Alternative rock is a music genre that emerged from the independent music underground in the 1980s and 1990s. It differed from classic rock in its use of distorted guitar, lyrical themes of transgression and discontent, and an overall attitude of defiance and nonchalance. There is a lot of variety within the genre, and usually styles such as indie rock, indie pop, and gothic rock are considered to be under the umbrella of alternative rock. Alternative rock grew out of punk rock, which became popular in the late 1970s, early 1980’s.
In the 1980s, most alternative rock bands were signed to independent labels and had limited commercial success. REM was one of the first alternative rock bands to be signed to a major record label, after developing a following by being played on college radio stations. Nirvana was the band that really brought alternative rock into the commercial mainstream. Their song, “Smells like Teen Spirit,” became a hit in their native U.S. Soon, in the 1990s, other alternative rock bands were gaining popularity. In 1991, Lollapalooza began touring with a lineup of mostly alternative rock bands. Sub-movements, such as grunge and Britpop, continued to make alternative rock popular.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, post-grunge became one of the most popular kinds of alternative rock, with the rise of groups such as Creed, Matchbox Twenty, and Radiohead. Alternative rock also drew on post-punk and new wave music, with successful bands such as The Strokes, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand. In the mid 2000s, bands such as The Killers and Modest mouse became very successful.
Beginning in the 1980s, alternative rock became a top Australian genre, with Australian bands creating successful and original music. Bands in the 1980s such as Men at Work and Hoodoo Gurus had success both in Australia and in Europe and the U.S. Bands such as Nick Cave and The Church incorporated a broad range of influences, such as blues, free jazz, garage rock, new wave, and psychedelic music. In the 1990s Australian group AC/DC found massive success. Bands such as Midnight Oil, Savage Garden, and Silverchair also won international attention. At the same time, other indie rock and alternative bands, such as Powderfinger and Magic Dirt, developed more local success. Alternative rock became a defining genre for Australian music, with many of the country’s most successful and most original artists.