A brief history of rock music: part two

A brief history of rock music: part two

Here's how rock evolved from the 90s to the present day, and the huge part that Nirvana's smash hit Smells Like Teen Spirit played in the transformation


American grunge band brought the new sound of rock to the rest of the world.

As we saw last week, rock music expanded into many different genres, and continuously evolved throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. 

As an antithesis to the overproduced and commercial pop and rock of the years preceding, a fresh take on rebellion was building in the US, with a musical style that was based on heavy distortion and feedback. This was known as grunge, and after a few years developing in the Seattle music scene, American rock band Nirvana rose to meteoric heights. Their biggest hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit, was the driving force, bringing this genre to the rest of the world.

Around the same time, in 1991, Red Hot Chili Peppers were becoming a household name, blending funk and hard rock riffs. Green Day, Weezer and The Offspring, meanwhile, were paving the way for pop-punk towards the end of the decade.

A brief history of rock music: part one

In Britain, meanwhile, a different movement was forming. Bands were taking influence from the “British invasion” of the 60s, leading to the Britpop scene, which grew dramatically thanks to the rise of Suede, Blur and Oasis among many others. 

Another band who had managed to distance themselves from both grunge and Britpop labels was Radiohead, releasing thought-provoking art-rock albums The Bends and OK Computer, with the latter often being cited as one of the most influential albums of the past 25 years.

As grunge and Britpop gradually lost their appeal, nu-metal and rap-rock took their place at the turn of the millennium, with Nickelback, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit receiving constant airplay on radio stations around the world, while British bands Coldplay, Travis and Feeder were gaining traction with their more melodic, introspective pop-rock sound. Muse also had a mass appeal with their heavy rock sound.

A beginner's guide to punk rock music

The nu-metal phase was incredibly short-lived, but another new movement was on the horizon, again in New York: this time the post-punk revival. 

The Strokes, Interpol and The White Stripes all came along in quick succession, and led to the rise of Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand in other territories.

Similar to the 80s, synthesisers became more prominent, with bands such as The Killers setting the trend, while Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem creating an even more electronic-led sound.

Since the mid-2000s rock music has slowly fallen out of favour with the mainstream once again, but bands such as Warpaint, Tame Impala, DIIV and Catfish and the Bottlemen have been building loyal fanbases under the radar, and acts such as The National and Foals continuing to grow in popularity. 

Recommended listening:

NirvanaSmells Like Teen Spirit
Red Hot Chili PeppersUnder The Bridge
BlurSong 2
RadioheadParanoid Android
Linkin ParkFaint
The StrokesLast Nite
Franz FerdinandTake Me Out
Arctic MonkeysI Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Kings of LeonOn Call

Recommended viewing:

Jeff Buckley – Live in Chicago


Montage of Heck – Documentary about Kurt Cobain/Nirvana


Coldplay – Live 2003

Recommended reading:

Meet Me In The Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
What is Rock? (Part II)


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