Radiohead, Green Day or Offspring in the 90s were the contemporary Gods of a universal religion called alternative rock music. Performing under independent record labels, alternative groups produced subversive music, full of ground-breaking sounds, explosive guitar riffs, and gloomy atmosphere.
To my view, some of the best 90s alternative songs (in alphabetical order) are:
BAUHAUS – SHE’S IN PARTIES FROM THE ALBUM SWING THE HEARTACHE (1998)
The darkest side of alternative rock is reflected in Bauhaus hymn She’s In Parties. Dominant bass chords, intense synth sounds and creepy vocals, anchored by dismal lyrics such “Freeze frame screen kiss, hot heads under silent wigs, fall guys tumble on the cutting room floor, look-a-likes fall on the cutting room door” create a depressingly passionate post-punk hymn.
She’s In Parties reached # 26 on the UK Top charts.
CURE – A PLAY FOR TODAY (LIVE) FROM THE ALBUM PARIS (1992)
Explosive drums, moving melody, controversial guitar riffs, unique Cure bass chords, astonishing lyrics and thousand Cure fans accompanying the melancholic, British accent vocals of Robert Smith; an absolutely amazing song, which contributed in group’s declaration as “a goth hit machine and an international phenomenon”, by New Musical Express (NME) in 1992.
GARBAGE – I THINK I’M PARANOID FROM THE ALBUM VERSION 2.0 (1999)
Powerful guitar riffs, quick drumming, controversial lyrics and unique vocals make I Think I’m Paranoid one of the best songs of the 90s in any music genre.
The song reached #9 in the UK Top Charts and #6 in the US Modern Rock Tracks.
GREEN DAY – BASKET CASE FROM THE ALBUM DOOKIE (1994)
Simple punk metal anchored with straightforward vocals, intense vigour, and a melodically infectious tune make Basket Case one of the best songs of alternative rock ever.
Basket Case reached #1 in the US Modern Rock Tracks, #2 in the Norwegian Singles Chart, #6 in the UK Singles Chart, #9 in the US Mainstream Rock Tracks, and #16 in the US Top 40 Mainstream.
NIRVANA – SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT FROM THE ALBUM NEVERMIND (1991)
The immense personality of Curt Cobain reflected in humongous guitar sounds and reminiscent screams in the song that changed rock sound in the 1990’s and made alternative rock mainstream.
Smells Like Teen Spirit reached #6 in the Billboard Hot 100 and was top in any music chart in 1991 and 1992.
OFFSPRING – COME OUT AND PLAY FROM THE ALBUM SMASH (1994)
Grinding guitar chords, screaming vocals, and melodic tune, all packed in an exceptional punk-ska energy combining fast-tempo and the maturity of the third album of Offspring.
Come Out and Play reached #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and #10 in the US Modern Rock Tracks.
PEARL JAM – BLACK FROM THE ALBUM TEN (1991)
Ground-breaking sound and explosive vocals reflect the emotionality of a strained relationship and the agony of losing a loved one over another person.
Black is one of Pearl Jam’s well known songs, a little diamond, that reached #3 in the US Mainstream Rock Tracks and #20 in the US Modern Rock Tracks.
PLACEBO – EVERY YOU, EVERY ME FROM THE ALBUM WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING (1998)
Strong, self-judging lyrics such “Like the naked leads the blind, I know I’m selfish, I’m unkind, sucker love I always find, someone to bruise and leave behind”, introspective sounds and reverse guitar riffs, plausibly extending the glam of the 70’s into a post-punk ambient.
Every You, Every Me reached #11 in the UK Singles Charts and it is one of the best known Placebo songs globally.
RADIOHEAD – CREEP FROM THE ALBUM PABLO HONEY (1993)
A unique post-grunge tune, anchored with smooth guitar chords, which gradually develop into a miserably majestic melody expressed in the Northamptonshire accent of Tom Yorke.
Creep is one Radiohead smash hit, which reached #6 in the UK Top 40.
SMASHING PUMPKINS – 1979 FROM THE ALBUM MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS (1995)
An epic song, using smart drumming, a memorable tune and great back vocals, 1979 signifies the emotional ups and downs of alternative rock scene; pessimistic but still wanting to believe in an alternative future.
1979 reached #1 in the US Modern Rock Tracks, #1 in the US Mainstream Rock Tracks, #40 in the US Top 40 Mainstream, #12 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and #16 in the UK Singles Chart. What is unique about 1979 is that it also reached #17in the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play and #47 in the US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales opening the road for electronic music in the rock scene.
VERVE – WEEPING WILLOW FROM THE ALBUM URBAN HYMNS (1997)
Wonderful melody, brilliant lyrics and atmospheric drums accords combined with quite prevailing guitar riffs, Weeping Willow is a unique piece of alternative rock art.
Weeping Willow reached #23 in the Billboard 200 Charts and #18 in the Canadian Top Charts. However, the album Urban Hymns went 8 times platinum in the UK, 3 times platinum in Australia, 2 times in Canada and 1 time platinum in France, Netherlands and the US. Moreover, it was named #1 album of 1997 by Melody Maker, #18 of 1998 by Q Magazine and #16 of all time by Q Magazine in 2006.