Alternative Alternative

I admit my favorite era of music was the 90s Alt-rock movement, whose creators were essentially some agitated 20-somethings in Seattle. I grew up with grunge and what eventually became pop-punk, and some of those same bands are still alive and well.

But Alternative music today is the same and yet different than what it sounded like 15-20 years ago. It’s to the point that Alternative is an open-ended genre. What necessarily qualifies as “Alternative,” when Mumford & Sons and Muse categorized the same. Those are different styles, different sounds, and seemingly not the same kind of music.

I love the style but I find it nearly impossible to feature a specific menu of music for the radio show. There are too many great songs from artists that are instantly recognized as being solely Alt-rock or Alternative that the 59 minutes of content gets taken up too quickly. You’ll note on the menu this week that I do not have a track from Grunge icons Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, or Stone Temple Pilots. How can I do a show that’s all about Alternative music, claiming to showcase unknown/lesser known flavors of music from mainstream artists of that era and not include these key players? I’m still pondering that question. The reason is there’s not enough time in a 59 minute show for me to give you my favorite picks from these acts.

So I will do that here.

nirvana I love Nirvana and history will continue to give Kurt Cobain credit for redefining progressive music. To this day, mainstream artists are trying to copy his style, his vocal/screaming abilities, songwriting technique, etc. It’s both a credit to his skills as well as annoying for me (the listener) to hear others try and no succeed at essentially ripping off that patented sound. As for the band, Dave Grohl has gone on to even greater success as frontman (and one-time all instruments) for Foo Fighters. Krist Novoselic has done a little work with some other bands, but nothing of notable mention.
Some non-Top 40 radio tracks that are personal favorites which illustrate the band’s excellence include Serve The Servants, Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, Sliver, Lounge Act, Anyeurism, Drain You, and Tourettes.

Soundgarden-PR Soundgarden was one of my favorite bands in grade school. However, I have to admit that my favorite songs were the pop hits, namely Pretty Noose, Black Hole Sun, Burden In My Hand and The Day I Tried To Live. I have jumped into their greater songbook and found that most of the non-radio tracks were very experimental, at least from a vocal standpoint in what keys and octaves Chris Cornell would end his lines and bars on. Sometimes he would take a mid-range line and try to end the line on a higher or minor key. It just didn’t sound right to me. I think his work with Audioslave has matured this experimentation (as illustrated in the track featured on this week’s program-Nothing Left To Say But Goodbye). Some non-radio tracks from both Soundgarden and Audioslave (indicated with a *) are My Wave, Searching With My Good Eye Closed, New Damage, Be Yourself*, and Dandelion*.

Alice+in+Chains Alice In Chains continues to write and tour as a band though their founding lead singer is deceased (Layne Staley). Like Soundgarden, most of my favorite tracks were what made them famous (meaning I really enjoyed the Top 40 hit stuff like The Rooster and Man In The Box and Would?). But other notable b-sides from them include Sunshine, Rain When I Die, and Shame In You.

stonetemplepilots As for STP, I’m really limited to saying that the songs that made them famous were the only ones worth listening to. I’ve had their albums and tried to get deeper into their songbooks and there’s really not much to promote. With that though, they do have some really killer songs including Big Empty (my personal favorite), Lady Picture Show, Plush, Trippin On A Hole In A Paperheart, Down, Vasoline, Interstate Love Song, etc. Basically, if mainstream radio played it, it was a great song. This is not to say I’m not a fan of the band because I don’t have a b-side track favorite. But to me, I couldn’t find much else from their hits worth mentioning. If I’m wrong, tell me.

I’m sure there are bands from this era that I missed (both here and on the show). Tell me who you’d like me to feature and what non-radio tracks should I be listening to, talking about, and featuring?

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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