If you were a music fan coming of age in the 90’s, you were having a blast. Nirvana‘s success effectively killed hair-farmer metal and boring mainstream rock. In its place was a new generation of artists ready to etch their marks on the veneer of culture. Many of those names—Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins—have been accepted into the canon of alternative rock. But there were thousands of unknown ’90s bands who were doing interesting things. This APTV video is dedicated to 10 who, for whatever reason, didn’t get the accolades or bank balances a select few did.
Alternative Press turned 35 this year. Obviously, we had a ringside seat for the proceedings. There was so much happening in the world’s music scenes, it was hard to keep up. Sure, there were genres at play. The important thing was that the success of a few bands opened a door to some greater aesthetic consciousness. We wouldn’t have to deal with the worst excesses of FM rock or the aforementioned poodle-metal dudes. However, major labels and corporate radio lackeys sold the country a sanitized, flavor-free version of “alternative.” Which meant a lot of relatively unknown ’90s bands still had no chance of breaking through. No matter how great their songs and ideas were.
Our list of patently (or partially) unknown ’90s rockers has feet on and off the beaten path. A Britpop band that never lunched with Blur or Oasis. Deranged Japanese shamen. Hardcore dudes crossing over into alterna-metal. Scottish noise-pop. A maverick post-rock band. The one thing all these bands have in common was that they really didn’t sound the same.
Which was precisely the point. The concept of “alternative” was never a proscribed genre. It was an attitude that was rich with possibilities. We hope that this list inspires people to look back at that era not as a nostalgia trip but as something else altogether. That is, a mine to discover what you may have very well missed.