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Alternative rock

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Alternative rock

Timeline of alternative rock | Alternative country | Britpop | Grunge music | Industrial music | Alternative dance | Alternative metal | Christian alternative rock | Dream pop | Gothic rock | Indie | Lo-fi music | Madchester | Math rock | Noise pop | Noise rock | Paisley Underground | Post-punk revival | Post-rock | Sadcore | Shoegazing | Space rock | Twee pop

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Alternative rock
Stylistic origins: Punk, Post-punk, Hardcore
Cultural origins: early 1980s United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums
Mainstream popularity: Limited, except grunge in the US and Indie & Britpop in the UK
Derivative forms: Indie - Grunge
Britpop - College rock - Dream pop - Gothic rock - Grunge - Indie pop - Indie rock - Noise pop - Paisley Underground - Post-rock - Shoegazing - Twee pop
Fusion genres
Alternative metal - Gothabilly - Industrial rock - Madchester - Post-punk revival - Riot Grrrl
Other topics
History - Indie (music)

The terms alternative rock and alternative music[1] were coined in the 1980s to describe punk rock-inspired bands which didn't fit into the mainstream genres of the time. At times it was used as catch-all phrase for rock music from underground artists in the 1980s and, ironically, mainstream rock music in general in the 1990s and 2000s. More specifically, it is made up mostly of genres that appeared in the 1980s and became popular or well known by the 1990s, such as indie rock, grunge, gothic rock, and college rock. Most alternative bands were unified by their collective debt to the style and/or ethos of punk, which laid the groundwork for underground and alternative music in the 1970s. Though the genre is considered to be rock, some of its genres were influenced by folk music, reggae, techno and jazz music among other genres.



In the early 1980s a handful of college radio stations, like Danbury, Connecticut's WXCI, and WPRB in Princeton, NJ, and Brown University's WBRU broadcast alternative rock in the United States. Most commercial stations ignored the genre. It was played extensively in the UK, particularly by DJs such as John Peel (who championed alternative music on BBC Radio 1), Richard Skinner, and Annie Nightingale. American college DJs such as Jon Solomon of WPRB echoed the alternative wave as early as 1986 on his daily radio shows. As such, alternative rock became more popular in the mid-1980s, it spread widely to other college radio stations, leading to the use of the name "college rock" in the United States. In the UK, it became the predominantly popular form of rock for young people, and many alternative bands had chart success. Finally, in the late 1980s in North America, commercial stations such as Boston, Massachusetts's WFNX began playing alternative rock. Outside of North America, Double J, a government-funded radio station in Sydney, Australia and the Melbourne based independent radio station 3RRR began broadcasted alternative rock throughout the 1980s. In 1990, Double J, now known as Triple J, began broadcasting nationally, albeit with what some perceived as a "watered down" format.

Notable alternative bands of the early to mid 1980s include R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Replacements, and Hüsker Dü from the United States, and New Order, The Smiths, The Cure, and The Jesus and Mary Chain from the United Kingdom. As the decade progressed, various alternative movements emerged and gained popularity. The late 80s saw the rise of indie, shoegazing, and Madchester in the UK, while the US underground scene and college radio were dominated by college rock bands like Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, and Throwing Muses as well as post-punk survivors from Britain.

Although these groups never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on the generation of musicians who came of age in the 80s. Alternative music and the rebellious, DIY ethic it espoused became one of the inspirations for grunge, an alternative sub-genre created in the 80s that launched a large movement in mainstream music in the early 90s. The year 1991 was to become a significant year for alternative rock and in particular grunge, with the successful release of Nirvana's second and most successful album Nevermind, Pearl Jam's breakthrough debut Ten, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Led by the popularity of Nirvana, the grunge movement took alternative rock into the mainstream. While "alternative" was simply an umbrella term for a diverse collection of underground rock bands, Nirvana and similar groups gave it a reputation for being a distinct style of guitar based rock which combined elements of punk and metal; their creation met with considerable commercial success.

By the mid-90s, alternative was synonymous with grunge in the eyes of the mass media and the general public, and a supposed "alternative culture" was being marketed to the mainstream in much the same way as the hippie counterculture had in the 1960s (the existence of any such culture is debatable, and is often seen by some fans of the music to have been a creation of the media). Thus, many wildly popular post-grunge bands such as Third Eye Blind and matchbox twenty were labeled as "alternative" rock. Nevertheless, alternative bands who were leery of broad commercial success developed indie rock, a new genre that espoused a return to the original ethos of alternative music.

In the first decade of the 21st century, mainstream rock has continued to evolve beyond alternative's 80s roots and low-fidelity ethos. Today's most popular rock music acts, typified by youth-oriented modern rock groups such as Linkin Park, incorporate complex electronic beats and highly produced albums, but owe a heavy debt to their metal and grunge influences. In spite of being influenced by alternative rock, many fans of the genre do not see these bands as being alternative, but instead as part of the nu metal genre.

In 2005 the sound of alternative rock returned to the mainstream with the popularity of indie rock and post-punk revival artists such as Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand. This revival has caused a big stir in the rock music community and has opened the door for the renewed interest in such classic alternative bands as New Order and The Creatures.



Song samples

See also


  1.   The term "alternative music" is particularly favored over "alternative rock" in British English (although the boundaries of the genre are slightly blurred with the inclusion of electronic music and hip-hop), while "alternative rock" is favored in American English. The term underground music is sometimes also used, though more often used in reference to the music of little-known artists. Additionally, "indie" is commonly used in the UK as a synonym for alternative rock.

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Alternative rock
Alternative metal - Britpop - C86 - College rock - Dream pop - Gothic rock - Grebo - Grunge - Indie pop/Indie rock - Industrial rock - Lo-fi - Madchester - Math rock - Noise pop - Paisley Underground - Post-punk revival - Post-rock - Riot Grrrl - Sadcore - Shoegazing - Space rock - Twee pop
Other topics
History - Indie (music)

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