Required Listening: The Best ’90s Alt-Rock Acts You Haven’t Heard


Last weekend, we stumbled upon a band we had not thought about in at least a decade: Seaweed. We were having a drink at our local watering hole and heard a rumor that “some ’90s grunge band” was playing in the attached music venue. Eventually, we found out that said group was Seaweed. That inspired us to go back and listen to some of their old music (thanks, YouTube), which got us thinking about other great ’90s alternative bands who have yet to get their due despite the recent wave of nostalgia for the days of flannel and smashed guitars. Get to know some of our favorites are after the jump.


Nirvana fans are sure to appreciate Seaweed, a Tacoma band that formed in 1989 and put out its first three albums on Sub Pop. This is the perfect music for racing down a highway (while head-banging, of course). The underrated, punk-edged grunge rockers, underwent several line-up changes in the late ’90s and finally broke up after releasing their final full-length, Actions & Indications, on Merge in 1999. Thankfully for those who missed them the first time around, the four original members of Seaweed (plus a new drummer) reunited to play Bumbershoot in 2007 and have done some other performances since then. According to their Myspace page, the band also has an album of new material in the works.

Lisa Germano

The singer/songwriter Lisa Germano is best known for her fantastically titled 1994 album Geek the Girl — and that’s understandable, because it’s a freaking masterpiece. An unflinching look at girlhood, from adolescent infatuation to emotional tumult to the harrowing experience of being stalked. But Germano made three albums before that one and eight after, the most recent being 2009’s Magic Neighbor, released on Young God, a label run and closely curated by Swans’ Michael Gira. Meanwhile, if you’re the kind to judge a girl by her collaborations, no one’s got a better pedigree than Germano, who has worked with everyone from David Bowie and Iggy Pop to Eels.


Any Nirvana fan worth her white-vinyl Bleach reissue knows that the Vaselines were among Kurt Cobain’s favorite bands. But were you aware that when that band broke up (they’ve since re-formed and, last year, released the fantastic comeback album Sex with an X), singer Eugene Kelly founded Captain America, who later changed their name to Eugenius? Kelly’s group included members of BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub and were signed to Atlantic at Cobain’s urging. They put out a handful of singles and EPs, as well as two albums, most notably their 1992 debut Oomalama. Vaselines fans won’t be disappointed.

Velocity Girl

Although Velocity Girl were also signed to Sub Pop, they were a DC band. And if you’re into the recent wave of lady rockers like Vivian Girls who combine a love of guitar noise with a penchant for ’60s pop, then you need to check them out. Formed in 1988, the band reshuffled several times before releasing their debut album, 1993’s Copacetic. (Fun fact: At the time of its release, it was Sub Pop’s biggest-selling album after Bleach.) The follow up, ¡Simpatico!, was just as strong. Sadly, the group released only one more full-length before calling it quits in 1996. The reunited for a single show back in 2002, a benefit for original vocalist Bridget Cross (later of Unrest), after she was arrested. Whether they ever play together again or not, we’re seriously hoping Sub Pop will considering reissuing their back catalog.


Named for the character in Grease, Kenickie were a lively quartet out of Sunderland, in North East England. They released two catchy, danceable pop-punk albums, 1997’s At the Club and 1998’s Get In, as well as a whole lot of singles and EPs. The clip above showcases the group’s goofy sense of humor, but you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with their wonderful one-two punch of a single, “Punka.” Kenickie broke up shortly after releasing their second record. Frontwoman Lauren Laverne went on to a successful TV career and is currently co-hosting BBC 2’s parody news show, Ten O’ Clock Live .

The Fluid

These days, The Fluid most often turn up as a historical footnote, having shared a split 7” with Nirvana just before the band made it big. But they deserve better than that. The Denver-based band — Sub Pop’s first non-Seattle signing — were pre-grunge garage rockers who wore their inspirations on their sleeve; MC5 fans and Nuggets lovers, make room for them in your record collection. Formed in 1984, The Fluid split up in ’93 but reunited for a one-off set at Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary festival in 2008. Sadly, the band’s guitarist, Rick Kulwicki, died this February.

Skunk Anansie

Skunk Anansie are one of those British bands that made a huge splash across the pond but never quite broke through in the US. Fronted by an striking, androgynous lady known as Skin, they were famous for their violently political, punk and metal-flavored tracks. When the band broke up in 2001, Skin pursued a less successful solo career before reuniting Skunk Anansie in 2009. They’ve produced two albums since then, none of which live up to the heights of their earlier work.

that dog.

Boy, did we love that dog. in high school. (Alas, we discovered them just as they were breaking up.) The alt-pop foursome was led by Anna Waronker, daughter of Warner Bros. mogul Larry Waronker, and boasted the bass and violin stylings of sisters Rachel and Petra Haden, whose dad is the jazz star Charlie Haden. But this wasn’t some nepotistic vanity project. that dog. excelled at upbeat, melodic sing-alongs. We especially recommend Totally Crushed Out!, their 1995 ode to teenage infatuation.


Raincoats fans, listen up. Columbus, Ohio’s Scrawl were at it well before the riot grrrls, releasing their first album, Plus, Also, Too in 1987. Although they hung on for over a decade after that and put out several fantastic records (including the fantastically nasty, Steve Albini-produced 1991 EP Bloodsucker), Scrawl faced label troubles throughout their career. It’s a shame that they never quite caught on, because the majority of their output could easily stand alongside the best Northwest noise-pop of the early ’90s.