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The Alternative Rock Portal

Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth

Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock or simply alternative) is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. 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). Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground.

Alternative rock broadly consists of music that differs greatly in terms of its sound, social context and regional roots. By the end of the 1980s, magazines and zines, college radio airplay, and word of mouth had increased the prominence and highlighted the diversity of alternative rock, helping to define a number of distinct styles (and music scenes) such as noise pop, indie rock, grunge, and shoegaze. Most of these subgenres had achieved minor mainstream notice and a few bands representing them, such as Hüsker Dü and R.E.M., had even signed to major labels. But most alternative bands' commercial success was limited in comparison to other genres of rock and pop music at the time, and most acts remained signed to independent labels and received relatively little attention from mainstream radio, television, or newspapers. With the breakthrough of Nirvana and the popularity of the grunge and Britpop movements in the 1990s, alternative rock entered the musical mainstream and many alternative bands became successful.

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Seattle based Grunge band Alice in Chains in 2007
Grunge music (sometimes referred to as the Seattle Sound) is a genre of alternative rock inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock. Grunge was created in the mid-1980s by bands from Washington state, particularly in the Seattle area.

Grunge music is generally characterized by "dirty" guitar, strong riffs, and heavy drumming. The "dirty" sound resulted both from the common use of heavy guitar distortion and feedback, and from a stylistic change in the standard method of playing punk rock. Grunge involves slower tempos and dissonant harmonies that are generally not found in punk. The lyrics concern similar themes such as social alienation, apathy, entrapment and a desire for freedom. They are typically angst-filled — anger, frustration, ennui, fear, depression and drug addiction are often explored in grunge songs. The lyricism bears similarities to those of punk and the perceptions of Generation X.

It became commercially successful in the first half of the 1990s, due mainly to the release of Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten. The genre is closely associated with Generation X in the US, since the popularity of the genre and usage of the generational term rose simultaneously. Grunge was an early defining musical phenomenon of the 1990s, which distinguished 1990s rock music from that of the 1980s.

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Adore is the fourth studio album from Chicago alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. Virgin Records released the album on June 2, 1998 in the United States. Adore is the Pumpkins' only album not to feature original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Adore marked a change in sound for The Smashing Pumpkins; Greg Kot of Rolling Stone magazine noted that the album "isn't just a transitional record; it's a complete break with the past." Their previously layered, guitar-oriented sound was largely replaced by a quieter and more electronic influenced sound, and incorporated drum machiness and synthesizers for the first time. For the release, the band shed their alternative hipster image for a more subdued Gothic look.

Despite being "one of the most anticipated albums of 1998", Adore was a commercial disappointment and sold only 1.1 million copies, far below the Pumpkins' previous albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. However, the album was well received by critics, and received a nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards.

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Credit: Jason Roth
Morningwood is a band from New York City, founded in 2001.

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