Intro to alt rock: 5 bands to start with


Collegian | Charles Cohen

Christian Arndt, Staff Reporter

Alternative rock is a fairly simple concept to grasp. It is a form of music that uses the basis of traditional rock song structures while alternating between genres and experimenting with different sounds. In short, a band that falls under the alternative rock genre is not necessarily tied down to sounding one specific way.

For example, an artist can release an album where one song is loud and heavily distorted while the next may be purely acoustic with melancholy singing. An alternative band provides numerous layers of different feelings that keep their sound refreshing, new and nonrepetitive.


If you want to dive into a genre that will consistently keep you interested with catchy songs and different instrumentation throughout an artist’s discography, look no further than alt rock.

Here are five bands to start with on your journey down the alt-rock rabbit hole.


Arguably one of — if not the most — important bands to come out of the ’90s, Nirvana paved the way for the grunge movement coming out of Washington during that decade.

Surely you have heard the iconic first strums of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but Nirvana’s discography runs much deeper and than just their hits. Kurt Cobain’s screams and iconic voice paired with Dave Grohl’s shotgun blasts of drumming and Krist Novoselic’s iconic low-hanging bass cement Nirvana as a phenomenal alternative rock band.

Recommended tracks: “Drain You,” “Territorial Pissings,” “Negative Creep,” “All Apologies,” “Serve The Servants,” “Aneurysm,” “Dive”


You would be hard-pressed to find a song by the Pixies that you do not like. The Pixies cover a wide variety of genres like noise pop, surf rock and indie rock.

They have an expansive list of albums released since the ’80s and still continue to tour to this day all while retaining a very dedicated fanbase. If you want some solid, catchy alt-rock tracks, then the Pixies are a must.

Recommended tracks: “Velouria,” “Where Is My Mind?,” “Hey,” “Break My Body,” “Gouge Away,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Dead”

The White Stripes

The White Stripes consisted of Jack and Meg White, a married couple that created music out of Detroit. Even though they were just two people, many still feel their legacy to this day. Jack White masterfully and elegantly plays a distorted guitar while Meg White follows along with drums, often having to flip tempos at the drop of a hat in order to keep up with Jack.


Watching recordings of them playing live is a really fantastic and unique experience. Their chemistry as musicians led to some iconic tracks spawning out of the early 2000s, one of which being “Seven Nation Army.” Even if you haven’t heard the song, you have likely heard its iconic guitar sequence being sung at sports games in the stands.

The White Stripes have a unique sound that stays consistent throughout their stint as a band but not to their detriment. 

Recommended tracks: “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Fell in Love With a Girl,” “Death Letter,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” “Black Math,” “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine”

Dinosaur Jr.

Thick, fuzzy distortion and smooth vocals from J Mascis make Dinosaur Jr. a true gem in the world of alt rock. Dinosaur Jr. has served as a massive inspiration for alternative bands coming out in the early ’90s and had notable fans such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth and plenty of others.

Although they didn’t grow as big as some of these other bands, their iconic sound is a must-listen. They still tour and play modest venues to this day, so keep an eye out and an ear open because their live shows are a must.

Recommended tracks: “Little Fury Things,” “Alone,” “The Lung,” “Feel the Pain,” “In a Jar”


While Radiohead is typically characterized by their moody and slow songs, don’t underestimate their ability to alternate between genres, all of which blend perfectly. One track can have a slow acoustic guitar while the next has layers of electronic rock pieces. Radiohead is truly a spectacle in the alt-rock world.

Thom Yorke’s stand-out voice paired with oftentimes experimental time signatures is an overall fantastic experience, not to mention how tightly the band plays in coordination with each other.

Every aspect of Radiohead is a masterpiece and retains a dedicated fanbase that analyzes and plays every single one of its songs to this day. Radiohead is a must not only for alt-rock fans but for music fans in general.

Recommended tracks: “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” “Airbag,” “All I Need,” “Exit Music (for a Film),” “Fake Plastic Trees”

Reach Christian Arndt at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.