Alternative rock, sometimes shortened to "alt-rock" or just "alternative," is a form of rock music that came about in the 1970s and early 1980s in the USA and UK. It remained fairly obscure through the 1980s, and then became hugely popular in the 1990s. Early alt-rock musicians mostly published independently, partially because they were new bands at the time, and partially because their music was too different from the mainstream to be commercially viable to larger publishers. However, as the genre became more popular in the early 1990s, more and more alternative rock bands were signed to major publishing labels.
As the name suggests, alternative rock has its roots in the rock music, especially the rock from the 1970s-1980s. However, there really isn't a unique musical structure that distinguishes alternative rock from other subsets of rock music, so the genre is defined more by the choice of instruments, lyrical themes, and style of the band. Alt-rock music primarily focus on electric guitar, usually with distortion, and almost always includes drums and bass guitar. However, like with progressive rock before it, alternative rock frequently incorporates additional instruments or styles of music outside the traditional genre. As an umbrella term, alternative rock encompasses similar genres like grunge and post punk, as well as pretty much every non-traditional sub-genre of rock during the 1990s (college rock, funk rock, garage rock, etc.). As the free love days of the 70s gave way to greed and drug use in the 80s, the lyrics of alt-rock tend to focus on less upbeat themes like depression, death, drug use, and the destruction of the environment. The music rarely promotes these themes, but rather acknowledges their prominence in society. Alt-rock bands usually have a more subdued appearance, relying less on flashy costumes and stage rigs, preferring the casual clothes decor seen in garages which bore the music.
The late 1990s saw the rise of post grunge as a sub-genre. By the 2000s, alternative rock was in steady decline. There were still a lot of active bands, and even the occasional new bands forming, but they were decreasing in popularity. By the end of the 2000s, alternative rock had essentially merged into indie rock.
These are alternative rock bands and artists that are important to me.