Alternative rock came from underground music in Britain and America in the 1980s. Both countries took different musical routes to get there but together they came together to make alternative rock the bastard child of rock music. Come the 1990s Alternative rock became a popular genre with huge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis and many more.
Alternative rock is all rock that just didn’t fit into the standard rock genres. As time went along they were labelled with a sub-genre but these sub-genres were still labelled under ‘Alternative rock’. They were sub-genres because some of them only last a few years but made a huge impact on the rock music scene.
Some of these sub-genres included:
They all had their own impact on rock music and the music industry. So lets talk about these sub-genres, where they originated from, where they took alternative music, and some of the big impacting artist in them.
Grunge & Post Grunge
Grunge is a very special sub genre as it was so small at its start. It all started in the city of Seattle, a city at the time cut off from the rest of the music scene in America and was also relatively poor with a huge crash in their job market.
People really needed a release from how bad things were in the city and an underground genre that was quite heavy and dirty sounding came about. This was grunge.
Taking influences from metal, punk and pop it had its own style. It used the slow tempo of metal, the verse chorus style from pop and the simplicity of punk. It had its main characteristic from its distorted, fuzzy, sludgy guitar town that was just raw in its own way.
Grunge was a very simplistic genre but a hard-hitting one! With huge bands coming out in its small life span of no more than 7-8 years. Such bands as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and many more!
Grunge hit it huge in the early 90s with albums like Nirvanas Nevermind selling huge number worldwise and what was once a small underground scene became a worldwide phenomenon! But alas it came to a quick end, after Kurt Cobains death in 1994, Grunge bands struggled to keep popular and it went into decline. And soon it died away.
This left an opening and from the ashes came Post grunge succeeding the place of grunge with bands like Foo Fighters (with Nickleback, Audioslave and Stone Temple pilots leading the way. Bands from the grunge era continued to make albums with huge success even to this day like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
Post-Grunge was a lot like grunge in its sound and simplicity but in its own making its own mark with a softer distortion tone that made it a lot more pleasing to the consumer. The commercial success of Post-Grunge was great and there are still bands going today even though post-grunge supposedly ended in the late 90s.
Britpop and Indie
Indie is a term that gets used in the place of alternative rock but it is in a way its own genre and can fall under the ‘alternative’ branding. Indie is just a shortened version of saying Independent, and this was where independent labels released their own rock music into the mainstream. It wasn’t until the 1990s where Indie finally took off and was regularly in the charts.
Indie has many sub genres under its belt and fuses a lot of genres together to create some interesting sounds and genres; you find there is a big use of synthesisers/keyboards in indie music creating some intricate sounds.
Indie hit it big in the 90s with bands such as REM, Pulp, Suede, Radiohead to name a few paving the way for Indie.
Indie continued its commercial success right through the 90s and continued to expand in the amount of subgenres it held, come the 2000s there were bands still breaking the charts with its unique but diverse style. Today in 2014, we can still find indie floating about the charts with small bands having an odd single making the top 10 like Foals or The 1975.
But with indie there is a big crossover of bands that also fall under the ‘Britpop’ category, Britpop is a genre that was influenced a lot by British guitar music such as The Smiths and The Beatles.
As you can tell from the name Britpop came from the UK and they were usually full bands, focusing on a very English accent in the vocals and using a lot of guitar in the music. Later on it started experimenting with synthesizers in the music.
The main players of Britpop music would be Oasis and their song Wonderwall has became a song that almost every cover band ever has had in their set list.
The image of most Britpop Artists would be to take the British working class, this was done to make the bands fell equal to the consumer so people could relate to them and bands used the Union jack as a symbol for the genre.
‘Ska-punk’ was seen as the 3rd revival of the popular jazz style ‘ska’. It started in the 1970s but simmered through the 1980s and come the early 90s it hit mainstream success.
The punk side of ska punk brought faster tempos and distorted guitar into the jazzy style. There were use of brass and woodwind instruments in this and it hit commercial success with bands like No Doubt, but earlier you had
bands like Madness and the Special leading the way.
There was a large use of clean punk vocals over the top of a very jazz influenced instrumentation, this uniques genre managed some great songs and was used in different aspect of media including film.
So we can see from this that alternative rock had many genres within it and even them genres had more subgenres. It was truly just a name given to music that didn’t fit in any genre labeling and through time bands and musicians managed to break the alternative barrier and find a genre of their own under the Alternative rock branding.