Alternative Music The Best College Rock Bands/Artists  

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5.7k votes 559 voters 43.5k views 99 items

Popular in the 1980s and 1990s, college rock bands were some of the first alternative rock bands before the genre shot to prominence. College radio programmers who eschewed the mainstream rock of that time often leaned on these quirky bands that didn't quite squeeze into the mainstream. College rock bands primarily consisted of bands whose music had traces of post-punk rock, new wave with traces of catchy indie pop. Yet, they were underground rock bands. Thus, due to their popularity on campuses, these were called college rock bands. Over the years, college rock has expanded and the genre includes all bands who are played on college radio. But, many college rock bands graduated from college rock and became more mainstream. For that, they can thank their friends and champions who support them from those lean early years when commercial radio wouldn't play their music.

So, what are the best college rock bands? No list of college rock would be complete without the inclusion of R.E.M., the Pixies, Sonic Youth and the Replacements. All of these great rock bands owe a slice of their success to college radio. Without being labeled as college rock, it's unlikely that these alternative bands would have been able to build a fanbase on their own. Thus the best college rock bands are well known among music fans. Even today, with satellite radio, college rock is more easily accessible than it was when it first became an important, tastemaking genre.

Ultimately it's up to you to decide what are good college rock bands. By nature, college rock is exactly what it is described as. But, if you notice a college rock band that isn't on here, feel free to add them. This list answers the questions "who are the best college rock bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest college rock musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular college rock bands that you might've heard of. (99 items)
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list ordered by

1
173 60
R.E.M. is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Jangle pop, Alternative rock, College rock

2
141 53
The Replacements is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Jangle pop, Pop punk, Heartland rock

3
152 60
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

4
108 48
Hüsker Dü is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
muzziac added Alternative rock, Punk rock, Post-hardcore

5
103 46
The Smiths is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
muzziac added Jangle pop, Indie pop, Alternative rock

6
111 55
Sonic Youth is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Noise rock, Rock music, No wave

7
98 49
The Cure is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
New Wave, Gothic rock, Rock music

8
82 43
Dinosaur Jr is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
muzziac added Noise rock, Grunge, Alternative rock

9
71 36
Superchunk is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
slackMFr added Pop punk, Emo, Alternative rock

10
66 34
The Connells is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Jangle pop, Rock music, Power pop

11
54 26
Buffalo Tom is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
CarloMarinello added Rock music, Alternative rock

12
68 40
Sebadoh is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
slackMFr added Indie rock, Lo-fi music

13
79 51
Violent Femmes is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Alternative rock, Punk rock, Folk punk

14
56 32
Blake Babies is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
muzziac added Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

15
56 33
PJ Harvey is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
tommythettones added Punk blues, Grunge, Electronica

16
57 36
Echo & the Bunnymen is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
muzziac added New Wave, Neo-psychedelia, Alternative rock

17
65 44
10,000 Maniacs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Jangle pop, Rock music, Folk rock

18
51 31
The Jesus and Mary Chain is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
JacobHuneycutt added Indie pop, Shoegazing, Alternative rock

19
69 51
They Might Be Giants is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Experimental rock, Children's music, Alternative rock

20
48 30
The Lemonheads is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Alternative rock, Punk rock, Indie rock

21
45 27
XTC is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Indie pop, New Wave, Psychedelic pop

22
58 41
The Smithereens is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Jangle pop, Rock music, Pop rock

23
41 26
Midnight Oil is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Rock music, Alternative rock, Progressive rock

24
56 43
U2 is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
stepbystep added Rock music, Alternative rock, Punk rock

25
41 29
Camper Van Beethoven is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best College Rock Bands/Artists
Pop music, Ska, World music