van Beethoven
as "alternative/indie," noting that their 1985 song "Where the Hell Is Bill" (from ''
Telephone Free Landslide Victory ''Telephone Free Landslide Victory'' is an album by musical group Camper Van Beethoven, released on Independent Project Records and released in June 1985. It featured the band's best known song, "Take the Skinheads Bowling". The album has sold we ...
'') "called out the alternative/independent scene and dryly tore it apart." David Lowery, then frontman of Camper Van Beethoven, later recalled: "I remember first seeing that word applied to us... The nearest I could figure is that we seemed like a punk band, but we were playing pop music, so they made up this word ''alternative'' for those of us who do that." DJs and promoters during the 1980s claim the term originates from American
FM radio FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting Image:Long wave radio station 002 Motala Sweden.JPG, Long wave radio broadcasting station, Motala, Sweden Image:Tyholt taarnet.jpg, upBroadcasting tower in Trondheim, Norway Radio broadcastin ...
of the 1970s, which served as a progressive alternative to
top 40 In the music industry The music industry consists of the individuals and organizations that earn money by writing Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language bel ...
radio format A radio format or programming format (not to be confused with broadcast programming Broadcast programming is the practice of organizing and/or ordering (scheduling) of broadcast Broadcasting is the distributionDistribution may refer to: ...
s by featuring longer songs and giving DJs more freedom in song selection. According to one former DJ and promoter, "Somehow this term 'alternative' got rediscovered and heisted by
college radio Campus radio (also known as college radio, university radio or student radio) is a type of radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσ ...
people during the 80s who applied it to new post-punk, indie, or underground-whatever music." At first the term referred to intentionally non-mainstream rock acts that were not influenced by "heavy metal ballads, rarefied new wave" and "high-energy dance anthems." Strauss, Neil
"Forget Pearl Jam. Alternative Rock Lives"
''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
''. March 2, 1997. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
Usage of the term would broaden to include
new wave New Wave may refer to: Music * New wave music, a genre of popular music that originated in the 1970s Albums * ''New Wave'' (Against Me! album) or the title song, 2007 * ''New Wave'' (The Auteurs album), 1993 * New Wave (Dizzy Gillespie album ...
,
pop Pop or POP may refer to: Places * Gregorio Luperón International Airport (IATA code POP), Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic * Pop, a tributary of the river Jijia in eastern Romania * Poppleton railway station (station code), York, England People ...
,
punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, ...
,
post-punk Post-punk (originally called new musick) is a broad genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
, and occasionally "
college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...
"/" indie" rock, all found on the American "commercial alternative" radio stations of the time such as
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referred to by the initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be u ...

Los Angeles
'
KROQ-FM KROQ-FM (106.7 FM, pronounced "kay-rock") is a radio station licensed to Pasadena, California Pasadena () is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United S ...
. Journalist Jim Gerr wrote that ''Alternative'' also encompassed variants such as "rap, trash, metal and industrial." The bill of the first
Lollapalooza Lollapalooza (Lolla) is an annual four-day music festival Image:Novarock1.jpg, Music festival in Nickelsdorf, Austria, picturing both the main stage and the camping grounds on the farm behind The music festival emerged in England in the 18t ...
, an itinerant festival in North America conceived by
Jane's Addiction Jane's Addiction is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compou ...
frontman
Perry Farrell Perry Farrell (born Peretz Bernstein; March 29, 1959) is an American singer, songwriter and musician, best known as the frontman of the alternative rock band Jane's Addiction. Farrell created the touring festival Lollapalooza as a farewell tour ...

Perry Farrell
, reunited "disparate elements of the alternative rock community" including
Henry Rollins Henry Lawrence Garfield (born February 13, 1961), known professionally as Henry Rollins, is an American singer, actor, presenter, comedian, and activist. He hosts a weekly radio show on KCRW KCRW (89.9 Hertz, MHz FM broadcast band, FM) is a Na ...

Henry Rollins
,
Butthole Surfers Butthole Surfers is an American rock band formed in San Antonio ("Cradle of Freedom") , image_map = Bexar SanAntonio.svg , mapsize = 280px , map_caption = Location within B ...

Butthole Surfers
,
Ice-T Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T, is an American rapper, songwriter, actor and producer. He began his career as an underground rapper in the 1980s and was signed to Sire Records Sire Records (formerly Sire Records ...

Ice-T
,
Nine Inch Nails Nine Inch Nails, commonly abbreviated as NIN and stylized as NIИ, is an American industrial rock Industrial rock is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of ...
,
Siouxsie and the Banshees Siouxsie and the Banshees were a British rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
(as second headliners) and Jane's Addiction (as the headlining act). Covering for MTV the opening date of Lollapalooza in in July 1991,
Dave Kendall Dave Kendall is a British-born journalist, editor, producer and VJ (media personality), VJ. He was first known to the public as the creator and host of MTV's 120 Minutes, an alternative music program that played Sunday nights at midnight from 1 ...
introduced the report saying the festival presented the "most diverse lineups of alternative rock." That summer, Farrell had coined the term ''Alternative Nation''. In December 1991, ''
Spin Spin or spinning may refer to: Businesses * or South Pacific Island Network * , an American scooter-sharing system * , a chain of table tennis lounges Computing * , 's tool for formal verification of distributed software systems * , a Mach-like ...
'' magazine noted: "this year, for the first time, it became resoundingly clear that what has formerly been considered ''alternative rock''—a college-centered marketing group with fairly lucrative, if limited, potential—has in fact moved into the mainstream." In the late 1990s, the definition again became more specific. In 1997,
Neil Strauss Neil Darrow Strauss, also known by the pen names Style and Chris Powles, (born October 13, 1973) is an American author, journalist and ghostwriter A ghostwriter is hired to write literary Literature broadly is any collection of written w ...
of ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' defined alternative rock as "hard-edged rock distinguished by brittle, '70s-inspired guitar riffing and singers agonizing over their problems until they take on epic proportions." Defining music as alternative is often difficult because of two conflicting applications of the word. ''Alternative'' can describe music that challenges the status quo and that is "fiercely iconoclastic, anticommercial, and antimainstream", but the term is also used in the music industry to denote "the choices available to consumers via record stores, radio, cable television, and the Internet." However alternative music has paradoxically become just as commercial and marketable as the mainstream rock, with record companies using the term "alternative" to market music to an audience that mainstream rock does not reach. Using a broad definition of the genre, Dave Thompson in his book ''Alternative Rock'' cites the formation of the
Sex Pistols The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a comp ...

Sex Pistols
as well as the release of the albums ''
Horses The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a Domestication, domesticated odd-toed ungulate, one-toed ungulate, hoofed mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two Extant taxon, extant subspecies of wild horse, ''Equus ferus ...
'' by
Patti Smith Patricia Lee Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and poet who became an influential component of the New York City punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a ...

Patti Smith
and ''
Metal Machine Music ''Metal Machine Music'' (subtitled ''*The Amine β Ring'') is the fifth studio album packaged in book form, like a photograph album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), Phonograph recor ...
'' by
Lou Reed Lewis Allan Reed (March 2, 1942October 27, 2013) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and poet. He was the guitarist, singer, and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was an Americ ...
as three key events that gave birth to alternative rock. Until the early 2000s, when
indie rock Indie rock is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and ...
became the most common term in the US to describe modern pop and rock, the terms "indie rock" and "alternative rock" were often used interchangeably;Fonarow, Wendy
(July 28, 2011)
"Ask the indie professor: why do Americans think they invented indie? For years, Americans never used the term 'indie', preferring to label the likes of Bush 'alternative'. But things changed"
The Guardian.
whilst there are aspects which both genres have in common, "indie rock" was regarded as a British-based term, unlike the more American "alternative rock."


Characteristics

The name "alternative rock" essentially serves as an
umbrella term In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
for underground music that has emerged in the wake of
punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, ...
since the mid-1980s.Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk"
AllMusic AllMusic (previously known as All Music Guide and AMG) is an American online music database. It catalogs more than three million album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on (CD), , , or another medium. ...

AllMusic
. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
Throughout much of its history, alternative rock has been largely defined by its rejection of the
commercialism Commercialism is the application of both manufacturing and consumption (economics), consumption towards personal usage, or the practices, methods, aims, and spirit of free enterprise geared toward generating profit. Commercialism can also be used ...
of mainstream culture, although this could be contested ever since some of the major alternative artists have achieved mainstream success or co-opted with the major labels from the 1990s onwards (especially since the new millennium and beyond). Alternative bands during the 1980s generally played in small clubs, recorded for indie labels, and spread their popularity through word of mouth."Rock Music". Microsoft Encarta 2006 Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005. As such, there is no set musical style for alternative rock as a whole, although ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' in 1989 asserted that the genre is "guitar music first of all, with guitars that blast out power chords, pick out chiming riffs, buzz with fuzztone and squeal in feedback." More often than in other rock-styles since the mainstreaming of rock music during the 1970s, alternative rock lyrics tend to address topics of social concern, such as drug use, depression, suicide, and environmentalism. This approach to lyrics developed as a reflection of the social and economic strains in the United States and United Kingdom of the 1980s and early 1990s.


History


Precursors (1960s and 1970s)

A precursor to alternative rock existed in the 1960s with the
proto-punk Proto-punk (or protopunk) is the rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be ...
scene. The origins of alternative rock can be traced back to ''
The Velvet Underground & Nico ''The Velvet Underground & Nico'' is the debut album by American Rock music, rock band the Velvet Underground and German singer Nico, released in March 1967 through Verve Records. It was recorded in 1966 while the band were featured on Andy Warh ...

The Velvet Underground & Nico
'' (1967) by
the Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
, which influenced many alternative rock bands that would come after it. Eccentric and quirky figures of the 1960s, such as
Syd Barrett Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006) was an English singer, songwriter, and musician who co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd Pink Floyd were an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) ...
have influence on alternative rock in general.


1980s

The
Dead Kennedys Dead Kennedys are an American punk rock band that formed in San Francisco, California, in 1978. The band was one of the defining punk rock, punk bands during its initial eight-year run. Dead Kennedys' lyrics were usually political in nature, s ...

Dead Kennedys
formed the
independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label A record label, or record company, is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from tho ...
Alternative Tentacles Alternative Tentacles is an independent record label established in 1979 in San Francisco, California. It was used by Dead Kennedys for the self-produced single "California über alles". After realizing the potential for an independent label, th ...
in 1979, releasing influential underground music such as the 1983 self-titled EP from the
Butthole Surfers Butthole Surfers is an American rock band formed in San Antonio ("Cradle of Freedom") , image_map = Bexar SanAntonio.svg , mapsize = 280px , map_caption = Location within B ...

Butthole Surfers
. By 1984, a majority of groups signed to indie labels mined from a variety of rock and particularly 1960s rock influences. This represented a sharp break from the futuristic, hyper-rational post-punk years. Throughout the 1980s, alternative rock remained mainly an underground phenomenon. While on occasion a song would become a commercial hit or albums would receive critical praise in mainstream publications like ''
Rolling Stone ''Rolling Stone'' is an American monthly magazine that focuses on music, politics, and popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California San Francisco (/Help:IPA/English, ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish language, Spanish ...
'', alternative rock in the 1980s was primarily featured on independent record labels,
fanzine A fanzine ( blend of ''fan Fan commonly refers to: * Fan (machine), a machine for producing airflow, often for cooling ** Hand fan, an implement held and waved by hand to move air * Fan (person), short for fanatic; an enthusiast or supporter, espe ...

fanzine
s, and
college radio Campus radio (also known as college radio, university radio or student radio) is a type of radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσ ...
stations. Alternative bands built underground followings by touring constantly and by regularly releasing low-budget albums. In the case of the United States, new bands would form in the wake of previous bands, which created an extensive underground circuit in America, filled with different scenes in various parts of the country. College radio formed an essential part of breaking new alternative music. In the mid-1980s, college station
KCPR KCPR (91.3 FM) is a non-commercial A non-commercial (also spelled noncommercial) activity is an activity that does not, in some sense, involve commerce, at least relative to similar activities that do have a commercial objective or emphasis. ...
in
San Luis Obispo, California San Luis Obispo (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disamb ...
, described in a DJ handbook the tension between popular and "cutting edge" songs as played on "alternative radio." Although American alternative artists of the 1980s never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on later alternative musicians and laid the groundwork for their success. On September 10, 1988, an
Alternative Songs Alternative Airplay (formerly known as Alternative Songs and Modern Rock Tracks) is a music chart A record chart, in the music industry, also called a music chart, is a ranking of Sound recording and reproduction, recorded music according ...
chart was created by ''
Billboard A billboard (also called a hoarding in the UK and many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising Out-of-home (OOH) advertising, also called outdoor advertising, outdoor media, and out-of-home media, is advertising experienced ...
'', listing the 40 most-played songs on alternative and modern rock radio stations in the US: the first number one was
Siouxsie and the Banshees Siouxsie and the Banshees were a British rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
' " Peek-a-Boo". By 1989 the genre had become popular enough that a package tour featuring
New OrderNew Order may refer to: Politics * ''L'Ordine Nuovo'' (''The New Order''), a socialist newspaper edited by Antonio Gramsci in the early 1920s * ''New Order in East Asia'', propaganda term for Japanese-dominated East Asia announced by Japanese p ...
,
Public Image Limited In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociology, sociological concept of the '' ...
and
the Sugarcubes The Sugarcubes (Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also * Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a ...
toured the United States arena circuit. In contrast, British alternative rock was distinguished from that of the United States early on by a more pop-oriented focus (marked by an equal emphasis on albums and singles, as well as greater openness to incorporating elements of dance and club culture) and a lyrical emphasis on specifically British concerns. As a result, few British alternative bands have achieved commercial success in the US. Since the 1980s alternative rock has been played extensively on the radio in the UK, particularly by
disc jockey A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Types of DJs include radio DJs (who host programs on music radio Music radio is a radio format in which music is the main broadcast conte ...
s such as
John Peel John Robert Parker Ravenscroft (30 August 1939 – 25 October 2004), known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, b ...
(who championed alternative music on
BBC Radio 1 BBC Radio 1 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London London is the ca ...

BBC Radio 1
), Richard Skinner, and
Annie Nightingale Annie Avril Nightingale (born 1 April 1940) is an English radio and television broadcaster. She was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1 BBC Radio 1 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC. It specialises in mod ...
. Artists that had cult followings in the United States received greater exposure through British national radio and the weekly music press, and many alternative bands had chart success there.


American underground in the 1980s

Early American alternative bands such as
the Dream Syndicate The Dream Syndicate is an American alternative rock band from Los Angeles, California, originally active from 1981 to 1989, and reunited since 2012. The band is associated with neo-psychedelia and the Paisley Underground music movement; of the ban ...
,
the Bongos The Bongos were a power pop band from Hoboken, New Jersey that emerged from the New York City arts scene, primarily active in the 1980s, led by Richard Barone. With their unique musical style, they were major progenitors of the Hoboken indie-pop ...
, ,
R.E.M. R.E.M. was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chem ...
,
the Feelies The Feelies are an American rock band from Haledon, New Jersey. They formed in 1976 and disbanded in 1992 having released four albums. The band reunited in 2008, and released new albums in 2011 and 2017. Although not commercially successful, th ...
and
Violent Femmes Violent Femmes are an American folk punk band from Milwaukee Milwaukee (, ) is the largest city in the U.S. state, state of Wisconsin and the fifth-largest city in the Midwestern United States. The county seat, seat of Milwaukee County, Wis ...
combined punk influences with
folk music Folk music is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. It is to be distinguished from ''musical form'' and musical style, althoug ...

folk music
and mainstream music influences. R.E.M. was the most immediately successful; its debut album, '' Murmur'' (1983), entered the Top 40 and spawned a number of
jangle pop Jangle pop is a subgenre of pop rock Pop rock (also typeset as pop/rock) is rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing int ...
followers. One of the many jangle pop scenes of the early 1980s, Los Angeles'
Paisley Underground Paisley Underground is a musical genre that originated from California. It was particularly popular in Los Angeles, reaching a peak in the mid 1980s. Paisley Underground bands incorporated psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and guitar interplay, owi ...
revived the sounds of the 1960s, incorporating psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and the guitar interplay of folk rock as well as punk and underground influences such as
the Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
. American indie record labels
SST Records SST Records is an American independent record label formed in 1978 in Long Beach, California by musician Greg Ginn. The company was formed in 1966 by Ginn at age 12 as Solid State Tuners, a small business through which he sold electronics equipme ...
,
Twin/Tone Records Twin/Tone Records was an independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels; they are a type of small and medium-sized enterprise, small to medium-siz ...
, Touch and Go Records, and
Dischord Records Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-based independent record label specializing in punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesse ...
presided over the shift from the
hardcore punk Hardcore punk (often abbreviated to hardcore) is a punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to ...
that then dominated the American underground scene to the more diverse styles of alternative rock that were emerging.Reynolds, p. 390.
Minneapolis Minneapolis () is a city in the U.S. state of Minnesota. With a population of 429,954 as of 2020 United States census, 2020, it is the most populous city in the state and the 46th most populous in the nation. The county seat of Hennepin County, ...

Minneapolis
bands
Hüsker Dü Hüsker Dü was an American punk rock band formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1979. The band's continual members were electric guitar, guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould, bass guitar, bassist/vocalist Greg Norton, and drummer/vocalist Grant Hart. Hü ...
and were indicative of this shift. Both started out as punk rock bands, but soon diversified their sounds and became more melodic. asserted that Hüsker Dü was the key link between hardcore punk and the more melodic, diverse music of
college rock College rock was the alternative rock music played on student-run university and college campus radio stations located in the Higher education in the United States, United States and Higher education in Canada, Canada in the 1980s. The stations' pl ...
that emerged. Azerrad wrote, "Hüsker Dü played a huge role in convincing the underground that melody and punk rock weren't antithetical." The band also set an example by being the first group from the American indie scene to sign to a major record label, which helped establish college rock as "a viable commercial enterprise." By focusing on heartfelt songwriting and wordplay instead of political concerns, the Replacements upended a number of underground scene conventions; Azerrad noted that "along with R.E.M., they were one of the few underground bands that mainstream people liked." By the late 1980s, the American alternative scene was dominated by styles ranging from quirky alternative pop (
They Might Be Giants They Might Be Giants (often abbreviated as TMBG) is an American alternative rock band formed in 1982 by John Flansburgh and John Linnell. During TMBG's early years, Flansburgh and Linnell frequently performed as a duo, often accompanied by a dru ...
and
Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven is an American Rock music, rock band formed in Redlands, California in 1983, later based in Santa Cruz, California, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Their style mixes elements of Pop music, pop, ska, punk rock, Folk music, folk ...

Camper Van Beethoven
), to
noise rock Noise rock (sometimes called noise punk) is a noise Noise is unwanted sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and p ...
(
Sonic Youth Sonic Youth was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound ...
,
Big Black Big Black was an American punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fa ...

Big Black
,
the Jesus Lizard The Jesus Lizard is an American Rock music, rock band formed in 1987 in Austin, Texas and based in Chicago, Illinois. They were "a leading noise rock band in the American independent underground music, underground…turned out a series of ...
) and
industrial rock Industrial rock is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popula ...
( Ministry, Nine Inch Nails). These sounds were in turn followed by the advent of
Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in Massachusetts, most populous city of the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States and 21st List of Unit ...

Boston
's Pixies and
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referred to by the initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be u ...

Los Angeles
'
Jane's Addiction Jane's Addiction is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compou ...
. Around the same time, the
grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of that emerged from the underground of the 1970s and became wi ...
subgenre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...
emerged in
Seattle Seattle ( ) is a seaport The Porticciolo del Cedas port in Barcola The thumb is the first digit of the hand, next to the index finger. When a person is standing in the medical anatomical position (where the palm is facing to the front) ...

Seattle
,
Washington Washington commonly refers to: * Washington (state), United States * Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States ** Federal government of the United States (metonym) ** Washington metropolitan area, the metropolitan area centered on Washingt ...
, initially referred to as "The Seattle Sound" until its rise to popularity in the early 1990s. Grunge featured a sludgy, murky guitar sound that syncretized
heavy metal Heavy metal may refer to: *Heavy metals, a loose category of relatively dense metals and metalloids **Toxic heavy metal, any heavy metal chemical element of environmental concern *Heavy metal music, a genre of rock music **Heavy metal genres *Hea ...
and punk rock. Promoted largely by Seattle indie label
Sub Pop Sub Pop is a record label A record label, or record company, is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in ...

Sub Pop
, grunge bands were noted for their
thrift store A charity shop (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar an ...
fashion which favored flannel shirts and
combat boots Combat boots are military boots designed to be worn by soldiers during combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A weapon, a ...

combat boots
suited to the local weather.Marin, Rick. "Grunge: A Success Story". ''The New York Times''. November 15, 1992. Early grunge bands
Soundgarden Soundgarden was an American Rock music, rock band formed in Seattle, Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil (both of whom are the only members to appear in every incarnation of the ...
and
Mudhoney Mudhoney is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, che ...

Mudhoney
found critical acclaim in the U.S. and UK, respectively. By the end of the decade, a number of alternative bands began to sign to major labels. While early major label signings Hüsker Dü and the Replacements had little success, acts who signed with majors in their wake such as R.E.M. and Jane's Addiction achieved gold and platinum records, setting the stage for alternative's later breakthrough.Azerrad (1994), p. 160. Some bands such as Pixies had massive success overseas while they were ignored domestically. In the middle of the decade, Hüsker Dü's album ''
Zen Arcade ''Zen Arcade'' is the second studio album by American punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typi ...
'' influenced other hardcore acts by tackling personal issues. Out of Washington, D.C.'s hardcore scene what was called "emocore" or, later, "
emo Emo is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performe ...

emo
" emerged and was noted for its lyrics which delved into emotional, very personal subject matter (vocalists sometimes cried) and added free association poetry and a confessional tone.
Rites of Spring Rites of Spring was an American post-hardcore Post-hardcore is a punk rock music genre that maintains the aggression and intensity of hardcore punk but emphasizes a greater degree of creative expression initially inspired by post-punk and noise ...

Rites of Spring
has been described as the first "emo" band. Former
Minor Threat Minor Threat was an American hardcore punk Hardcore punk (often abbreviated to hardcore) is a punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Mu ...

Minor Threat
singer
Ian MacKaye Ian Thomas Garner MacKaye (; born April 16, 1962) is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer. Active since 1979, he is best known as the co-founder and owner of Dischord Records Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-b ...
founded
Dischord Records Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-based independent record label specializing in punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesse ...
which became the center for the city's emo scene.


British subgenres and trends of the 1980s

Gothic rock Gothic rock (also called goth rock or simply goth) is a style of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. ...
developed out of late-1970s British
post-punk Post-punk (originally called new musick) is a broad genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
. With a reputation as the "darkest and gloomiest form of underground rock", gothic rock utilizes a synthesizer-and-guitar based sound drawn from post-punk to construct "foreboding, sorrowful, often epic soundscapes", and the subgenre's lyrics often address literary romanticism, morbidity, religious symbolism, and supernatural mysticism. Bands of this subgenre took inspiration from two British post-punk groups,
Joy Division Joy Division were an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compou ...

Joy Division
and
Siouxsie and the Banshees Siouxsie and the Banshees were a British rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemi ...
.
Bauhaus The Staatliches Bauhaus (), commonly known as the Bauhaus (German: "building house"), was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German an ...
' debut single "
Bela Lugosi's Dead "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is a song by the English post-punk band Bauhaus (band), Bauhaus. It was the band's first Single (music), single, released on 6 August 1979 by record label Small Wonder Records, Small Wonder. It is often considered the first go ...
", released in 1979, is considered to be the proper beginning of the gothic rock subgenre.
The Cure The Cure are an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ch ...
's "oppressively dispirited" albums including ''
Pornography Pornography (often shortened to porn) is the portrayal of Human sexual activity, sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal.
'' (1982) cemented that group's stature in that style and laid the foundation for its large cult following. The key British alternative rock band to emerge during the 1980s was
Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguis ...

Manchester
's
the Smiths The Smiths were an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ...
. Music journalist
Simon Reynolds Simon Reynolds (born 19 June 1963) is an English music journalist and author who began his professional career on the staff of ''Melody Maker ''Melody Maker'' was a British weekly music magazine, one of the world's earliest music weeklies, ...

Simon Reynolds
singled out the Smiths and their American contemporaries R.E.M. as "the two most important alt-rock bands of the day", commenting that they "were eighties bands only in the sense of being ''against'' the eighties". The Smiths exerted an influence over the British indie scene through the end of the decade, as various bands drew from singer
Morrissey Steven Patrick Morrissey (; born 22 May 1959), known professionally as Morrissey, is an English singer, songwriter, and author. He came to prominence as the frontman of Rock music, rock band the Smiths, who were active from 1982 to 1987. Si ...

Morrissey
's English-centered lyrical topics and guitarist
Johnny Marr Johnny Marr (born John Martin Maher, 31 October 1963) is an English musician, songwriter and singer. He first achieved fame as the guitarist and co-songwriter of The Smiths The Smiths were an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock ...
's jangly guitar-playing style. The ''
C86 ''C86'' is a cassette Cassette may refer to: Technology * Cassette tape (or ''musicassette'', ''audio cassette'', ''cassette tape'', or ''tape''), a worldwide standard for analog audio recording and playback ** Cassette single (or "Cassingle") ...
'' cassette, a 1986 ''
NME ''New Musical Express'' (''NME'') is a British music, film and culture website and brand. Founded as a newspaper in 1952, with the publication being referred to as a 'rock inkie', the NME would become a magazine that ended up as a free publi ...
'' premium featuring
Primal Scream Primal Scream are a Scottish rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compoun ...

Primal Scream
,
the Wedding Present The Wedding Present are an English indie rock group originally formed in 1985 in Leeds, England, from the ashes of the Lost Pandas. The band's music has evolved from fast-paced indie rock in the vein of their most obvious influences The Fall (b ...

the Wedding Present
and others, was a major influence on the development of
indie pop Indie pop (also typeset as indie-pop or indiepop) is a music genre and subculture that combines guitar pop with DIY ethic DIY ethic is the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. The " do it yo ...
and the British indie scene as a whole. Other forms of alternative rock developed in the UK during the 1980s.
the Jesus and Mary Chain The Jesus and Mary Chain are a Scottish alternative rock band formed in East Kilbride in 1983. The band revolves around the songwriting partnership of brothers Jim Reid, Jim and William Reid (musician), William Reid. After signing to independent ...
's sound combined the
Velvet Underground Velvet is a type of woven tufted textile, fabric in which the cut yarn, threads are evenly distributed, with a short dense pile (textile), pile, giving it a distinctive soft feel. By extension, the word ''velvety'' means "smooth like velvet". Vel ...
's "melancholy noise" with
Beach Boys A summer tourism at the Yyteri Beach in Pori, Finland">Pori.html" ;"title="Yyteri Beach in Pori">Yyteri Beach in Pori, Finland. A beach is a landform alongside a body of water which consists of loose particles. The particles composing a b ...

Beach Boys
pop melodies and
Phil Spector Harvey Phillip Spector (December 26, 1939January 16, 2021) was an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who is best known for his innovative recording practices and entrepreneurship in the 1960s, followed decades later by his murde ...

Phil Spector
's "
Wall of Sound The Wall of Sound (also called the Spector Sound) is a music production formula developed by American record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios, in the 1960s, with assistance from engineer Larry Levine and the conglomerate of session m ...
" production, while New Order emerged from the demise of post-punk band Joy Division and experimented with
disco Disco is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally s ...

disco
and
dance music Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dance, dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are Concert, live dance music an ...
. The Mary Chain, along with Dinosaur Jr.,
C86 ''C86'' is a cassette Cassette may refer to: Technology * Cassette tape (or ''musicassette'', ''audio cassette'', ''cassette tape'', or ''tape''), a worldwide standard for analog audio recording and playback ** Cassette single (or "Cassingle") ...
and the
dream pop Dream pop (also typeset as dreampop) is a subgenre of alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of t ...
of
Cocteau Twins Cocteau Twins were a Scottish band active from 1979 to 1997. They were formed in Grangemouth by Robin Guthrie (guitars, drum machine) and Will Heggie (bass), adding Elizabeth Fraser (vocals) in 1981 and replacing Heggie with multi-instrumentalis ...
, were the formative influences for the
shoegazing Shoegaze (originally termed shoegazing and sometimes conflated with "dream pop Dream pop (also typeset as dreampop) is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that is characterized for its breathy vocals, use of guitar effects, dense ...
movement of the late 1980s. Named for the band members' tendency to stare at their feet and guitar
effects pedal An effects unit or effects pedal is an electronic device that alters the sound of a musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make Music, musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be cons ...
s onstage rather than interact with the audience, shoegazing acts like My Bloody Valentine and
Slowdive Slowdive are an English rock band that formed in Reading, Berkshire, in 1989. The band consists of Rachel Goswell on vocals and guitar, Simon Scott (drummer), Simon Scott on drums, Neil Halstead on vocals and guitar, Nick Chaplin on bass and Ch ...

Slowdive
created an overwhelmingly loud "wash of sound" that obscured vocals and melodies with long, droning riffs, distortion, and feedback. Shoegazing bands dominated the British music press at the end of the decade along with the
Madchester Madchester was a musical and cultural scene that developed in the English city of Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The distric ...
scene. Performing for the most part in
the Haçienda The Haçienda was a nightclub and music venue in Manchester, North West England, which became famous during the Madchester years of the 1980s and early 1990s. Post-punk, Hacienda, Haçienda opened in 1982 unleashing the Manchester acid house, h ...
, a nightclub in Manchester owned by New Order and
Factory Records Factory Records was a Manchester-based British independent record label founded in 1978 by Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus. The label collapsed in 1992 and was bought by London Records. The label featured several important acts on its roster, inclu ...
,
Madchester Madchester was a musical and cultural scene that developed in the English city of Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The distric ...
bands such as
Happy Mondays Happy Mondays are an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compoun ...

Happy Mondays
and
the Stone Roses The Stone Roses were an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compo ...
mixed acid house dance rhythms with melodic guitar pop.


Popularization in the 1990s

By the start of the 1990s, the music industry was enticed by alternative rock's commercial possibilities and major labels had already signed
Jane's Addiction Jane's Addiction is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compou ...
,
Red Hot Chili Peppers The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its C ...

Red Hot Chili Peppers
and
Dinosaur Jr. Dinosaur Jr. is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ...
In early 1991, R.E.M. went mainstream worldwide with '' Out of Time'' while becoming a blueprint for many alternative bands. The first edition of the Lollapalooza festival became the most successful tour in North America in July and August 1991. For
Dave Grohl David Eric Grohl (born January 14, 1969) is an American musician. He rose to fame as the drummer for the grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock genre and subculture that emerged during the in the Ame ...

Dave Grohl
of
Nirvana ' (, , ; sa, निर्वाण} ''nirvāṇa'' ; Pali Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples sp ...
who caught it near Los Angeles in an open-air amphitheater, "it felt like something was happening, that was the beginning of it all". The tour helped change the mentalities in the music industry: "by that fall, radio and MTV and music had changed. I really think that if it weren’t for Perry arrell if it weren’t for ''Lollapalooza'', you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now". The release of the Nirvana's single "
Smells Like Teen Spirit "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a song by American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, it ...
" in September 1991 "marked the instigation of the grunge music phenomenon". Helped by constant airplay of the song's music video on
MTV MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American cable channel that launched on August 1, 1981. Based in New York City, it serves as the flagship property of the ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks division of ViacomCBS. Prio ...

MTV
, their album ''
Nevermind ''Nevermind'' is the second studio album by American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, ...

Nevermind
'' was selling 400,000 copies a week by Christmas 1991. Its success surprised the music industry. ''Nevermind'' not only popularized grunge, but also established "the cultural and commercial viability of alternative rock in general." Michael Azerrad asserted that ''Nevermind'' symbolized "a sea-change in rock music" in which the
hair metal Hair is a protein filament In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Phy ...
that had dominated rock music at that time fell out of favor in the face of music that was authentic and culturally relevant. The breakthrough success of Nirvana led to the widespread popularization of alternative rock in the 1990s. It heralded a "new openness to alternative rock" among commercial radio stations, opening doors for heavier alternative bands in particular. In the wake of ''Nevermind'', alternative rock "found itself dragged-kicking and screaming ... into the mainstream" and record companies, confused by the genre's success yet eager to capitalize on it, scrambled to sign bands. ''The New York Times'' declared in 1993, "Alternative rock doesn't seem so alternative anymore. Every major label has a handful of guitar-driven bands in shapeless shirts and threadbare jeans, bands with bad posture and good riffs who cultivate the oblique and the evasive, who conceal catchy tunes with noise and hide craftsmanship behind nonchalance." However, many alternative rock artists rejected success, for it conflicted with the rebellious,
DIY ethic DIY ethic is the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. The " do it yourself" (DIY) ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid speci ...
the genre had espoused before mainstream exposure and their ideas of artistic authenticity.Considine, J.D. "The Decade of Living Dangerously". ''
Guitar World ''Guitar World'' is an American monthly music magazine for guitarist A guitarist (or a guitar player) is a person who plays the guitar The guitar is a fret (in the background, coloured white) and first four frets A fret is a space bet ...
''. March 1999


Grunge

Other grunge bands subsequently replicated Nirvana's success.
Pearl Jam Pearl Jam is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ch ...
had released its debut album '' Ten'' a month before ''
Nevermind ''Nevermind'' is the second studio album by American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, ...

Nevermind
'' in 1991, but album sales only picked up a year later. By the second half of 1992 ''Ten'' became a breakthrough success, being certified gold and reaching number two on the ''Billboard'' 200 album chart.
Soundgarden Soundgarden was an American Rock music, rock band formed in Seattle, Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil (both of whom are the only members to appear in every incarnation of the ...
's album ''
Badmotorfinger ''Badmotorfinger'' is the third studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on September 24, 1991, through A&M Records. Soundgarden began the recording sessions for the album with new bassist Ben Shepherd in the spring of 1991. T ...
'',
Alice in Chains Alice in Chains (often abbreviated as AIC) is an American Rock music, rock band from Seattle, Seattle, Washington, formed in 1987 by guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, who later recruited bassist Mike Starr (musician ...

Alice in Chains
' ''
Dirt Dirt is an unclean matter, especially when in contact with a person's clothes, skin, or possessions. In such cases, they are said to become dirty. Common types of dirt include: * Dust: a general powder of Organic matter, organic or Mineral, ...
'' and
Stone Temple Pilots Stone Temple Pilots (also known by the initials STP) is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the mi ...

Stone Temple Pilots
' ''
Core Core or cores may refer to: Science and technology * Core (anatomy) In common parlance, the core of the body is broadly considered to be the torso. Functional movements are highly dependent on this part of the body, and lack of core muscular dev ...
'' along with the ''
Temple of the Dog Temple of the Dog was an American rock supergroup (music), supergroup that formed in Seattle, Washington (state), Washington in 1990. It was conceived by vocalist Chris Cornell of Soundgarden as a tribute to his friend, the late Andrew Wood ( ...
'' album collaboration featuring members of
Pearl Jam Pearl Jam is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ch ...
and
Soundgarden Soundgarden was an American Rock music, rock band formed in Seattle, Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil (both of whom are the only members to appear in every incarnation of the ...
, were also among the 100 top-selling albums of 1992. The popular breakthrough of these grunge bands prompted ''
Rolling Stone ''Rolling Stone'' is an American monthly magazine that focuses on music, politics, and popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California San Francisco (/Help:IPA/English, ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish language, Spanish ...
'' to nickname Seattle "the new
Liverpool Liverpool is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. With a population of in 2019, it is the List of English districts by population, tenth largest English district by population, and its ...

Liverpool
." Major record labels signed most of the prominent grunge bands in Seattle, while a second influx of bands moved to the city in hopes of success. At the same time, critics asserted that advertising was co-opting elements of grunge and turning it into a fad. ''
Entertainment Weekly ''Entertainment Weekly'' (sometimes abbreviated as ''EW'') is an American monthly entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
'' commented in a 1993 article, "There hasn't been this kind of exploitation of a subculture since the media discovered hippies in the '60s." ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' compared the "grunging of America" to the mass-marketing of punk rock,
disco Disco is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally s ...

disco
, and
hip hop Hip hop or hip-hop is a culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabil ...
in previous years. As a result of the genre's popularity, a backlash against grunge developed in Seattle. Nirvana's follow-up album ''
In Utero The uterus (from Latin "uterus", plural ''uteri'') or womb () is a major female hormone-responsive sex organ, secondary sex organ of the reproductive system in humans and most other mammals. Things occurring in the uterus are described with the ...
'' (1993) was an intentionally abrasive album that Nirvana bassist
Krist Novoselic Krist Anthony Novoselic (; ; born May 16, 1965) is an American musician and activist best known as the bassist and a founding member of the rock band Nirvana. After Nirvana disbanded following the death (1906) Death is the permanent, ...

Krist Novoselic
described as a "wild aggressive sound, a true alternative record." Nevertheless, upon its release in September 1993 ''In Utero'' topped the ''Billboard'' charts. Pearl Jam also continued to perform well commercially with its second album, '' Vs.'' (1993), which topped the ''Billboard'' charts by selling a record 950,378 copies in its first week of release.


Britpop

With the decline of the Madchester scene and the unglamorousness of shoegazing, the tide of grunge from America dominated the British alternative scene and music press in the early 1990s. As a reaction, a flurry of British bands emerged that wished to "get rid of grunge" and "declare war on America", taking the public and native music press by storm. Dubbed "
Britpop Britpop was a mid-1990s British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity a ...
" by the media, this movement represented by Pulp, ,
Suede Suede (pronounced ()) is a type of leather Leather is a strong, flexible and durable material obtained from the tanning Tanning may refer to: *Tanning (leather), treating animal skins to produce leather *Sun tanning, using the sun to da ...
, and
Oasis In geography, an oasis (, plural oases, ) is a fertile land in a desert or semi-desert environment. Britpop bands were influenced by and displayed reverence for British guitar music of the past, particularly movements and genres such as the
British Invasion The British Invasion was a cultural phenomenon A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis' ...
,
glam rock Glam rock is a style of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and ...
, and
punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, ...
. In 1995 the Britpop phenomenon culminated in a rivalry between its two chief groups, Oasis and Blur, symbolized by their release of competing singles on the same day. Blur won " The Battle of Britpop", but Oasis soon eclipsed the other band in popularity with their second album, '' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?'' (1995), which went on to become the third best-selling album in the UK's history.


Indie rock

Long synonymous with alternative rock as a whole in the US,
indie rock Indie rock is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and ...
became a distinct form following the popular breakthrough of Nirvana. Indie rock was formulated as a rejection of alternative rock's absorption into the mainstream by artists who could not or refused to cross over, and a wariness of its "macho" aesthetic. While indie rock artists share the punk rock distrust of commercialism, the genre does not entirely define itself against that, as "the general assumption is that it's virtually impossible to make indie rock's varying musical approaches compatible with mainstream tastes in the first place". Labels such as
Matador Records Matador Records is an independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label A record label, or record company, is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifi ...
,
Merge Records Merge Records is an independent record label based in Durham, North Carolina. It was founded in 1989 by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan. It began as a way to release music from their band Superchunk and music created by friends, and has expande ...
, and
Dischord Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-based independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels; they are a type of small and medium-sized enterpri ...
, and indie rockers like Pavement,
Superchunk Superchunk is an American indie rock band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States, consisting of singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan, guitarist Jim Wilbur, bassist Laura Ballance, and drummer Jon Wurster. Formed in 1989, they were one of the ba ...

Superchunk
,
Fugazi Fugazi (; ) is an American post-hardcore Post-hardcore is a punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sound ...
, and
Sleater-Kinney Sleater-Kinney ( ) is an American punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a compo ...

Sleater-Kinney
dominated the American indie scene for most of the 1990s. One of the main indie rock movements of the 1990s was
lo-fi Lo-fi (short for low-fidelity) is a music or production quality in which elements usually regarded as imperfections of a recording or performance are audible, sometimes as a deliberate aesthetic choice. The standards of sound quality ( fidelit ...
. The movement, which focused on the recording and distribution of music on low-quality
cassette tapes The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the tape cassette, cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin, mag ...
, initially emerged in the 1980s. By 1992, Pavement, Guided by Voices and
Sebadoh Sebadoh () is an American indie rock band formed in 1986 in Northampton, Massachusetts The city of Northampton is the county seat of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 United State ...
became popular lo-fi cult acts in the United States, while subsequently artists like
Beck is a Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white recta ...

Beck
and
Liz Phair Elizabeth Clark Phair (born April 17, 1967) is an American singer-songwriter. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Phair was raised primarily in the Chicago area. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1990, she attempted to start a musical career i ...

Liz Phair
brought the aesthetic to mainstream audiences. The period also saw alternative confessional female singer-songwriters. Besides the aforementioned Liz Phair,
PJ Harvey Polly Jean Harvey (born 9 October 1969) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. Primarily known as a vocalist and guitarist, she is also proficient with a wide range of instruments. Harvey began her career in 1988 when she joined local ...

PJ Harvey
fit into this sub group.


Post-grunge

During the latter half of the 1990s, grunge was supplanted by
post-grunge Post-grunge is a derivative of grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of rock music that emerged ...
. Many post-grunge bands lacked the underground roots of grunge and were largely influenced by what grunge had become, namely "a wildly popular form of inward-looking, serious-minded hard rock."; many post-grunge bands emulated the sound and style of grunge, "but not necessarily the individual idiosyncracies of its original artists." Post-grunge was a more commercially viable genre that tempered the distorted guitars of grunge with polished, radio-ready production. Originally, post-grunge was a label used almost pejoratively on bands that emerged when grunge was mainstream and emulated the grunge sound. The label suggested that bands labelled as post-grunge were simply musically derivative, or a cynical response to an "authentic" rock movement. Bush,
Candlebox Candlebox is an American rock band from Seattle Seattle ( ) is a port, seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the county seat, seat of King County, Washington, King County, Washington (state), Washington. Seattle is t ...

Candlebox
and
Collective Soul Collective Soul is an American rock music, rock band originally from Stockbridge, Georgia. Now based in Atlanta, the group consists of lead vocalist Ed Roland, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, bassist Will Turpin, drummer Johnny Rabb, and lead gu ...
were labelled almost pejoratively as post-grunge which, according to Tim Grierson of
About.com Dotdash (formerly About.com) is an American digital media Digital media means any media (communication), communication media that operate with the use of any of various encoded machine-readable data formats. Digital media can be created, vi ...
, is "suggesting that rather than being a musical movement in their own right, they were just a calculated, cynical response to a legitimate stylistic shift in
rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no ...
." Post-grunge morphed during the late 1990s as post-grunge bands such as
Foo Fighters Foo Fighters are an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compoun ...

Foo Fighters
,
Creed A creed, also known as a confession of faith, symbol, or statement of faith, is a statement of the shared belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology ...

Creed
and
Nickelback Nickelback is a Canadian rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ...
emerged.


Post-rock

Post-rock Post-rock is a form of experimental rock Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large ...
was established by
Talk Talk Talk Talk were an English band formed in 1981, led by Mark Hollis (vocals, guitar, piano), Lee Harris (drums), and Paul Webb (bass). The group achieved early chart success with the synth-pop singles "Talk Talk (Talk Talk song), Talk Talk" (198 ...
's '' Laughing Stock'' and
Slint Slint was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemica ...
's ''
Spiderland ''Spiderland'' is the second and final studio album by the American rock band Slint. It contains six songs played over 40 minutes, and was released by Touch and Go Records on March 27, 1991. Slint's lineup at the time of recording were Brian Mc ...
'' albums, both released in 1991. Post-rock draws influence from a number of genres, including
Krautrock Krautrock (also called , German for ) is a broad genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it norma ...
,
progressive rock Progressive rock (shortened as prog; also known as classical rock or symphonic rock; sometimes conflated with art rock) is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid-to late 1960s, peak ...
, and
jazz Jazz is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human s ...
. The genre subverts or rejects rock conventions, and often incorporates electronic music. While the name of the genre was coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds in 1994 referring to '' Hex'' by the London group
Bark Psychosis Bark Psychosis are an English post-rock Post-rock is a form of experimental rock Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experi ...

Bark Psychosis
, the style of the genre was solidified by the release of '' Millions Now Living Will Never Die'' (1996) by the Chicago group
Tortoise Tortoises () are reptiles Reptiles, as most commonly defined, are the animals in the class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a ...
. Post-rock became the dominant form of experimental rock music in the 1990s and bands from the genre signed to such labels as
Thrill Jockey Thrill Jockey is an American independent record label established by former Atlantic Records A&R representative Bettina Richards and based in Chicago. History Richards started the label in 1992 with $35,000 of family and personal capital, while wo ...
, Kranky, Drag City, and
Too Pure Too Pure was a London-based independent record label formed in 1990 by Richard Roberts and Paul Cox. The label gained prominence after the release of PJ Harvey's debut album ''Dry (album), Dry'' in 1992, and subsequently found further success in ...
. A related genre,
math rock Math rock is a style of progressive Progressive may refer to: Politics * Progressivism is a political philosophy in support of social reform Political organizations * Congressional Progressive Caucus, members within the Democratic Party in ...
, peaked in the mid-1990s. In comparison to post-rock, math rock relies on more complex
time signatures The time signature (also known as meter signature, metre signature, or measure signature) is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats (pulses) are contained in each measure ( bar), and which note val ...
and intertwining phrases. By the end of the decade a backlash had emerged against post-rock due to its "dispassionate intellectuality" and its perceived increasing predictability, but a new wave of post-rock bands such as
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Godspeed You! Black Emperor (sometimes abbreviated to GY!BE) is a Canadian experimental music collective which originated in Montreal, Quebec in 1994. The group releases recordings through Constellation Records (Canada), Constellation, an indep ...

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
and
Sigur Rós Sigur Rós () is an Icelandic post-rock band from Reykjavík, active since 1994. Known for their ethereal sound, frontman Jónsi's falsetto vocals, and their use of bowed guitar, the band's music incorporates Classical music, classical and minimal ...

Sigur Rós
emerged who further expanded the genre.


Other trends

In 1993,
Smashing Pumpkins Smash may refer to: People * Smash (wrestler) (born 1959), professional wrestler * Moondog Rex, another professional wrestler who briefly wrestled as the original Smash, before being replaced by the above. * DJ Smash, DJ and music producer Art, ...
album ''
Siamese Dream ''Siamese Dream'' is the second studio album by American alternative rock Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of th ...
'' was a major commercial success. The strong influence of
heavy metal Heavy metal may refer to: *Heavy metals, a loose category of relatively dense metals and metalloids **Toxic heavy metal, any heavy metal chemical element of environmental concern *Heavy metal music, a genre of rock music **Heavy metal genres *Hea ...
and
progressive rock Progressive rock (shortened as prog; also known as classical rock or symphonic rock; sometimes conflated with art rock) is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid-to late 1960s, peak ...
on the album helped to legitimize alternative rock to mainstream radio programmers and close the gap between alternative rock and the type of rock played on American 1970s
Album Oriented Rock Album-oriented rock (AOR, originally called album-oriented radio), is an FM broadcasting, FM radio format created in the United States in the 1970s that focused on the full repertoire of Rock music, rock albums and is currently associated with cla ...
radio. In 1995,
Smashing Pumpkins Smash may refer to: People * Smash (wrestler) (born 1959), professional wrestler * Moondog Rex, another professional wrestler who briefly wrestled as the original Smash, before being replaced by the above. * DJ Smash, DJ and music producer Art, ...
also released their double album '' Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness'' which went on to sell 10 million copies in the US alone, certifying it as a Diamond record. After almost a decade in the underground,
ska punk Ska punk (also spelled ska-punk) is a fusion genre that mixes ska Ska (; ) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a c ...
, a mixture of earlier British ska and punk acts, became popular in the United States. Rancid was the first of the "Third Wave Ska Revival" acts to break. In 1996,
the Mighty Mighty Bosstones The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (informally referred to as The Bosstones) is an American ska punk Ska punk (also spelled ska-punk) is a fusion genre that mixes ska music and punk rock music together. (sometimes spelled skacore) is a subgenre of ...
,
No Doubt No Doubt is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chem ...
, Sublime, Goldfinger,
Reel Big Fish Reel Big Fish is an American ska punk band from Orange County, California. The band gained mainstream recognition in the mid-to-late 1990s, during the third wave of ska with the release of the gold certified album ''Turn the Radio Off''. Soo ...
,
Less Than Jake Less Than Jake is an American ska punk Ska punk (also spelled ska-punk) is a fusion genre that mixes ska music and punk rock music together. (sometimes spelled skacore) is a subgenre of ska punk that mixes ska with hardcore punk. Early ska punk ...
and
Save Ferris Save Ferris is an American ska punk band formed circa 1995 in Orange County, California, United States. Their name is a reference to the 1986 film ''Ferris Bueller's Day Off''. In 1995, the band began to perform underground venues in Southern Cali ...
charted or received radio exposure.


Change in sound

By the end of the decade, alternative rock's style changed due to a number of events, notably the
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...
of Nirvana's
Kurt Cobain Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, artist and musician. He was the frontman of the rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring so ...
in 1994 and Pearl Jam's lawsuit against concert venue promoter
Ticketmaster Ticketmaster Entertainment, LLC. is the world’s largest ticket marketplace and a global leader in ticketing products and services with headquarters in Los Angeles. In 2010 it merged with Live Nation Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. is an Ameri ...

Ticketmaster
, which in effect barred the group from playing many major venues around the United States. In addition to the decline of grunge bands, Britpop faded as Oasis's third album, '' Be Here Now'' (1997), received lackluster reviews and Blur began to incorporate influences from American alternative rock. A signifier of alternative rock's changes was the hiatus of the Lollapalooza festival after an unsuccessful attempt to find a headliner in 1998. In light of the festival's troubles that year, ''
Spin Spin or spinning may refer to: Businesses * or South Pacific Island Network * , an American scooter-sharing system * , a chain of table tennis lounges Computing * , 's tool for formal verification of distributed software systems * , a Mach-like ...
'' said, "Lollapalooza is as comatose as alternative rock right now". Despite a change in style, alternative rock still managed to be mainstream. Post-grunge remained commercially viable into the start of the 21st century, when bands like
Creed A creed, also known as a confession of faith, symbol, or statement of faith, is a statement of the shared belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology ...

Creed
and
Matchbox Twenty Matchbox Twenty (also known as Matchbox 20 and MB20) is an American Rock music, rock band formed in Orlando, Florida, in 1995. The group currently consists of Rob Thomas (musician), Rob Thomas (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Brian Yale (bass ...
became among the most popular rock bands in the United States. At the same time Britpop began to decline,
Radiohead Radiohead are an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, che ...

Radiohead
achieved critical acclaim with its third album ''
OK Computer ''OK Computer'' is the third studio album by English Rock music, rock band Radiohead, released on 21 May 1997 on EMI subsidiaries Parlophone and Capitol Records. Radiohead self-record producer, produced the album with Nigel Godrich, an arrange ...
'' (1997), and its follow-ups ''
Kid A ''Kid A'' is the fourth studio album by the English rock music, rock band Radiohead, released on 2 October 2000 by Parlophone. It was recorded with producer Nigel Godrich in Paris, Copenhagen, Gloucestershire and their hometown Oxford, England ...
'' (2000) and ''
Amnesiac Amnesia is a deficit in memory Memory is the faculty of the brain by which data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. If Fo ...
'' (2001), which were in marked contrast with the traditionalism of Britpop. Radiohead, along with
post-Britpop Post-Britpop is an alternative rock subgenre and is the period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, following Britpop, when the media were identifying a "new generation" or "second wave" of guitar bands influenced by acts like Oasis (band), Oasis a ...
groups like Travis and
Coldplay Coldplay are a British Rock music, rock band formed in London in 1996. The band consists of vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and pianist Chris Martin, lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, drummer Will Champion and creative director P ...

Coldplay
, were major forces in British rock in subsequent years. In the mid-1990s,
Sunny Day Real Estate Sunny Day Real Estate was an American rock band from Seattle, Washington. They were one of the early emo bands in the Midwest emo scene and helped establish the genre. In 1994, the band released their debut album ''Diary A diary is a r ...
defined the
emo Emo is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performe ...

emo
genre.
Weezer Weezer is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemi ...

Weezer
's album '' Pinkerton'' (1996) was also influential. By 2000 and on into the new decade, emo was one of the most popular rock music genres. Popular acts included the sales success of ''
Bleed American ''Bleed American'' is the fourth studio album by American rock band Jimmy Eat World Jimmy Eat World is an American rock band formed in 1993 in Mesa, Arizona Mesa ( ) is a city in Maricopa County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. It is a ...
'' by
Jimmy Eat World Jimmy Eat World is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compo ...
(2001) and
Dashboard Confessional Dashboard Confessional is an American Rock music, rock band from Boca Raton, Florida, led by singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba. The name of the band is derived from the song "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" off their debut album, ''The Swiss Army Romanc ...
's '' The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most'' (2003).. The new emo had a much more mainstream sound than in the 1990s and a far greater appeal amongst adolescents than its earlier incarnations. At the same time, use of the term "emo" expanded beyond the musical genre, becoming associated with fashion, a hairstyle and any music that expressed emotion. Emo's mainstream success continued with bands emerging in the 2000s, including multi-platinum acts such as
Fall Out Boy Fall Out Boy is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compoun ...
. and
My Chemical Romance My Chemical Romance (commonly acronymized to MCR or abbreviated to My Chem) is an American rock band from Newark, New Jersey Newark (, ) is the List of municipalities in New Jersey, most populous City (New Jersey), city in the U.S. state ...

My Chemical Romance
and mainstream groups such as
Paramore Paramore is an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, c ...
and
Panic! at the Disco Panic! at the Disco is the solo project of American musician Brendon Urie Brendon Boyd Urie (born April 12, 1987) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the lead vocalist of Panic! at the Disco, of which he is the ...

Panic! at the Disco
.


21st century

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, several alternative rock bands emerged, including
the Strokes The Strokes are an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, ...

the Strokes
,
Franz Ferdinand Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria of Austria (18 December 1863 – 28 June 1914) was the heir presumptive An heir presumptive is the person entitled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose positi ...
,
Interpol The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO; french: link=no, Organisation internationale de police criminelle), commonly known as Interpol ( , ), is an international organization An international organization (also known as an ...

Interpol
and the Rapture that drew primary inspiration from post-punk and new wave, establishing the
post-punk revival Post-punk revival, also known as garage rock revival,J. Stuessy and S. D. Lipscomb, ''Rock and roll: its History and Stylistic Development'' (London: Pearson Prentice Hall, 5th edn., 2006), , p. 451. new wave revival, and new rock revolution is a ...
movement. Preceded by the success of bands such as the Strokes and
the White Stripes The White Stripes were an American rock music, rock duo from Detroit, Michigan formed in 1997. The group consisted of Jack White (songwriter, vocals, guitar, piano, and mandolin) and his ex-wife Meg White (drums and vocals). After releasing seve ...

the White Stripes
earlier in the decade, an influx of new alternative rock bands, including several post-punk revival artists and others such as
the Killers The Killers are an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compoun ...

the Killers
, and
Yeah Yeah Yeahs The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an American indie rock band formed in New York City in 2000. The group is composed of vocalist and pianist Karen O (born Karen Lee Orzolek), guitarist and keyboardist Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase. They are compleme ...

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
, found commercial success in the early and mid 2000s. Owing to the success of these bands, ''
Entertainment Weekly ''Entertainment Weekly'' (sometimes abbreviated as ''EW'') is an American monthly entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
'' declared in 2004, "After almost a decade of domination by
rap-rock Rap rock is a fusion genre that fuses vocal and instrumental elements of hip hop music, hip hop with various forms of rock music, rock. Rap rock's most popular subgenres include rap metal and #Rapcore, rapcore, which include heavy metal music, he ...
and nu-metal bands, mainstream alt-rock is finally good again."
Thirty Seconds to Mars Thirty Seconds to Mars (commonly stylized as 30 Seconds to Mars) is an American Rock music, rock band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1998. The band consists of brothers Jared Leto (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Shannon Leto ...
experienced a notable rise in popularity during the latter half of the 2000s. American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers entered a new-found popularity in 1999 after the release of their album '' Californication'' (1999), with continued success throughout the 2000s.
Arctic Monkeys Arctic Monkeys are an English Rock music, rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards), Nick O'Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Matt Helders ...

Arctic Monkeys
were a prominent act to owe their initial commercial success to the use of
Internet social network A social networking service or SNS (sometimes called a social networking site) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relation In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship b ...
ing, with two UK No. 1 singles and ''
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not ''Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'' is the debut studio album by English rock band Arctic Monkeys Arctic Monkeys are an English Rock music, rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, ...
'' (2006), which became the fastest-selling debut album in British chart history. Most references to alternative rock music in the United States past 2010 are to the
indie rock Indie rock is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and ...
genre, a term that previously had limited usage on alternative rock channels and media. Radio Stations in the 2010s have been changing formats away from alternative rock, but this is mostly motivated by conglomeration efforts coupled with advertisers seeking more Top 40/Top 100 stations for sales. While there have been conflicting opinions on the relevance of alternative rock to mainstream audiences beyond 2010,
Dave Grohl David Eric Grohl (born January 14, 1969) is an American musician. He rose to fame as the drummer for the grunge Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is an alternative rock genre and subculture that emerged during the in the Ame ...

Dave Grohl
commented on an article from the December 29, 2013 issue of the ''
New York Daily News The New York ''Daily News'', officially titled the ''Daily News'', is an American newspaper based in New York City. It was founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson as the ''Illustrated Daily News''. It was the first U.S. daily printed in Tabl ...

New York Daily News
'' stating that rock is dead: "speak for yourself... rock seems pretty alive to me." Contemporary mainstream alternative rock bands tend to fuse musical elements of
hard rock Hard rock or heavy rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These f ...

hard rock
,
electronica Electronica is both a broad group of electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter ...

electronica
, hip-hop, indie and punk while placing emphasis on keyboards and guitar. In 2010s, British rock band
Muse In ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and Cult (religious practice), cult practi ...
gained a worldwide recognition with their album '' The Resistance'' and '' Drones'' which won Grammy Awards. American alternative duo Twenty One Pilots blurs the lines between genres including Alternative hip hop, hip hop, emo, rock music, rock,
indie pop Indie pop (also typeset as indie-pop or indiepop) is a music genre and subculture that combines guitar pop with DIY ethic DIY ethic is the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. The " do it yo ...
and reggae and has managed to break numerous records. They became the first alternative act to have two concurrent top five singles in the United States while their fourth studio album ''Blurryface'' (2015) was the first album in history to have every song receive at least a Gold Music recording sales certification, certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Twenty One Pilots also became the first rock act to have a song reach a billion streams on Spotify. Their breakout hit single "Stressed Out (Twenty One Pilots song), Stressed Out" was the twenty-fifth song to achieve the rare feat of at least one billion plays on the Streaming media, streaming platform. The milestone comes at a time when music genres represented on streaming platforms like Spotify are fairly homogeneous, being dominated by genres such as hip hop, Electronic dance music, EDM, and adult contemporary-styled pop.


See also

*List of alternative rock artists *''Spin Alternative Record Guide''


Radio formats

*Adult album alternative *Classic alternative *Modern rock


References


Bibliography

*Azerrad, Michael. ''Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana''. Doubleday, 1994. . *Azerrad, Michael. ''Our Band Could Be Your Life, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991''. Little Brown and Company, 2001. . *Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk"
AllMusic AllMusic (previously known as All Music Guide and AMG) is an American online music database. It catalogs more than three million album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on (CD), , , or another medium. ...

AllMusic
. Retrieved May 20, 2006. *Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. [ "British Alternative Rock"].
AllMusic AllMusic (previously known as All Music Guide and AMG) is an American online music database. It catalogs more than three million album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on (CD), , , or another medium. ...

AllMusic
. Retrieved May 20, 2006. *Harris, John. ''Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock''. Da Capo Press, 2004. . *Lyons, James. ''Selling Seattle: Representing Contemporary Urban America''. Wallflower, 2004. . *Reynolds, Simon. ''Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984''. Penguin Group, Penguin, 2006. . * Wendy Fonarow, Fonarow, Wendy. ''Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music''. Wesleyan, 2006. . * ''Noise From The Underground : A History of Alternative Rock'', by Michael Lavine and Pat Blashill. Simon & Schuster, Simon and Schuster Publishing, 1996. .


External links

*[ AllMusic article for alternative rock] {{Authority control Alternative rock, 20th-century music genres 21st-century music genres 1980s in music 1990s in music 2000s in music 1990s fads and trends 2000s fads and trends British rock music genres British styles of music American styles of music American rock music genres