These days, alternative music as a genre doesn’t have quite the same force as it once did. Most midsize towns that used to have dedicated alternative rock radio stations, where one could readily hear the latest from say, Ben Folds Five or the Gin Blossoms, either closed shop altogether or coalesced and transitioned into mainstream rock or some mix of mainstream and hard rock. Although many of the bands from the 1990s — and a handful from the 1980s — have continued making music, only a few of the major metro areas in the nation still have true alternative stations.
First, let’s take a look at what “alternative” actually means.
Wikipedia defines alternative rock this way:
The ‘alternative’ definition refers to the genre’s distinction from mainstream rock music, expressed primarily in a distorted guitar sound, transgressive lyrics and generally a nonchalant, defiant attitude. 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, D.I.Y. ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.
Music fans, particularly alternative music fans, will notice radio waves have few bands like Weezer, Bush or Stone Temple Pilots anymore, that is to say bands that use a lot of distorted guitars, driving rhythms and power chords. The culture seems to have changed, and as such, much of alternative today, with a few exceptions, could be more described as alt-pop. Although artists and bands like Lorde, Chvches, Of Monsters and Men and Foster the People maintain the off-the-beaten-path signature sound of alternative music, transgressiveness and to some degree, the defiance, the sound is more infused with keyboards, computer effects and experimental guitar techniques and chords. Muse is one of the few alternative bands in the modern era still producing the big rock sound reminiscent of bands in the 1990s, while still experimenting (See this video) and offering an alternative sound that’s different from the mainstream.
While this list is will be inevitably subjective, I am going to base it on some criteria and try to remove my personal preferences as best I can.
Here are the criteria on which I am basing this list:
- Impact on the music industry and influence on other bands
- Commercial and critical success
If this was a list of my personal favorite alternative bands of all time, for instance, Counting Crows and R.E.M. would probably be number one and two, respectively, along with a bunch of bands only a handful of people have heard of, like this list. But no, I’m going to try to keep it as objective as possible, with the understanding that subjectivity will inevitably creep in on any list like such as this. I can already think of a few bands that I absolutely cannot stand (Alice in Chains comes to mind), but that will and must be on the list because of their impact on the industry. I am also going to deduct points for bands that did not really stay truly within the alternative genre throughout their careers. For instance, U2 certainly had an alternative sound in the early 1980s, but quickly adopted, purposefully or not, more of a mainstream rock or adult rock sound by the mid- to late-1980s, carrying into the 1990s and 2000s.
The quintessential difference between alternative and the mainstream was best put in a review of Radiohead’s song “You and Whose Army” comparing Thome Yorke and Bono:
The lyrics, which seem to taunt authority into cracking down on the rabble, could have been given a completely different meaning had they been set to more triumphant music. (You can practically hear Bono delivering a song like this without a shred of irony). But here, Yorke sounds defeated, as if even he’s not confident that an insurgency would succeed.
That is alternative in a nutshell.
Without further adieu, here are picks 40-50:
40. Garbage — Sci-fi pop with a female kick and a wall of sound to boot, Garbage was widely influential in the mid-1990s. Although Garbage didn’t have much commercial success after its first two albums, they still managed to sell more than 17 million albums worldwide.
41. The Killers — The Killers are one of the best bands of the 2000s, with four albums, “Hot Fuss,” “Sam’s Town,” “Day Age” and “Battle Born” reaching number one in England and Ireland, with “Sam’s Town” and “Hot Fuss” selling a total of 12 million units worldwide. The band has been nominated for seven Grammys and 24 NME awards.
42. Blur — All you need to know is “Whoo hoo!”
43. Everclear — Not one of my personal favorites, but more than deserving of being in the top 50.
44. Rage Against the Machine — No band spewed defiance with more punch than Rage.
45. The Pixies — Influencing countless bands through the years, The Pixies will forever be etched in alternative history for creating “the blueprint for alternative rock that would be followed and embellished upon by everyone from grunge to Britpop,” according to YouTube user iConcertsTelevision.
46. Dinosaur Jr. — Forming in 1984, Dinosaur Jr. has also influenced untold numbers of bands through the 30 years they have been playing music, although the band didn’t enjoy the commercial success of some of their successors.
47. The Church — Once described as “dense, shimmering, exquisite guitar pop,” while The Church also didn’t enjoy widespread commercial success, they have a distinctive sound that makes them a must for any fan of alternative.
48. No Doubt. No doubt.
49. Mazzy Star — Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” has been featured in more than 20 TV shows and movies. Enough said.
50. The Lemonheads
Check out this "Stone Cold" Steve Austin quote from his most recent podcast providing his thoughts on churches and gay marriage:
Which one of these mother fuckers talked to God, and God said that same sex marriage was a no can do? Can you verify? Can you give me some 411 on that background?
… I’ve got some damn good friends that are gay. I’m absolutely for same sex marriage. I don’t think that there is a god that says you cannot do this, you cannot do that. If two cats can’t get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison and then accept God. He’s going to let him into heaven. After the fact that he did all that shit?!? See, that’s all horse shit to me. That don’t jive with me.
Can someone give Stone Cold a “hell yeah!”
Philosopher Peter Boghossian, in response to some preliminary thoughts I made on his book and about evangelical atheism in general, asked me how I define “proselytize.”
I don’t understand this question at all. Unlike some scholars, I don’t need to invent my own definitions for terms in order to make them correlate with whatever argument I’m trying to convey. I simply define “proselytize” as the dictionary defines it, and we all know full well what it means. See my post: Proselytizing with the ‘Good News?’
I understand where this student is coming from, but it seems to me that at some point, the PC stuff just becomes pedantic:
The following video was taken in front of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn. I counted at least five deputies with three patrol cars ensuring churchies got to and from worship safely, and that was just one of scores of large congregations in Knox County that likely required a police presence. I wonder if the sheriff’s office had any deputies left to actually fight crime? Just par for the course here in Jesusland.
Atheists and agnostics can go too far in trying to disseminate their philosophy to the world, and I think it’s safe to say Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manuel for Creating Atheists,” has reached that point, and unfortunately, the book has received endorsements from the likes of Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker and Michael Shermer, the latter of whom even provides the foreward.
It’s one thing to post atheism-related videos, quotes or memes on Facebook or in other forums, hoping something might hit a nerve. Believers certainly take liberties to post their own faith-infused, logically bankrupt messages to the world; why should we not follow suit and bring reason back to the public discourse? It’s one thing to be open about your nonbelief and willing to discuss it with believers if asked. It’s one thing to want to meet up with like-minded nonbelievers to create a sense of community and belonging. I understand all of those positions.
But it’s quite another to actively proselytize to believers as “street epistemologists,” as Boghossian calls it, approach strangers and engage in “clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith,” which, forgive me for saying it, but sounds oddly similar to “auditing” in Scientology.
As one example, Boghossian said that when he goes to the bank, he tries to pick out a teller wearing a cross and then strike up a conversation about religion:
… Every time I see her I go out of my way to wait in her line, and I immediately begin the intervention.
And Barker had this to say in support of the book:
Since atheism is truly Good News, it should not be hidden under a bushel.
First off, atheism has no core message or doctrine or creed other than the assertion that there are no gods, and it definitely has no message to the world in the same way that the New Testament and Christian theology purports a worldview and a pattern for living based on scripture, so what exactly can atheists hope to achieve by asserting their nonbelief on unsuspecting believers other than lending support to the argument — most recently portrayed in that noxious movie, “God Is Not Dead,” — that all nonbelievers are arrogant and rabid gadflys who think they know everything?
About the closest thing to a “message” atheists might hope to convey is that truth can be found in logic and reason and a person can indeed lead a happy and fulfilling life without religion. The difference here is that Christianity at its core claims to provide fulfillment in life as a direct result of believing in Jesus. Atheism claims no such thing for itself. Many nonbelievers are perfectly happy and would probably describe their lives as exceeding rich and fulfilling, while some atheists may be completely miserable, but that may or may not have anything to do with their lack of belief in god. Christianity attempts to describe a direct correlation between happiness and belief. Of course, for an “evangelical” atheist attempting to reach believers with their own brand of “good news,” an appeal to reason and rationality will be all but lost on most Christians unless the believer still has some logical embers glowing somewhere deep in the recesses of their brain. The entire branch of apologetics from Thomas Aquinus to C.S. Lewis on down the line is built on a tower of unfounded assumptions heaped on more assumptions that are, in turn, proliferated ceaselessly in church, so few evangelical Christians are even going to have the tools necessary to reason themselves out of faith. Thus, even the best efforts of people like Boghossian to lead believers away from faith will, more times than not, end in lots of frustration and head-banging.
Further, I’m sure this rather obvious next point has not been lost on other nonbelievers, but actively proselytizing to the public makes us no better than fanatical Christians or Mormons. What’s next? Passing out copies of “The God Delusion” at college campuses and shouting from street corners like religious zealots? I don’t want to associate myself with zealots, religious or otherwise.
The beauty about freethought, agnosticism or atheism is that there is no higher calling, and thus, no reason or purpose other than our own sense of self-satisfaction to evangelize to believers. What would be the goal of the atheist who wants to proselytize to evangelical Christians? Will he single-handedly eradicate faith? Certainly not. Will he convince a person or two? Maybe. But like it or not, as long as people are afraid of the death, the dark and uncertainty about the afterlife, religion in some form is going to be around a long, long time, possibly until the end of the species itself.
If nonbelievers want to do something other than just ignoring Christians altogether, why not encourage friendly and respectful discussions about religion and freethought with believers, so long as both parties consent to talk about the subject in this way? While many Christians are simply unable to handle criticisms of their core beliefs, I have found that some actually enjoy having a dialogue about religion and questions of faith, even if it makes them think critically about why they believe. Why not point people toward resources like scholarly works on the historicity of Jesus, contradictions and errors in the Bible and the evidence for evolution? But don’t misunderstand me: If it is the atheist who is approached by a believer wanting to proselytize, then it’s open season.
Personally, I don’t talk about religious or nonreligion in person unless I’m asked about it, and even then, I don’t go out of my way to convince someone to turn away from their faith. I freely offer my thoughts on religion on this site and sometimes on Facebook and Twitter, and people are free to read it or ignore it. In addition, for believers with a genuine desire to know the truth — Many, I have found don’t have a genuine desire for the truth. They are happy to live and die without having to challenge their core beliefs. — Amazon has hundreds of books available, some for free, that explore the claims of the New Testament and Christian theology, the inadequacies of biblical science versus real science and fallacies of an all-loving, all-powerful god who is all things immoral, inconsistent, petty, brazenly violent and decidedly unjust.
The onus is on believers to provide arguments and evidence for their claims, and I just don’t see what nonbelievers have to gain from actively turning into the very proselytizing Bible thumpers we rail against. Rather than publicly flaunting atheism and catering to the bad stereotypes, why not disseminate the message that although we might live without a divine purpose — rendering the act of proselytizing to believers not only a pointless but meaningless exercise — we do live with the truth and beauty we find in art, literature, poetry, music, love and life itself? I disagree with the methodology of street epistemology, but if we can utilize less off-putting ways to engage with believers that focuses on human solidarity and the human experience that exists across all faiths and ideologies, that might be a message worth sharing.
Here is a thoughtful review of “God’s Not Dead” from the atheist perspective. Even from the reviews and the trailer, we can glean that Kevin Sorbo’s character grossly misrepresents the atheist position and fails to have an understanding of basic philosophy, especially about the quote from Nietzsche on which the film’s title is based.
I’m glad this guy readily admits that believers’ “proof” in the afterlife amounts to nothing more than “clues” and “circumstantial evidence” because he sure did whiff on the rest of his argument, issuing one fallacy after another:
If you forward to about the 40 second mark, he builds his case around our desires versus reality:
For example, Bill, human desires. C.S. Lewis said for every human desire, there’s a corresponding reality in nature. We get thirsty because there’s such a thing as water. We crave physical intimacy because there’s sex. The reason we may desire immortality is because it really exists.
In Christian apologetics, this is called the argument from desire, which essentially says that since humans have some kind of inner yearning for the transcendent, a transcendent reality (i.e. heaven) must exist. In logic, this is called an appeal to consequences and is very shoddy logic indeed. First, not every human being thinks living forever is actually desirable. Many believe, and I tend to agree, that eternal life would be woefully boring after the first couple hundred years. To assume that everybody inherently desires eternal life only leads the Christian apologist, as ever, into another fallacy. Second, we get thirsty not because water exists, but because our bodies cannot survive without it.
Third, and most importantly, we all might desire for a pot of gold to suddenly appear in our bedrooms. I doubt we would find many people who would not wish this to happen. Yet, just because millions of people might want a certain reality to unfold, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or is even feasible.
The pastor then goes on to argue at about the 1:20 mark that the most compelling reason to believe in the afterlife is the fact that Jesus’ body has not been found in 2,000 years. While this is technically true, it’s again based on the false premises that Jesus lived and was executed by the Romans. I’ve shown several times how there is not one single contemporary source outside of the New Testament that verify the Gospels about Jesus, so I won’t belabor the point again. Second, even if we did find the bones of Jesus and could somehow confirm that he was Jesus of New Testament fame, this would only verify that he existed. This discovery would prove nothing about the virgin birth, the miracles or the resurrection. In other words, assumptions heaped on other assumptions equal nothing.