Most Popular grunge/alternative rock bands

The beginning of the 1990s witnessed the birth of a new rock genre, alternative rock. Originally, grunge had started from Seattle, and the music world was experiencing a dramatic shift towards alternative rock. Many grunge bands came ahead with their singles and albums, making them one of the best and most popular grunge bands. Starting from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, each grunge band stepped forward to create history. These bands, along with solo artists, are equally credited for setting the world stage on fire. We have vetted a list of the most popular grunge/alternative rock bands for you. Without any further ado, let’s begin.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band that was formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. Pearl Jam introduced itself to the world through its debut album ‘Ten’ in 1991. The band is known for being one of the key bands in the grunge movement, taking place in the early 90s. In addition to that, the members of Pearl Jam used to shun the popular music industry practices such as giving interviews and making music videos. In its entire career, the band has been able to sell nearly 32 million albums by 2012 in the United States alone, and by 2018, it had sold more than 85 million albums worldwide. Pearl Jam had successfully outrun many of its competitors’ in terms of album sales, and is considered as one of the most influential bands of the decade.


Nirvana hailed from Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Although it had been officially formed at the time, the real deal was done when the band managed to recruit Dave Grohl in 1990. That was actually the beginning of the rise of Nirvana. Founded by Kurt Cobain and bassist KristNovoselic, the audience expected the same legendary music quality from the band as they did from Kurt Cobain.

It did not take much time for Kurt Cobain to make himself popular, and neither did the band. Nirvana’s breakthrough came when the band released its album ‘Nevermind’ and its first single ‘Smells like teen spirit.’ In addition to that, Nirvana was credited for popularizing alternative rock music, and Cobain himself described as the ‘spokesman of a generation.’ In total, Nirvana released three studio albums and received various awards, including the most important such as the Brit Award, Grammy Award, and the American Music Award.

Temple of the Dog

Formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990, Temple of the Dog was an American rock super group conceived by vocalist Chris Cornell as a tribute to his friend, Andrew Wood, who was a lead singer of the band’s Mother, Love Bone, and Malfunkshun. The band released only one album during its career titled ‘Temple of the Dog’ in 1991. Although the album went on to achieve critical acclaim.

However, it was not widely recognized until 1992 when McCready, Gossard, and Vedder Ament joined hands with Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam was a huge influence on the band. Not only did it help the band with its popularity but music quality as well. Pearl Jam was already at the top of their game during the 90s. Therefore, it was quite evident that the Temple of The Dog was destined for success. Even though the band enjoyed a very short career but the live concerts made it up. The band’s final official tour took place in 2016 in celebration of their album, but Vedder did not show up. Even then, the crowd sang his part and made it evident that the band will live in their hearts forever.

The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative rock band from Chicago, formed in 1988. The band has undergone many line-up changes until it found the right members to settle with. The Smashing Pumpkins broke into the mainstream in 1993 with their second album titled ‘Siamese Dream.’ Furthermore, the band had done a job well done by touring extensively to build a huge audience. With 30 million albums sold worldwide, The Smashing Pumpkins were among the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of the 90s.

However, drug abuse, internal breakups, and diminishing record sales led to its 2000 breakup. At the time, it was quite heartbreaking to see a band that had reached the heights of its career and then stumbling down within a decade. However, through its concerts, tours, and albums, the band made it sure that it became a part of history forever.


Bush was an English rock band that was formed in London, England, in 1992. The band found immense and immediate success with its debut album ‘Sixteen Stone’ released in 1994. Additionally, the band became one of the most commercially successful and popular grunge/rock bands of the 90s by selling 10 million albums alone in the United States and 20 million worldwide. Even though the band was extremely successful, but they found it hard to receive the same popularity back in their home country. Before breaking up in 2002, the band had released several top ten singles on the Billboard rock charts and reformed in 2010. Since then, the band has released more than three albums.


The Tool is an American rock band originating from Los Angeles. It was formed in 1990 and has performed worldwide tours in addition to winning four Grammy awards. Furthermore, the band has produced albums that had topped the charts in several countries. Until now, the band has released five studio albums and sold over 13 million albums in the U.S. alone.

The Tool was recognized for its unique music videos and was majorly influenced by the group Melvins. Moreover, Tool’s live shows attracted headlines due to their unorthodox video and setting display. The band did not allow live cameras or follow spots. Instead, the band used extensive backlighting to direct the crowd’s focus away from the band members and towards the large screens in the back and the crowd.


Silverchair was a rock band with Australian roots. It was formed in 1992 initially as

Innocent Criminals. The group received its breakthrough when it won a national demo competition organized by SBS TV show Nomad and ABC radio station. Silverchair had won more ARIA Music Awards than any other artist in history by winning 21 wins from 49 nominations.

The band released five studio albums, and each debuted at number one on ARIA Albums Chart. Silverchair brought diversity to its music throughout its career by offering different music styles and grew more ambitious as time passed. The lyrical ability witnessed improvement as well, but by 2011, the band had account an indefinite hiatus. Silverchair had sold over 10 million albums worldwide by January 2019.


Formed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1993, Garbage is an American rock band that has sold over 17 million albums worldwide. The band’s self-titled debut album received critical acclaim upon its release and sold over four million copies, including double-platinum certification in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. The band’s string of success continued by releasing several hit singles such as ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘Only Happy When It Rains’.

Although Garbage had enough critical claim in its account, its third album ‘Beautiful Garbage’ failed to achieve sufficient commercial success. While the band was busy with the troubled production of their fourth album ‘Bleed Like Me’, it silently disbanded before regrouping to complete it and then releasing it in 2005. The album topped the charts and peaked at number four in the U.S., which was a career-high.


L7 is an American rock band that was formed in Los Angeles, California. The band was active from 1985-2001 while reforming in 2014. In addition to L7 touring widely across the U.S., Japan, Australia, and South America, the band has released seven studio albums. Its humor and subversive infused music recognize the band and spirited live performances combined with ferocious physical sets. Based on their image and sound, L7 has been majorly associated with the grunge movement of the late 80s and early 90s. L7 has been a witness of several controversies back in the 90s, which one way or the other put a dent in the band’s career.

The band in 1992 released its third album ‘Bricks Are Heavy.’ It was featured in Rolling Stones in May 1999’s list as one of the most essential recordings of the 90s. Furthermore, their 1992 single ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ remained on the U.S. Alternative Songs chart for thirteen weeks, reaching no.8. Even though L7 had released hit albums and singles, contributing to its popularity but the majority share came from extensive and repeated touring.

 Final Word

To conclude, the grunge/alternative wave during the 90s was so huge that it carried almost everyone to success. While solo artists were trying their luck as well, grunge/alternative bands came in heavy. It was a time when a new hit single or an album would pop up as soon as you finished listening to the first one. All in all, it was a great era both for the fans and the most popular grunge/alternative bands alike.

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