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100 Best Alternative Rock Bands

Updated on May 12, 2020
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over four years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

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The alternative rock scene emerged through the independent underground music movement of the ‘70s. The genre gained popularity in the ‘80s and since has become one of the most popular music forms encompassing DIY ethos. A number of bands and artists with an eclectic music style have emerged through the ranks of alternative culture. Although alternate music is often identified with non-mainstream, some of the most influential bands in rock history are associated with the genre.

What is Alternative Rock?

A category of rock music, alternative rock is a musical style that incorporates distinctly different styles and culture norms in terms of sound, regional roots and social context. Over the years the term alternative is used as an umbrella term to describe artists and bands from the independent, underground or non-commercial music scene. The alternative scene has evolved into a diversified sound through subgenres such as indie rock, grunge, shoegaze and noise pop. Although alternative rock has achieved far less mainstream success in comparison to other rock genres, a number of bands from the alternative movement have a cult following globally.

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Usage of the Term Alternative in Music

The term alternative rock started being used commonly in the ‘90s. However, in the ‘80s alternative music forms identified with different sorts of music that included new wave, jangle pop, post-punk, and college rock. Alternative music became hugely popular with the college radio circuit and depended heavily on college students for music promotion on college radio.

Alternative charts first made their presence in magazines and fanzines in the early ‘80s. By 1988 Billboard introduced ‘Alternative Songs’ a charting system that featured purely alternative artists. Usage of the term alternative broadened considerably with the dawn of the ‘90s. Although at first the term alternative was intentionally used to refer to non-mainstream rock bands, over the years it’s paradoxically become a commercially marketable entity in mainstream.

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Characteristics of Alternative Rock

The music and lyrics in alternative rock are diverse. Typically the music comprises of chiming riffs, power chords, fuzz tone buzz, drums, sequenced sounds, and sound of feedback. Lyrically songs in this genre stem from varied concepts. Some of the commonly addressed topics through lyrical themes include social concerns such as depression, drug use, environmentalism, addiction, and suicide. The socio economic strains people deal with in their everyday lives are reflected thoughtfully in lyrics of certain songs. Different aspects associated with love, hate, breakup, anger, betrayal, and conflict have been brought to life through confessional lyrics by alternative bands.

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Alternative Rock in the ‘80s

Although alternative rock emerged big in the ‘80s, it remained an underground phenomenon. A number of bands in this decade were featured on independent record labels. While alternative rock bands built a cult following in the underground music movement, many bands failed to land recording contracts with major record labels. While a number of alternative bands in this decade remained unsigned, these bands came up with innovative ways to promote their music.

A number of alternative bands would fund their own albums from money they would make from touring and playing underground gigs. Many alternative rock bands earned an epic status from word of mouth publicity, airplay at college radio stations, and reviews in fanzines. Majority of bands sold their low-budget albums at small music concerts and underground gigs at clubs. While the ‘80s never generated spectacular album sales for alternative musicians it paved the way for their success in later years.

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Alternative Rock in the ‘90s

The alternative music scene reached its height of popularity in the ‘90s. The commercial viability of the genre grew significantly with the popularity of grunge. A number of alternative rock bands had breakthrough success in this decade. Music television channels, MTV in particular showcased alternative bands in new light. Furthermore, commercial radio stations started playing singles of alternative rock bands, thereby helping this form of music reach a wider audience. Many alternative bands signed recording contracts with major record labels. The Britpop scene, emo scene, and indie rock scene that flourished through stylistic origins of alternative rock evolved significantly in the later decades.

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Alternative Rock Post 2000

Since the year 2000, a number of bands in the alternative rock genre have evolved with diverse post-punk and new wave influences. Many new alternative rock bands with distinctive pop-rock and indie sensibilities have had mainstream success with their albums. Post 2010 a number of alternative bands are fusing diverse styles of indie, punk, hip-hop, emo, hard rock and electronic in their music.

A number of emerging alternative acts are promoting their music in a big way on video streaming channels. YouTube in particular has paved new beginnings for unsigned alternative bands. While there has been severe criticism of stylistic origins and formats of alternative rock changing their relevance in favor mainstream success, the core elements that define the movement remain true to its roots.

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The lines below showcase an epic list of alternative bands from different decades. If you love all things alternative you will definitely have a lot to say. Feel free with your views and opinion in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Alternative Rock Bands

  1. R.E.M.
  2. Nirvana
  3. Radiohead
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers
  5. Pearl Jam
  6. U2
  7. Coldplay
  8. Sonic Youth
  9. Smashing Pumpkins
  10. Oasis

Best Alternative Rock Bands #11—20

11. Pixies

12. Foo Fighters

13. The Sugarcubes

14. Mudhoney

15. Dinosaur Jr.

16. Husker Du

17. Muse

18. Pavement

19. Jane’s Addiction

20. Siouxsie and the Banshees

Best Alternative Rock Bands #21—40

21. The Replacements

22. Blur

23. 10,000 Maniacs

24. They Might Be Giants

25. Superchunk

26. The Dream Syndicate

27. Skunk Anansie

28. Keane

29. The Smiths

30. My Bloody Valentine

31. Violent Femmes

32. The Cure

33. Soundgarden

34. Thirty Seconds to Mars

35. Jimmy Eat World

36. The Killers

37. Collective Soul

38. No Doubt

39. Linkin Park

40. Fugazi

Best Alternative Rock Bands #41—60

41. The Stone Roses

42. Suede

43. Green Day

44. The White Stripes

45. Rage Against the Machine

46. Incubus

47. Dashboard Confessional

48. My Chemical Romance

49. The Strokes

50. Camper Van Beethoven

51. Stone Temple Pilots

52. Primal Scream

53. Imagine Dragons

54. Arctic Monkeys

55. Queens of the Stone Age

56. Blink-182

57. Paramore

58. The Jesus Lizard

59. The Cranberries

60. Nine Inch Nails

Best Alternative Rock Bands #61—80

61. Gorillaz

62. Twenty One Pilots

63. Fall Out Boy

64. Ben Folds Five

65. Matchbox Twenty

66. Travis

67. Pulp

68. Beastie Boys

69. Snow Patrol

70. Franz Ferdinand

71. Depeche Mode

72. Bush

73. Audioslave

74. Panic! At the Disco

75. The Jesus and Mary Chain

76. Arcade Fire

77. Counting Crows

78. The Offspring

79. 3 Doors Down

80. Lifehouse

Best Alternative Rock Bands #81—100

81. Three Days Grace

82. Nickelback

83. Blue October

84. AFI

85. The Fray

86. Cake

87. Sublime

88. Barenaked Ladies

89. The Cardigans

90. The Wallflowers

91. Garbage

92. Biffy Clyro

93. Finger Eleven

94. Modest Mouse

95. The Dandy Warhols

96. Crash Test Dummies

97. The All-American Rejects

98. Butthole Surfers

99. Live

100. The Boo Radleys

  • The Feelies
  • Big Black
  • The Bongos
  • Rites of Spring
  • Cocteau Twins
  • The Afghan Whigs
  • New Order
  • Happy Mondays
  • Deep Blue Something
  • Chumbawamba
  • Sleater-Kinney
  • Candlebox
  • Public Image Ltd
  • 4 Non Blondes
  • Elastica
  • A Perfect Circle
  • The Wedding Present
  • Fishbone
  • Sebadoh
  • Babes in Toyland
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • The Black Keys
  • Cage the Elephant
  • Fastball
  • 311
  • Bloodhound Gang
  • Interpol
  • Fuel
  • Blind Melon
  • Vertical Horizon
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • The Calling
  • The Alarm
  • Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Jack’s Mannequin
  • Sugar Ray
  • Plain White T’s
  • Better than Ezra
  • Third Eye Blind
  • Crowded House
  • Supergrass
  • Placebo
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Everclear
  • Goo Goo Dolls
  • Transvision Vamp
  • Our Lady Peace
  • Poets of the Fall
  • The Verve
  • Slowdive

  • Lostprophets
  • The Church
  • Hole
  • Kula Shaker
  • Screaming Trees
  • OneRepublic
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Gin Blossoms
  • James
  • Super Furry Animals
  • Elbow
  • Circa Survive
  • Sixpence None the Richer
  • Letters to Cleo
  • Jack off Jill
  • Hootie & the Blowfish
  • Smash Mouth
  • Veruca Salt
  • Ocean Colour Scene
  • Throwing Muses
  • Grouplove
  • The Lightning Seeds
  • Kings of Leon
  • TISM
  • Curve
  • Toadies
  • Mazzy Star
  • VAST
  • Spacemen 3
  • Creed
  • Band of Horses
  • The Thrash Can Sinatras
  • Wilco
  • Hinder
  • Portishead
  • The La’s
  • Semisonic
  • The The
  • Ride
  • Meat Puppets
  • Tonic
  • Flyleaf
  • Soul Asylum
  • Dead Letter Circus
  • Twin Atlantic
  • Primitive Radio Gods
  • The Psychedelic Furs
  • Yellowcard
  • The Rapture
  • Jars of Clay

  • Sloan
  • Pulled Apart By Horses
  • Redd Kross
  • OK Go
  • Texas
  • LCD Soundsystem
  • The National
  • The Soup Dragons
  • Failure
  • Maximo Park
  • The House of Love
  • Razorlight
  • Brand New
  • Reef
  • Ween
  • Let’s Active
  • Hundred Reasons
  • Lush
  • Quietdrive
  • Portugal. The Man
  • The Fall
  • Daughtry
  • The Smithereens
  • Mobile
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Magic Dirt
  • Sugar
  • Royal Blood
  • Violent Soho
  • New Radicals
  • Swervedriver
  • The Presidents of the United States of America
  • Fountains of Wayne
  • Starsailor
  • The Raconteurs
  • Silverchair
  • Madina lake
  • The Breeders
  • Love and Rockets
  • The Neighborhood
  • Wheatus
  • Feeder
  • The Sundays
  • Weezer
  • The Vines
  • Temple of the Dog
  • Death Cab For Cutie
  • Marcy Playground
  • Hoobastank
  • The Pretenders

  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • The Charlatans
  • Self
  • Kent
  • Enter Shikari
  • Taking Back Sunday
  • Phantom Planet
  • Manic Street Preachers
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • Nada Surf
  • Pale Saints
  • The Refreshments
  • Matthew Good Band
  • Shed Seven
  • Go Radio
  • Possum Dixon
  • Filter
  • Soul Coughing
  • Nothing But Thieves
  • INXS
  • Mallory Knox
  • Sister Hazel
  • Hum
  • Republica
  • Blood Red Shoes
  • Morphine
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Rentals
  • The Lemonheads
  • Gomez
  • Superdrag
  • Switchfoot
  • Midnight Oil
  • Helium
  • The Posies
  • Stereophonics
  • Lit
  • The Hives
  • New Found Glory
  • The Fratellis
  • The Subways
  • Mad Season
  • Simple Plan
  • Boys Like Girls
  • Kasabian
  • Mutemath
  • Guster
  • Mando Diao
  • Jet
  • The Music

Which is the Best Alternative Rock Band?

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© 2020 Ansel Pereira

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