The 25 Most Influential Bands Of The '90s

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Trent Reznor, you know, before the Oscar and all the weightlifting.
As a music writer, we are asked constantly to compare the new with the old, to decipher the periphery where modern bands' influences come from to understand where we are going and what we are seeing. We can hear everything Keith Richards stole from Chuck Berry, and can stand in front of Green Day and watch the last 40 years of punk rock and The Who blast by us.

This past Wednesday marked 15 years since Sublime lead singer Brad Nowell died, and right now there are at least five Sublime tribute bands traveling the world, as well as a whole batch of original bands biting off his band's sound trying to reignite the flame of his indie-surf group. We'll let you judge whether or not that's an honor or a sin.

Then tonight, Houston welcomes Cage The Elephant back to town at Verizon Wireless Theater. The Kentucky band draws constant Nirvana comparisons, most of which are lazy, but still made us crick our neck to check them out. Funny how far having a blonde, shrieking lead singer will take you.

Right now the indie world is mired in the lush music of chillwave, a far cry from the aggressive and snaky sound that ruled just a decade ago. If you listened to new music now, you would think that Giorgio Moroder and the Cocteau Twins have usurped Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke as the new gods, and you would probably be half-right.

This all got Rocks Off to thinking about the current '90s revival and what it means in 2011. We've heard plenty of people make the stuttered case that it was the best decade in modern music, cutting paths not seen since the '60s, while others dismiss it as whiny and trite, built on consumerism and the co-opting of disparate cliques.

Making a list of the 25 most influential rock bands of the '90s was like doing 25 separate autopsies, extracting the guts of each group or artist to see their function. There were some bands that hit us as obvious, and other that we had to sell ourselves on, and with any list there will be unconscious omissions, not of the heart but of the brain.

These presented in no particular order. So debate, discuss, scream, get hostile, and drop some knowledge on everyone's ass. And yes, we do think that Creed is an influential band, because you know, influences aren't always good or hip.

Didn't your mama teach you anything?



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26 comments
Hemmorhoidcules
Hemmorhoidcules

I personally feel this list is spot on, but I can't take any music article seriously that references Hollywood Undead. And I always felt that Silversun Pickups were Nirvana drones, was I off?

HumanitarianAryan
HumanitarianAryan

no Scratch Acid?no Melvins???? ha!! NO melvins = NO kurt cobain, NO kim thayil, NO soundgarden, NO Pearl Jam, Maybe NO Alice in Chains, and definitely NO Stone temple pilots, NO boris, No Sunn, NO mastodon, NO Seattle!! and so on and so on!!

rob
rob

Neutral milk hotel

Damonruckel
Damonruckel

No Bjork?. I think Tool ranks higher on this list than honorable mention, but I understand thee matters are personal....

Jeff
Jeff

Quite a few of these bands seem more like 80's influences than 90's. Metallica and Pantera, in particular, when they were seriously underground. 

Also, I think there were some pretty serious pop acts like XTC, Jellyfish and others that led to Guster, Ben Folds, Matthew Sweet and a variety of other indie popsters. 

And, as much as I hate it, if Creed makes this list, so should Dave Matthews.

Les
Les

Alice in Chains and Ween. Yeah, you forgot Ween, dumbass.

Jerry
Jerry

I've always considered Smashing Pumpkins to be nothing more than a glorified knock-off of My Bloody Valentine, but that's just me. Awesome list -- lots of great calls! 

Vistalite76
Vistalite76

No Fugazi, Danzig? wasn't the Flaming Lips pretty much living on one hit back in the 90's?oh yeah and playing the Peach Pit.

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

Pavement was an influence on SDRE? Care to explain?

Evan
Evan

Jesus Jones! Now there was a band. Yippers, back in the summer of '91. We all thought they was going to be the future of rock and roll.

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

Third vote for DMB. Also: Phish? Just throwin' that out there

Jeff
Jeff

I should have said "two" instead of "quite a few." I'm bad with math.

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

Also the Flaming Lips are sort of a classic example of a band having a great deal of influence without being all that popular. See also: Sonic Youth in the '80s, VU in the '70s

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

A lot of people, including me, think Fugazi made their best music in the '90s, but their most *influential* music is on the first two EPs and Repeater, which would make them more of a late-80s phenomenon. 

Personally, I'd be interested in hearing your case for Danzig

Les
Les

Medeski Martin & Wood 

Les
Les

Ever heard of the Butthole Surfers?

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

See, then I started thinking about band's who have spanned decades, like SY especially. This list could have been 50 bands long if I really sat down and wanted to bore people and not start a discussion like 25 can. 

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

With Danzig, I love him dearly, but the Misfits and Samhain, and the Danzig LP (1988) set his legend in place. Danzig II and after where not influential as much as auto-pilot, but a fun auto-pilot. 

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

Not a '90s band, but check out the story of them on the first Lolla tour. Shotguns, fun stuff. 

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

Butthole Surfers (1983)Live PCPPEP (1984)Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac (1984)Rembrandt Pussyhorse (1986)Locust Abortion Technician (1987)Hairway to Steven (1988)

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

Yeah, if you did that you'd have to include REM and Dinosaur Jr and before long half the list is a referendum on indie rock. Also do you include GNR even though they were passe for most of the decade, etc. etc. '91 represents a real enough inflection point that it makes a certain amount of sense to separate out bands that were influential strictly in the '90s.

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