- 1. Intro
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rock > late 1970s > alternative rock
alternative rock (alternative music, alt-rock or simply alternative):
stylistic origins: punk rock / post-punk / new wave / hardcore punk
cultural origins: late 1970s to early 1980s, United Kingdom, US
Alternative rock (alternative music, alt-rock or simply alternative) is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. In this instance, the word “alternative” refers to the genre’s distinction from mainstream rock music.
The term’s original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.
At times, “alternative” has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock (including some examples of punk itself, as well as new wave, and post-punk).
alternative rock subgenres >
progressive rock > early 1970s > space rock
stylistic origins: progressive rock / psychedelic music
cultural origins: early 1970s, United Kingdom
The term was initially used to describe the style of early 1970s progressive rock bands such as Hawkwind and Pink Floyd who explored a “cosmic” sound. However, it now refers to a “new generation of alternative/indie bands” drawing on psychedelic rock, ambient music, experimental/avant-garde music, krautrock, classical minimalism, and noise pop. This later style was pioneered in the mid-1980s by Spacemen 3, whose “drone-heavy” sound was avowedly inspired by and intended to accommodate drug use. By the 1990s, space rock became associated with shoegazing and post-rock.
Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett – Lucifer Sam; Astronomy Domine with Syd Barrett from live at the UFO club 1967; Interstellar Overdrive with Syd Barrett:
derivative forms: post-rock
mid 1970s > new wave
stylistic origins: punk rock/ power pop / disco / pub rock / bubblegum pop
cultural origins: mid-1970s, United Kingdom and United States
New wave moved away from blues and rock and roll sounds to create rock music (early new wave) or pop music (later) that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre.
It subsequently engendered subgenres and fusions, including synth-pop.
Bit by bit the last traces of Punk were drained from New Wave, as New Wave went from meaning Talking Heads to meaning the Cars to Squeeze to Duran Duran to, finally, Wham!
—Music critic Bill Flannigan writing in 1989
Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again; The B-52’s – Rock Lobster; Gary Numan – Cars:
subgenres: cold wave, darkwave, synth-pop
derivative forms: Finnish rock, chillwave
fusion genres: electroclash
late 1970s > college rock
stylistic origins: punk rock / post-punk / alternative rock / new wave
cultural origins: late 1970s and early 1980s, United States, United Kingdom and Australia
College rock was the alternative rock music played on student-run university and college campus radio stations located in the United States and Canada in the 1980s. The stations’ playlists were often created by students who avoided the mainstream rock played on commercial radio stations.
The bands of this category combined the experimentation of post-punk and new wave with a more melodic pop style and an underground sensibility.
Early college rock’s two most influential groups were R.E.M. and the Smiths, who paved the way for countless practitioners of jangly guitar-pop from the U.S. (the dB’s, Let’s Active) and U.K. (Housemartins, La’s).
College rock also included a few mainstream stars like U2, Peter Gabriel, and Sting, whose thoughtful lyrics and socially conscious idealism made them favorites on college campuses.
The 1990s, use of the term “college rock” for this style of music was largely replaced with the terms “alternative” and “indie rock”.
The Smiths – This Charming Man; R.E.M. – The One I Love; Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning:
late 1970s > neo-psychedelia
stylistic origins: psychedelia / post-punk / new wave / psychedelic pop / rock / psychedelic rock / avant-rock
cultural origins: late 1970s, United States, United Kingdom
Neo-psychedelia (acid punk) is a diverse style of music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelic music, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.
AllMusic states: “Aside from the early-’80s Paisley Underground movement and the Elephant 6 collective of the late 1990s, most subsequent neo-psychedelia came from isolated eccentrics and revivalists, not cohesive scenes.” They go on to cite what they consider some of the more prominent artists: the Church, Nick Saloman’s Bevis Frond, Spacemen 3, Robyn Hitchcock, Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips, and Super Furry Animals. According to Treblezine’s Jeff Telrich: “Primal Scream made neo-psychedelia dancefloor ready. The Flaming Lips and Spiritualized took it to orchestral realms. And Animal Collective—well, they kinda did their own thing.”
The Flaming Lips – Race For The Prize; Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes; Super Furry Animals- The Placid Casual:
neo-psychedelia subgenres: dream pop, shoegazing
derivates forms: hypnagogic. pop
local scenes: Elephant 6, Paisley Underground