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The term “alternative” was first used to describe music that was outside of the mainstream in the 1980s. At the time, radio stations and record labels were dominated by pop and rock acts, leaving little room for up-and-coming artists who didn’t fit into these genres. These artists were forced to find alternative means of distribution, hence the term “alternative.”

Alternative Rock has produced some of the most influential and groundbreaking bands in music history. From the angst-ridden grunge of Nirvana to the experimental sounds of Radiohead, the genre has pushed the boundaries of what is possible in rock music.

Here are our countdown for The 10 Best Alternative Rock Bands Of All Time:


10. Talking Heads

Formed in 1975, Talking Heads were one of the most innovative and eclectic bands of the new wave era. Led by the frontman David Byrne, the band’s fusion of punk, funk, and world music influences set them apart from their peers. With classics like “Psycho Killer” and “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads left an indelible mark on the alternative rock landscape.


9. R.E.M.

R.E.M. were one of the pioneers of alternative rock in the 1980s. Their jangly guitars and literate lyrics made them a critical favorite and paved the way for the explosion of alternative rock in the 1990s. With hits like “Losing My Religion” and Man on the Moon,” R.E.M. became one of the biggest bands in the world, but never lost their underground essence.


8. Pavement

Pavement were the embodiment of slacker cool in the 1990s. Led by the enigmatic Stephen Malkmus, the band’s ramshackle approach to songwriting and lo-fi production made them an indie rock favorite. With albums like “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” Pavement proved that you didn’t need slick production to make great rock music.


7. Joy Division/ New Order

Joy Division’s dark and brooding post-punk was a major influence on the alternative rock that followed in the 1980s and 1990s. After the death of lead singer Ian Curtis, the remaining members of the band formed New Order, who took the electronic and dance elements of Joy Division’s sound to new heights. With songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Blue Monday,” Joy Division/New Order left an indelible mark on alternative rock.


6. Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth were one of the most experimental and groundbreaking bands in alternative rock. Their use of dissonant guitar tunings and avant-garde techniques made them a critical favorite and influenced countless bands that followed in their wake. With albums like “Daydream Nation” and “Goo,” Sonic Youth pushed the boundaries of what was possible in alternative rock.


5. The Cure

The Cure were one of the most iconic bands of the goth and post-punk movements of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their gloomy, introspective sound and Robert Smith’s distinctive voice made them a favorite of angsty teens everywhere.


4. Pixies

Pixies were one of the most influential bands of the 1990s alternative rock scene. Their combination of quiet-loud dynamics, catchy hooks, and surreal lyrics made them a favorite of both critics and fans. With albums like “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle,” Pixies proved that alternative rock could be both accessible and subversive.


3. The Smashing Pumpkins

Led by frontman Billy Corgan, the band’s sound is characterized by a mix of heavy guitars, dreamy melodies, and introspective lyrics. From the early days of “Today” and “Disarm” to the epic scope of the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, The Smashing Pumpkins helped to define the sound of alternative scene in the 1990s and beyond.


2. Radiohead

Radiohead is one of the most innovative and influential bands of the last few decades. Their music is often characterized by complex arrangements, haunting melodies, and thought-provoking lyrics. From the early days of “Creep” to the more experimental sounds of albums like Kid A and Amnesiac, Radiohead has continually pushed the boundaries of what great and diverse music can be.


1. Nirvana

When it comes to alternative rock, it’s hard to talk about the genre without mentioning Nirvana. The band, fronted by the late Kurt Cobain, exploded onto the scene in the early 1990s and helped to define the sound of the genre. With hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are,” Nirvana helped like no one else to bring alternative rock to the mainstream.

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