Music

The Best Alternative Bands/Artists 

Reference
Originally by
Updated March 14, 2020 210.2k votes 17.2k voters 416.5k views 676 items

At the end of the 1980s, at the peak of glam rock and hair metal, a new genre began to emerge from the underground. Since it served as an option to the bloated sound of those genres that was all over the airwaves and MTV, it was aptly titled alternative rock. Over the years, alternative rock has become part of mainstream rock. But at its beginning, alt rock and all of the alternative artists were on the cutting edge of what was going on in response to those more commercial genres. The origins of the best alternative bands are in cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and various college towns around the country.

So, who can be considered one of the top alternative bands, or even a good current alternative band? Any list isn't complete without Husker Du and R.E.M., who represent the best college rock musicians. These alternative music bands had a huge impact on the alternative scene and influenced many, if not all alternative rock bands. Jane's Addiction can also be lumped into that category. Other popular alternative artists include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis, Blur and Smashing Pumpkins. These groups' legacy and impact on alternative music is indisputable and they continue to crank out the hits.

Who is on your top 100 alternative bands list? We know this list isn't 100 bands/artists long. . . we did that on purpose because we're alternative.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what is the best alternative band. If you think an alternative artist or band isn't on here and should, feel free to add them to this list. This list answers the questions "who are the best alternative bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest alternative musician ever?"

list ordered by
1
Nirvana is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
Nirvana was an American grunge band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, ...more

More Nirvana 

Behind The Scenes Of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ #8 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #32 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

2
The Cure is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
FabianMariani added
The Cure is an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The band members have changed several times, with guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Robert Smith the only constant ...more

More The Cure 

Behind The Scenes Of 'Disintegration', The Cure's Dark And Brooding Masterpiece #173 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands #93 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

3
Red Hot Chili Peppers is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
CilasLee added
Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The group's musical style primarily consists of rock with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from other ...more

More Red Hot Chili Peppers 

The Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs #30 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #20 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

4
Green Day is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Green Day is an American rock band formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. For much of the band's career, they have been a trio with drummer ...more

More Green Day 

The Best Green Day Songs of All Time #54 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #56 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

5
The Smashing Pumpkins is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
The Smashing Pumpkins (or Smashing Pumpkins) are an American alternative rock band from Chicago, Illinois. Formed in 1988 by frontman Billy Corgan (lead vocals, guitar), D'arcy Wretzky (bass), ...more

More The Smashing Pumpkins 

The Best Smashing Pumpkins Songs of All Time #80 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #61 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands

6
Radiohead is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Radiohead are an English rock band formed in Abingdon-on-Thames in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, ...more

More Radiohead 

The Best Radiohead Songs of All Time #69 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #7 of 604 The Most Hipster Bands

7
Foo Fighters is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
FabianMariani added
Foo Fighters is an American rock band, formed in Seattle in 1994. It was founded by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the death of Kurt Cobain and the resulting ...more

More Foo Fighters 

The Best Foo Fighters Songs of All Time #40 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #22 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands

8
Arctic Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
RobDiLorenzo added
Arctic Monkeys is an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards) ...more

More Arctic Monkeys 

The Best Arctic Monkeys Songs of All Time #215 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #3 of 604 The Most Hipster Bands

9
Soundgarden is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
Soundgarden was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil (both of whom are the only members to appear ...more

More Soundgarden 

#60 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #44 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #59 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

10
The White Stripes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
muzziac added
The White Stripes were an American rock duo formed in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. The group consisted of Jack White (songwriter, vocals, guitar, piano, and mandolin) and Meg White (drums and ...more

More The White Stripes 

#154 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands #85 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #136 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

11
Alice in Chains is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
FabianMariani added
Alice in Chains (often abbreviated as AIC) is an American rock band from Seattle, Washington, formed in 1987 by guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, who later recruited ...more

More Alice in Chains 

The Best Alice In Chains Songs of All Time #236 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #49 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands

12
Weezer is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Weezer is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1992. Since 2001, the band has consisted of Rivers Cuomo (lead vocals, lead guitar, keyboards), Patrick Wilson (drums), Brian ...more

More Weezer 

#92 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #123 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #250 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

13
The Killers is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
ryanjjjj8 added
The Killers are an American rock band formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001 by members Brandon Flowers (lead vocals, keyboards, bass) and Dave Keuning (lead guitar, backing vocals). Mark Stoermer ...more

More The Killers 

The Best Killers Songs of All Time #268 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #196 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

14
Muse is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
RobDiLorenzo added
Muse are an English rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The band consists of Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Wolstenholme (bass guitar, backing vocals), and ...more

More Muse 

#198 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #138 of 408 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s #317 of 2,042 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

15
Pearl Jam is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Since its inception, the band's line-up has comprised Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. The ...more

More Pearl Jam 

The Best Pearl Jam Songs of All Time #15 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #27 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

16
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
The Pixies are an American rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. The group currently consists of founders Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering. Co-founder Kim Deal left ...more

More Pixies 

The Best Pixies Albums of All-Time #230 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #176 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands

17
R.E.M. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/backing vocalist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe. One of ...more

More R.E.M. 

#51 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #48 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #21 of 408 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s

18
Blink-182 is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
ryanjjjj8 added
Blink-182 is an American rock band formed in Poway, a suburb of San Diego, California in 1992. The band currently consists of bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, while ...more

More Blink-182 

The Best Blink-182 Albums of All-Time #220 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #260 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

19
David Bowie is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (, BOH-ee), was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry ...more

More David Bowie 

David Bowie and His Mysterious Connections to the Occult and Paganism #4 of 668 The Best Rock Vocalists #111 of 273 The Greatest British Actors of All Time

20
The Clash is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
The Clash were an English rock band formed in London in 1976 as a key player in the original wave of British punk rock. They have also contributed to the post-punk and new wave movements that ...more

More The Clash 

The Best Clash Songs of All Time #85 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands #70 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

21
Rage Against the Machine... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Rage Against the Machine is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1991, the group consists of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, ...more

More Rage Against the Machine 

The Best Rage Against The Machine Albums of All Time #169 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #178 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands

22
Linkin Park is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
BayzidAnando added
Linkin Park is an American rock band from Agoura Hills, California. The band's current lineup comprises vocalist/keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda, lead guitarist Brad Delson, bassist ...more

More Linkin Park 

The Best Linkin Park Songs of All Time #258 of 418 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #92 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands

23
Depeche Mode is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Depeche Mode () are an English electronic band formed in Basildon, Essex, in 1980. The group as of 2019 consists of a trio of Dave Gahan (lead vocals and co-songwriting), Martin Gore (keyboards, ...more

More Depeche Mode 

The Best Depeche Mode Songs of All Time #235 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands #160 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

24
Cage the Elephant is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
but chickens double d added
Cage the Elephant is an American rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, that formed in 2006. The group currently consists of Matthew "Matt" Shultz, Brad "Dave" Shultz, Jared ...more

More Cage the Elephant 

The Best Cage The Elephant Songs #731 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #18 of 604 The Most Hipster Bands

25
Talking Heads is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Alternative Bands/Artists
ryanjjjj8 added
Talking Heads were an American rock band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. The band comprised David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), ...more

More Talking Heads 

The Best Talking Heads Albums of All Time #60 of 338 The Greatest American Rock Bands #89 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time