100 Best Alternative Bands of the 90s – Complete List

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Alternative music was at its peak in the 1990s, with dozens of bands achieving commercial success.

This list compiles 100 of the best alternative bands from that decade. It is by no means exhaustive, but it offers a comprehensive overview of the era’s most influential and innovative artists.

From grunge to punk to Britpop, these groups helped shape the sound of alternative music and define the decade.


Top 10 Best Alternative Bands of the 90s

The alternative rock movement of the 1990s was a breath of fresh air, bringing with it new sounds and new ways of thinking about music.

While some bands from that era have gone on to become mainstream successes, others remain firmly rooted in the underground.

Here are 10 of the best alternative bands from the 1990s that helped shaped the genre.

Note: This list is based purely on the highest album sales worldwide.

  1. Nirvana
  2. Pearl Jam
  3. Green Day
  4. Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  5. Oasis
  6. Weezer
  7. Alice in Chains
  8. Muse
  9. Soundhgarden
  10. Radiohead

Honorable Mentions

  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Live
  • Foo Fighters
  • Rage Against The Machine
  • Nine Inch Nails

90s Alternative Rock Bands

While alternative rock was mostly relegated to the underground in the 80s, by the end of the 90s it had become one of the most popular genres in America. This was due in part to MTV’s “120 Minutes” show, which helped expose these bands to a wider audience.

  • R.E.M.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Pixies
  • Green Day
  • Muse
  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Foo Fighters
  • The White Stripes
  • Queens of the Stone Age

Female/Girl Alternative Bands of the 90s

Though often overlooked, the 1990s was a decade that saw an explosion of powerful female voices in alternative rock music.

Bands like Hole, Bikini Kill, and L7 brought a new level of badassery to the airwaves, and their influence can still be felt today. These women were unafraid to speak their minds, and they weren’t afraid to rock out hard.

They showed the world that girls could be just as loud, aggressive, and in-your-face as any guy on stage.

In a time when it was still considered somewhat taboo for women to be in bands, these groups helped pave the way for future generations of female musicians.

  • Garbage
  • The Cranberries
  • No Doubt
  • Bikini Kill
  • Sleater-Kinney
  • The Breeders
  • Hole
  • L7
  • Metric
  • Evanescence

Early, Mid, Late 90s Alternative Rock Bands

The early 90s was a time of experimentation for alternative rock bands, as they tried to find their place in the new music landscape.

Grunge emerged as a dominant sound in the early-mid 90s, and bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains became popular overnight.

As grunge began to fade in popularity near the end of the decade, alternative rock bands began to experiment with other genres, including indie rock, funk metal, and electronica. And by the end of the 1990s, alternative rock had become one of the most popular genres in America.

The Early 90s

  • Stone Temple Pilots
  • Pearl Jam
  • Weezer
  • Incubus
  • Veruca Salt

The Mid 90s

  • Foo Fighters
  • Garbage
  • Sunny Day Real Estate
  • Skunk Anansie
  • 3 Doors Down

The Late 90s

  • A Perfect Circle
  • Coldplay
  • Metric
  • Hot Hot Heat

90s Alternative Bands with Female Singers

Though alternative rock was initially dominated by male artists, women soon began to make their mark on the genre.

Bands like The Cranberries, Hole, and Veruca Salt ( Fronted with female singers ) had a unique sound that set them apart from other artists at the time.

These women were not afraid to express themselves through their music, and they quickly gained a following among fans of alternative rock. Their songs spoke to a generation of young people who were searching for something different.

  • Garbage
  • The Cranberries
  • Hole
  • No Doubt
  • The Breeders
  • Metric
  • Evanescence
  • Echobelly
  • The Cardigans
  • Elastica

90s Canadian Alternative Bands

Alternative music in Canada has always been eclectic, drawing on a variety of influences from punk to folk to country.

The 90s was no exception, and bands like 3 Doors Down and Nickelback were just starting to make their mark on the scene.

However, it was bands like Sloan and the Tragically Hip who really set the standard for Canadian alternative rock.

  • The New Pornographers
  • Moist
  • Hot Hot Heat
  • Our Lady Peace
  • Sloan
  • Nickelback
  • Three Days Grace
  • Finger Eleven
  • Sum 41
  • Billy Talent

90s Indie Rock Alternative Bands

90s Indie rock bands were often characterized by their raw and unrefined sound. They eschewed traditional rock sounds in favor of lo-fi guitars and jangly rhythms. Many indie bands also wrote lyrics that tackled social and political issues.

While some of these bands never achieved mainstream success, they developed a large and loyal following among alternative music fans.

Besides, Indie rock also went on to influence many subsequent rock bands, including those that achieved mainstream success.

  1. Stereophonics
  2. The Strokes
  3. Modest Mouse
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. Blur
  6. Yo La Tengo
  7. Snow Patrol
  8. Weezer
  9. Built to Spill
  10. Bright Eyes

90s British Alternative Bands

In the 1990s, British alternative bands were all the rage. Some of the most popular bands included Oasis, Radiohead, and Blur.

These bands brought a new sound to the music industry and gained a large following among teens and young adults. They were often called “the Britpop bands” because of their British origins.

Many of these bands started out as underground groups but eventually achieved mainstream success.

Oasis, in particular, was one of the most popular British rock bands of the 1990s. Their albums (such as “Definitely Maybe” and “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”) sold millions of copies worldwide.

  • Blur
  • Oasis
  • Radiohead
  • Bloc Party
  • Gorillaz
  • Kasabian
  • Muse
  • Keane
  • The Libertines
  • Electrafixion

90s Christian Alternative Rock Bands

In the early 1990s, a number of alternative rock bands with Christian members or themes emerged. They were often lumped in with the “Christian rock” genre, even if they didn’t necessarily identify themselves as such. These bands included The Prayer Chain, Jars of Clay, and The Choir, among others.

Many of these groups were heavily influenced by alternative and grunge music from the Pacific Northwest. They crafted dark and introspective songs that dealt with spiritual themes and questions. Their lyrics were often more nuanced and complex than those found in traditional Christian music.

Despite their popularity among Christian audiences, some of these bands never really achieved mainstream success. They remained on the periphery of the music industry, playing small clubs and theaters to devoted fans. Nevertheless, they helped to redefine Christian rock and paved the way for later bands like Switchfoot and Relient K.

  • Skillet
  • Thousand Foot Krutch
  • Switchfoot
  • Third Day
  • Sanctus Real
  • The Violet Burning
  • David Crowder Band
  • Relient K
  • Poor Old Lu
  • Lifehouse

American Alternative Rock Bands of 90s

Some of the biggest names in American alternative rock from the 1990s include Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

These groups helped to define the genre with their unique sounds and groundbreaking albums. They also inspired a generation of young musicians who would go on to create their own alternative bands.

Alternative rock enjoyed mainstream success throughout the 1990s, with many of the aforementioned groups achieving commercial success with their albums.

  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Nirvana
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Pearl Jam
  • Foo Fighters
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Mourning Widows
  • Maggie’s Dream
  • Muzzle

90s Pop Rock Alternative Bands

The alternative pop/rock scene of the 1990s was a time of great creativity and growth for the genre. This was the time when alternative bands started incorporating pop elements into their music, resulting in a more mainstream sound and reaching a wider audience.

Some of the most popular alternative pop-rock bands of the 1990s include The Cranberries, Green Day, The Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20. These bands had massive hits with songs like “Dreams,” “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “Iris” and “3 A.M.”

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers
  2. Green Day
  3. The Cranberries
  4. The Goo Goo Dolls
  5. Linkin Park
  6. Blink-182
  7. Muse
  8. Blink-182
  9. The Strokes
  10. Jimmy Eat World

FAQs

What is Alternative music?

Alternative music is a term used to describe music that doesn’t fit into mainstream genres. It can be hard to define because alternative music encompasses so many different styles.

Generally, alternative music is more experimental and eclectic than mainstream pop or rock music. It often includes elements of indie rock, punk, and folk music. Alternative bands often have a DIY ethic, and they’re not afraid to push boundaries musically or lyrically.

What bands are considered 90s alternative?

The definition of alternative music is difficult to nail down, as the genre has evolved over the years. Generally, alternative music is considered to be any genre that doesn’t fit into mainstream radio formats. This can include punk, grunge, metal, and indie rock.

Some of the most notable alternative bands from the 90s include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. These bands helped define the grunge movement and brought alternative music into the mainstream.

Other popular alternative bands from the 90s include The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Beck, Weezer, and The Offspring.

What Alternative bands were popular in the 90?

Some of the most popular alternative bands in the 1990s were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. These bands brought alternative music into the mainstream and helped to popularize the genre. Other notable alternative bands from the 1990s include Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, and Blur.

Is Alternative music rock?

Alternative music is a genre of music that typically features offbeat or non-mainstream sounds and lyrics. The term “alternative” has been used to describe various styles of rock music since the late 1970s.

While the term originally referred to punk rock, it has since been used to describe a wide range of genres, including grunge, indie rock, and emo. Many people consider alternative music to be rock music, but there are some who believe that it is not a true form of rock.

Some fans of alternative music argue that the term “alternative” is nothing more than a marketing ploy created by major record labels in an attempt to sell albums to teenagers who are not interested in mainstream pop or rock.

Is Alternative music the same as indie?

There is no one answer to this question as the term “indie” can be quite subjective. However, in general, alternative music refers to styles of music that are outside of the mainstream, while indie music is often associated with independent artists who control their own recording and distribution.

Alternative music can encompass a wide range of genres, from punk and metal to folk and country. Indie music, on the other hand, is typically more eclectic, incorporating elements of various genres into a unique sound.

While there are some crossover bands and artists that blur the lines between alternative and indie, for the most part they are two distinct categories.

Alternative music typically has a grittier sound and is often heavier or darker in tone, while indie music is typically more mellow and lighthearted.