IntroductionAlternative rock is a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. It tends to involve guitars, drums, bass guitar and vocals, and is not synthesised.
Bands/ArtistsArtists and bands in this genre include:• 30 seconds to mars• All American Rejects• Bombay Bicycle Club• Lana Del Ray• Mayday Parade• Radiohead• Two door Cinema Club• Tegan and Sara• Marina and the Diamonds
Origins• Alternative rock music became popular in the 1990s but has been going for much longer than the 90s.Nirvana made alternative rock music quite mainstream, the music genre had been gaining popularity with the college crowds and music underground.
1980’sIn the 1980s alternative rock was mainly an underground occurrence, the genre was mainly associated with independent record labels, fanzines and college radio.Alternative bands tended to form through already existing alternative bands, so this created like a circuit of bands in the underground.
1980’sThere were not many mainstream alternative bands around, however there were exceptions including R.E.M.Throughout the 80’s the genre grew increasingly popular so in 1989 there was a package tour where different bands performed including ‘New Order’, ‘Public Image Limited’ and ‘The Sugarcubes.’
1990’sR.E.M were so successful it led other bands to try ad follow in their footprints.By the start of the 1990’s alternative rock had become popular, record labels were interested in bands including ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Jane’s Addiction.’
NirvanaBand members included – Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave GrohlNirvana had their breakthrough in the beginning of the 1990’s with their first single ‘Smells like teen spirit’ from their second album ‘Nevermind,’ which “marked the instigation of the grunge music phenomenon.”Nevermind was played across MTV loads leading to over 400,000 copies of the album being sold weekly by December 1991.
NirvanaNirvana opened doors for many other alternative bands after its popularity increased, including heavier alternative bands.To date, since their debut, Nirvana have sold over 75 million records worldwide, and 30 million records in USA alone.
R.E.MThe band formed in 1980 and held their firstshow April 5th 1980. The band was formed bysinger Michael Stipe, Peter Buck on guitar, MikeMills the bassist and Bill Berry the drummer. R.E.M were one of the early favouredalternative rock bands due too Bucksringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipesunclear vocals.
R.E.MThe first single that R.E.M released was in 1981called ‘Radio Free Europe’ by the independentrecord label Hib-tone.R.E.M then had very good continued successuntil their split in September 2011 which theyannounced on their website.
Generic FeaturesAlternative rock tends to be associated withbeing non-mainstream however this haschanged over the years as many alternativebands have reached mainstream success.Alternative rock tends to be quite guitar basedwith different kinds of guitar sounds includinggloomy gothic rock sounds and jolly indie popsounds. The lyrics in alternative rock songs tendto be based on social issues like drugs anddepression.
InstrumentsMost alternative rock bands have a traditionalinstrument set with guitars, vocals, a bass anddrums. Sometimes keyboards will be used.However obviously there will be exceptions inthe instrument choice.
VocalsThe voice of alternative rock sounds quiteeffortless, like no energy goes in towards whattheir vocals sound like. The tone of the voice isquite flat. The vocals come in many varietiesfrom quite wispy to droney and moany.
21st centurySeveral alternative rock bands emerged in thelate 90’s early 00’s during the ‘post punk revivalmovement’. Bands included Franz Ferdinand andThe killers.Entertainment weekly said in 2004 “After almosta decade of domination by rap-rock and nu-metal bands, mainstream alt-rock is finally goodagain”.
21st centuryDespite this, most advertising focus was aimedat pop and R&B music, leaving alternative rockwith declining sales and few bands appearing inthe UK Top 10 between 2005-2010.