As a music writer, we are asked constantly to compare the new with the old, to decipher the periphery where modern bands' influences come from to understand where we are going and what we are seeing. We can hear everything Keith Richards stole from Chuck Berry, and can stand in front of Green Day and watch the last 40 years of punk rock and The Who blast by us.
This past Wednesday marked 15 years since Sublime lead singer Brad Nowell died, and right now there are at least five Sublime tribute bands traveling the world, as well as a whole batch of original bands biting off his band's sound trying to reignite the flame of his indie-surf group. We'll let you judge whether or not that's an honor or a sin.
Then tonight, Houston welcomes Cage The Elephant back to town at Verizon Wireless Theater. The Kentucky band draws constant Nirvana comparisons, most of which are lazy, but still made us crick our neck to check them out. Funny how far having a blonde, shrieking lead singer will take you.
Right now the indie world is mired in the lush music of chillwave, a far cry from the aggressive and snaky sound that ruled just a decade ago. If you listened to new music now, you would think that Giorgio Moroder and the Cocteau Twins have usurped Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke as the new gods, and you would probably be half-right.
This all got Rocks Off to thinking about the current '90s revival and what it means in 2011. We've heard plenty of people make the stuttered case that it was the best decade in modern music, cutting paths not seen since the '60s, while others dismiss it as whiny and trite, built on consumerism and the co-opting of disparate cliques.
Making a list of the 25 most influential rock bands of the '90s was like doing 25 separate autopsies, extracting the guts of each group or artist to see their function. There were some bands that hit us as obvious, and other that we had to sell ourselves on, and with any list there will be unconscious omissions, not of the heart but of the brain.
These presented in no particular order. So debate, discuss, scream, get hostile, and drop some knowledge on everyone's ass. And yes, we do think that Creed is an influential band, because you know, influences aren't always good or hip.
Didn't your mama teach you anything?
30 Seconds To Mars, Seether, Cage The Elephant
Kings Of Leon, Nickelback, Our Lady Peace
Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, Supervillians
Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse, Ben Kweller
Nine Inch Nails
Atari Teenage Riot, Slipknot, Combichrist
My Bloody Valentine
Beach House, Indian Jewelry, Glasvegas
Rage Against The Machine
Deftones, Rise Against, Hollywood Undead
Lucero, Whiskeytown, Old '97s
Lucero, Against Me!, Jimmy Eat World
Silversun Pickups, Of Montreal, My Chemical Romance
Faith No More
Glassjaw, Deftones, Papa Roach
Every Time I Die, Avenged Sevenfold, Norma Jean
Theory Of A Deadman, Breaking Benjamin, Default
Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, The Music
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Bumblebeez, Hot Chip
blink-182, Bayside, New Found Glory
TV On The Radio, Muse, Coldplay
Arcade Fire, Band Of Horses, MGMT
Heartless Bastards, Sleater-Kinney, Cat Power
Thursday, The Blood Brothers, Gallows
Justice, MSTRKRFT, Ghostland Observatory
The Kills, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Land of Talk
Clutch, Priestess, Wolfmother
Fall Out Boy, Saves The Day, Motion City Soundtrack
Bon Iver, Badly Drawn Boy, Rocky Votolato
At The Drive-In
Their reach wasn't felt until after 2000's Relationship Of Command and their subsequent break-up, but on a '00s list they would get top billing. Reunion, pretty please?
More of an '80s phenomenon, they would be felt the most in Nirvana, and Radiohead, both of which would go on to be greatly earth-shattering '90s bands. Remember that their best stuff did come out in the late '80s, but you probably like Trompe Le Monde, so now we're the assholes.
This riotously angry gal would pave the way for girls like Alanis Morrisette, Hayley Williams of Paramore, and Tracy Bonham of "Mother Mother" fame.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Formed in the early '80s, the case could very much be made that they made their most ground-breaking music before they even began working on 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The debt that every '90s and '00s rap-rock act owes to them spawns from their '80s output is immense. As for their own '90s work, think of it as a case of making music to survive.
Jane Doe wouldn't arrive until 2001, and as much as we wanted to put the band on this list, we just never see When Forever Comes Crashing tattoos.
One of the biggest metal bands in a decade which saw quite a lot of gimmicky acts, Tool was and is still fueled by pure artistic anger. They are a niche band, but what a niche to own.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Another odd case, with a band releasing their best and most bone-shaking stuff in the '80s but not actually going above ground until reaping the benefits of fame until the '90s. We love 1991's Metallica, but they made more of an overall impact with Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, ...And Justice for All, and constant touring and teen awe.