27 Best 90s Alternative Bands Ever
Alternative music was a new sound that was made possible by the many forward-thinking bands of the time. Today we’re going to look at some of those groups, specifically the best 90s alternative bands ever.
Nirvana rose to prominence in the late 1980s in Aberdeen, Washington. The original members were Kurt Cobain, Aaron Burckhard, and Krist Novoselic. David Grohl eventually joined Nirvana in 1990 after leaving his drumming position in a previous band, Scream.
Nirvana gained popularity in 1990 after recording ten songs in a demo with the help of their producer, Jack Endino. They released their first single, “Love Buzz,” in 1988 and their first song collection in 1990, Bleach.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of Nirvana’s popular titles from 1991. It peaked at #6 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on Billboard Alternative Airplay and hit high on the charts in many foreign countries.
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers came from Los Angeles, CA, and started their alternative music journey in 1983. Chad Smith headed the drums while John Frusciante played the guitar. Anthony Kiedis did the leading vocals, and Flea played bass.
The first self-titled album debuted in 1984 where they earned royalties from 300,000 album copies sold to fans. Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out later in 1991, selling more than 12 million albums.
Hence, the album was in the top three music charts for United States best-performing albums. Their song hit, “Give It Away” is the song that Red Hot Chili Peppers fans remember the most. No wonder it earned them the Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocal award from the Grammys in 1992.
Before changing their name to Oasis, this English alternative rock music group was first known as Rain and originated in 1991 in Manchester, England. Paul Arthurs acted as a guitarist, Tony McCarroll was the drummer, Liam Gallagher played the tambourine and took the role of lead singer, and Paul McGuigan was the bass guitarist.
Definitely Maybe was Oasis’s most popular album as a 90s alternative band which went platinum eight times in the United Kingdom and became a platinum album in America. Singles such as “Supersonic” and “Shakermaker” came from “Definitely Maybe”.
Radiohead is an alternative rock band that originated in 1985 in Abington, Oxfordshire. Ed O’Brien was the guitarist and leader for backing vocals. Thom Yorke, keyboard player, pianist, guitarist, and vocalist, Colin Greenwood, bassist, Phillip Selway, percussionist and drummer, and Jonny Greenwood, main guitarist and keyboard player are also original members.
Two years after signing with the EMI record label, in 1993, they released their first song collection, Pablo Honey. The band’s first hit single was “Creep”, which received international attention from music listeners that initiated instant fame amongst 90s alternative bands.
5. 3 Doors Down
3 Doors Down originated in 1996 in Escatawpa, Mississippi. The original band members were Todd Harrell, the band’s bassist, Matt Roberts, their guitarist, and Brad Arnold, who was the drummer and main singer of the group.
One of their most prominent song, “Kryptonite,” was released on January 18, 2000, for their first song collection, The Better Life, which has gone platinum seven times in the past couple of decades since its original release. “Kryptonite” reached #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
6. Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong played guitar and did lead vocals, Tre Cool on the drums, and Mike Dirnt on the bass while on backing vocals. The band originated in 1987 under the original name of Sweet Children before changing to their current name two years later.
Green Day’s Dookie was their third song collection overall and was the first album released via a high-end label, which was Reprise Records. The album title manifested 10 million albums sold in America. It received the Best Alternative Album accolade from the 1995 Grammys Awards. Singles such as “Welcome to Paradise” and “Longview” were featured on the award-winning album.
7. Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam started at the beginning of the 90s in Seattle, WA. Eddie Vedder was the lead singer and backup guitarist for Pearl Jam. Jeff Ament played bass guitar as Mike McCready was the main guitarist and Stone Gossard played the rhythm guitar. Drummer, Matt Cameron, became a member in 1998.
Ten was Pearl Jam’s first album with singles including “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” as well as “Alive.”
8. Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails goes by NIN with the last “N” set backward. Trent Reznor took on all the band roles as the lead singer playing multiple instruments and writing all the songs for the band when he started the band in 1988. He collaborated with Atticus Ross many times, but Ross did not become a formal member of NIN until 28 years later.
Pretty Hate Machine was the first song collection NIN released independently in 1989. “Down In It” was one of the most popular singles from the album. It spent more than 100 weeks on one of the top album charts, Billboard Hot 200, and was eventually certified platinum. It was the first released album by an independent musician to achieve this title.
Weezer’s first song collection, the Blue Album released in 1994 and went platinum multiple times. Popular singles from this album included “Buddy Holly” (499 out of 500 on Rolling Stone’s best songs) and “Say It Ain’t So” (#72 on the Rolling Stone list for the 100 best guitar songs). It was not until 2020 that Rolling Stone considered “Blue Album” as the 294th out of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time List.
Garbage originated in 1993 out of Madison, WI. Shirley Manson from Scotland was in charge of vocals and American members included Duke Vig, producer and drummer, Steve Marker, keyboardist and guitarist, and Duke Erikson, multi-instrumentalist.
Their only self-titled album went platinum twice throughout America, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Four million fans purchased copies upon release. “Only Happy When it Rains” and “Stupid Girl” were notable singles.
Blur started their musical journey as a London-based band in 1988 with original members Alex James on bass, Damon Albarn, the lead singer, Dave Rowntree on drums, and Graham Coxon on guitar.
Their first song collection, Leisure, came out in 1991 and was a gold-certified album in the United Kingdom, going as high as seventh on the top United Kingdom Albums Chart that year. “She’s So High” and “Bang” were some of the hit singles in their debut.
12. The Cranberries
The Cranberries were known as Cranberry Saw Us when they originated in 1989 in Limerick, Ireland. They changed their name a year later. Fergal Lawler on drums, Niall Quinn as the main singer (Dolores O’Riordan assumed this role when they changed their band name), Mike Hogan on bass, and Noel Hogan on guitar was the original band member makeup.
Everybody Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? was their first album from 1993. It became an instant hit with fans after they had released four other extended plays. “Linger” and “Dreams” were the top singles featured in this debut song collection.
13. Blind Melon
Blind Melon came together in 1990, forming in Los Angeles. Their first self-titled album came out in 1992 with “No Rain” as the top single from the collection. Upon releasing their second album, “Soup” in 1995, their main singer, Shannon Hoon perished because of overdosing on drugs. Unfortunately, the band parted ways four years later when they could not find a steady replacement to fill Hoon’s shoes after her passing.
Blink-182, known on their albums with the “B” as lowercase, rose to prominence in 1992 in Poway, CA. Tom DeLonge handled vocals and guitar as Travis Barker drummed. Mark Hoppus also did vocals and played the bass.
They were first an independent band until they joined MCA Records and released their most successful album of the late 90s, Enema of the State. The title generated massive sales: 15 million albums sold internationally. “What’s My Age Again?” and other hit singles from the album including “Adam’s Song” (March 2000) and “All the Small Things” (January 2000) helped to make the album an instant hit.
15. Nada Surf
Nada Surf started their band in New York City in 1992 with original band members Daniel Lorca on bass and backup vocals and Matthew Caws, the lead singer and songwriter of the group. Their first song collection was released in 1996, High/Low was formulated in 19 days.
“Popular” was the hit song from their first album that topped #11 on the Billboard US Alternative Airplay and became a gold album in France. In Iceland, the song hit #1 on the top 40 songs list.
16. Bikini Kill
Bikini Kill is one of the 90s alternative bands that formed at the beginning of the decade in Olympia, WA. Kathleen Hanna leads the vocals and writes all the band’s songs. Billy Karren on the guitar, Tobi Vail on the drums, and Kathi Wilcox on the bass are the other members that bring the music to life.
The band’s first album from 1993 was Pussy Whipped which hit #20 on the UK Independent Albums chart. Spin Magazine designated the album as the 222nd best song amongst the 300 best songs from the past 30 years in 2015. Their hit single “Rebel Girl” placed 296th out of 500 on the Rolling Stone list of best songs ever.
Placebo is an alternative rock band from London that originated in 1994. Their first song collection with their band name came out in the summer of 1996. It peaked in the 5th position on the top albums chart of the United Kingdom. Featured singles such as “Come Home,” “Teenage Angst,” and “Bruise Pristine” helped to popularize the album.
Portland-based band Everclear came together in 1991. “World of Noise” was their first released album from 1993, which was recorded in a basement at one of their friend’s houses on a $400 budget.
Signing with Capitol Records a couple of years later, they released Sparkle and Fade in 1995 which became certified as a platinum album in the United States, Canada, and Australia. “Santa Monica” was one of the most popular hit singles from the album that hit #1 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
Incubus is one of the best 90s alternative bands that also hailed from California in 1991. S.C.I.E.N.C.E.was their second song collection released in 1997 that became a certified gold album in the United States and the United Kingdom with more than 100,000 and 500,000 copies sold, respectively. Singles including “New Skin” and “A Certain Shade of Green” were featured on this album.
P.O.D’s band is an acronym that stands for Payable on Death, which put out alternative metal music when they formed in 1992 in San Diego, CA. Since their inception, they have sold 12 million of their album titles internationally.
Their third album, The Fundamentals of Southtown, hit the highest of #51 on the US Billboard 200 amongst top albums and ended 1999 at #143. Their next album, Satellite, which released two years later, became more successful, hitting number one on the US Billboard Christian Albums chart.
21. 4 Non-Blondes
4 Non-Blondes is one of the girl-lead 90s alternative bands. Forming in 1989 in San Francisco, California, they released only one album in 1992 entitled, Bigger, Better, Faster More! It hit the highest of #13 on the US Billboard 200 and remained on the top album chart for about 59 weeks after its original release.
“What’s Up?” was one of the most notable singles on the album. About 1.5 million fans purchased copies from the original release until 1994.
22. Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters is an alternative rock band that originated in Seattle, Washington, in the mid-1990s. Dave Grohl, who was the drummer for Nirvana, started Foo Fighters independently. Eventually, new members joined, including Pat Smear as another guitarist, William Goldsmith as the drummer, and Nate Mendel as the bass guitarist.
Their self-titled first album received many accolades, such as being certified platinum in America, the United Kingdom, and Canada and certified gold in New Zealand and Australia. “Exhausted,” “Big Me,” and other notable singles came from this critically-acclaimed album.
23. Stone Temple Pilots
San Diego-based Stone Temple Pilots started in 1989. Dean DeLeo played the guitar while Scott Weiland was the main singer, Eric Kretz drummed, and Robert DeLeo was the bassist and backing vocalist. Chester Bennington, originally from Linkin Park, was in the band from 2013 to 2015 when Scott Weiland was let go from the role as lead vocalist. Jeff Gutt is the current lead vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots as of 2017.
“Core” was the band’s first album, released in 1992. The album became an eight-time certified platinum title in America, two-time certified platinum in Canada, and one-time certified platinum in Australia. Singles such as “Creep” and “Sex Type Thing” helped to make the album an instant hit.
Bush originated in 1992 as a London-based alternative rock band. One of their most popular albums, Razorblade Suitcase, was released in 1996 and hit the top spot on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for seven consecutive weeks. “Greedy Fly,” “Cold Contagious,” and “Bonedriven” were a few of the featured singles.
Eels usually present their band title in all lowercase or all uppercase letters. Most of their alternative music is on the subject of family, one-sided love, and handling death and the grief that follows.
Half of their albums have been featured on the US Billboard 200. One of their most successful albums from the 1990s was Beautiful Freak from 1996. Featured singles included “Novocaine for the Soul” and “Your Lucky Day in Hell.”
26. Faith No More
Faith No More was an alternative rock band that started in 1979 and remained prominent through the 90s. From 1979 to 1983, they were originally known under two other bands names Sharp Young Men and then Faith No Man.
Angel Dustwas their most successful album. It debuted in 1992 and sold 2.5 million units internationally. The album also started in the 10th position on the Billboard 200. Notable singles from Angel Dust include “Midlife Crisis” and “Everything is Ruined.”
311, known by saying “three” and then “eleven,” is an Omaha-based alternative rock band that originated in 1988 and is still active today. The third album they released, 311, went platinum three times and peaked at #12 on the US Billboard 200. Notable singles from the album included “All Mixed Up,” which peaked at #4 on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay list, and “Down,” which became #1 on the same chart.
Top Alternative Bands From The 90s, Final Thoughts
Alternative musicians continue to release new sounds and lyrics inspired by mainstream music. As alternative artists put their heart and soul into creating music that has never been heard before, listeners can become inspired in different ways throughout their lives. What is your favorite alternative band from the 1990s? Join the conversation in the comments below!
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