The ’90s alternative rock scene was initially defined by grunge artists like Pearl Jam and Nirvana and eventually the post-grunge sound, which was led by the likes of Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20. Not every artist was fortunate enough to become a household name, but the ’90s had more than its share of bands that enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame and even more one-hit wonders. The airwaves were dominated by the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls and Lit but bands like Dog’s Eye View and Bare Jr. even had their flirtation with fame. The ’90s alternative-rock scene was not really alternative to anything as the genre quickly became mainstream fare that often overlapped with adult contemporary. What if you are a die-hard fan of the ’90s “alternative” sound and you want to add some new music to your extensive collection of alterna-pop? The following songs are some of the most under-appreciated songs of the ’90s and offer solid alternatives to the established acts that many remember from the ’90s “alternative” heyday.
“Sway” by Bic Runga (1997)
New Zealand’s Bic Runga never garnered the attention she deserved and the track “Sway” is the best argument for her talents. The track was part of her 1997 album “Drive” and was even featured in the movie “American Pie.” Despite being featured in one of the most successful movies of 1999, the track failed to chart which is sad because it was one of the most well-written and beautifully performed tracks that any artist managed to deliver that year.
“New Beginning” by Stir (2000)
This single is from the band’s 2000 release entitled “Holy Dogs.” Although the track managed to chart in the top 20 on the modern rock chart, the single should have propelled the band further up the chart and given the group a more lasting impression on radio waves. The song had a big chorus, soft verses, and undeniably catchy hook, which was the formula for success back in the day. Many less-talented bands enjoyed years of chart-topping success off of less solidly crafted songs; it is still baffling how Stir did not manage to enjoy more success from this solid alt-rock effort.
“Flat Tire” by Athenaeum (1998)
This Greensboro, North Carolina-based outfit released their major label debut, “Radiance,” in 1998. The lead-off single from this album was “What I Didn’t Know” and it garnered respectable airplay, but the follow-up single, “Flat Tire,” garnered few listens and the band quickly fell off the mainstream ’90s alt-rock radar. The track had an infectious hook and a melancholy charm that fit the times perfectly and belongs in every ’90s music lover’s collection.
“Watch the Girl Destory Me” by Possum Dixon (1992)
Possum Dixon signed to Interscope Records a year later, but this memorable track should have garnered massive radio plays with its brilliantly constructed hook. “Watch the Girl Destroy Me” was not derivative at all and was ahead of its time back in 1992, yet the track was largely overlooked and the band never received the attention they deserved. Fans of ’90s alternative would be wise to check out this standout alt-rock track and delve extensively into this band’s catalog.
“You Make Me Feel” by Jeremy Toback (1999)
This late-’90s pop-rock effort was a tragically overlooked single. The song followed the mold of jangly guitar-driven pop efforts like those from Tal Bachman, Duncan Sheik, and Shawn Mullins, but this track delivered an even more fluid melody. The song’s upbeat lyrics meshed perfectly with the up-tempo feel of the instrumentation yet the track received minimal airplay and remains one of the hidden gems of the ’90s singer-songwriter scene.
“Road Rage” by Catatonia (1998)
Catatonia’s “International Velvet” album was a bona fide hit in the United Kingdom. The album went #1 on the UK albums chart, while “Road Rage” and “Mulder and Scully” became top 10 hits, and “I Am the Mob,” “Strange Glue,” and “Game On” made it to the top 40. The Welsh band was unable to garner any significant radio play in the United States, though, and went largely overlooked despite their memorable lyrics and huge pop hooks. Lead singer Cerys Matthews’ distinctive accent and alluring vocal inflections add to the band’s charm and “Road Rage” provides a great starting point for ’90s alt-rock fans looking to dig into the Catatonia library.
“Rick James” by Jude (1998)
Jude enjoyed success with his song “I Know” from the “City of Angels” soundtrack, but his fame was short-lived and most alternative-rock fans failed to dive into the immensely talented singer-songwriter’s catalog of indie-style songs. “Rick James” from “No One is Really Beautiful” was the most prolific track the artist crafted in the late-’90s, yet it received few spins on radio.
“Morning Afterglow” by Electrasy (1998)
Electrasy enjoyed minor success in the United Kingdom with this poignantly-crafted track but the song failed to gain much traction on United States radio stations. The vocals succinctly capture the emotion of the biting lyrics and the beautifully arranged strings were some of the best of the ’90s. “Morning Afterglow” succeeds at capturing the emotions that the Goo Goo Dolls played upon during the same era, but Electrasy’s take on those feelings brought a more organic tone to the alt-rock world.
“Torn” by Ednaswap (1995)
Remember Natalie Imbruglia? Yeah, she sang “Torn,” that song that spent three months at the top of the US Hot 100 Airplay charts. Well, that song was written by a band called Ednaswap and the track was intended to be a single on the band’s sophomore album “Wacko Magneto,” but when Natalie Imbruglia’s pop-tinged cover of the alt-rock track blew up, the band’s hopes for chart-topping success were doomed. Ednaswap’s version is more prolific due to its darker tones, brooding vocals, and impassioned instrumentals, but the glossed up Natalie Imbruglia cover is what is permanently enshrined in the annals pop-culture.
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