The Great Music Debate – Final Chapter

Catch up where we are on this list here:
Part I
Part II
Part III

And so we conclude the top 94 alternative artists of all time as voted by the listeners of our local radio station: 94.7 NRK.  TL and I had a discussion recently about how the list was chosen.  I know the listeners voted, but did they get a list of which they were to pick a set number of? Or were they asked to supply their list of 5?  I think it was the latter based on an ad I recently heard, but I’m not sure.  The list was assembled based on the number of votes.  The most is #1, second most #2, etc.  As we’ve mentioned in the past, this is not our list.  The full list can be seen here.

Garbanzo’s comments are italicized.

15. REM – While I am happy these guys did not show up lower on the list, I am sad they are below some of the others on this list.  REM has formed in 1980. How they can appear below some of these other bands is beyond me.  I guess I also have a special place in my heart for REM because I heard of these guys before many people in my small town.  Living in small town Iowa, rarely are you hearing non-top 40 bands.  But, I heard these guys – and fell in love with them. These guys should have been a top 10 band.  They were and are a band that creates sounds as opposed to just following what everyone else is doing.  Like U2, you just never know what it is you are going to get from REM. 

14. Green Day – I’m sorry. I fucking hate these guys.  While I think every band needs a sound of their own, I can ID a Green Day song only a few bars into it.  When their “new” album came out, I could not tell it was new as it sounded like every other fucking song they have ever played.  Yes, they are popular. No, I can’t fault them for it.  But, I can call them a sell out that doesn’t belong on this list. I agree.  Not my favorite band.  But, when it comes to popularity, these guys are #1 in the 14 – 17 demographic (not to mention Hot Topic shoppers).  (Yet they weren’t popular with you – a person we have already established IS one of those Hot Topic shoppers.) So if popularity = greatest, then I am surprised they are not higher.  However, if we really wanted the greatest, we should just listen to bands like The Ramones and The Clash, both of whom Green Day blatantly rips off.

13. Pixies – They are where they belong, IMO.  Here here!

12. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Another band that deserves to be up there.  Formed in 1983, they have more than paid their dues to get where they are and a long term player in the alternative scene. Another Top 10 influential/greatest alternative band.  They got kind of bogged down with their “under the Bridge” sell out song.  But, the bills have got to be paid, right?  These guys can rock and have spawned a whole generation of artists.

11. Modest Mouse – Because of their “local connection”, they landed this high on the list.  No other explanation. I like these guys. Hell, the drummer was our neighbor for many years.  But, they appeared above some more deserving folks – like REM, Pixies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. Yeah.  This was definitely a local thing.  Not even sure they are top 75.  I like them, but as for greatest or influential?  Not so much .

10. Death Cab for Cutie – Again, a band I love – they are amazing live too – but too high compared to others who appeared on this list already.  Here is a top 35 band.  Influential.  Paid their dues.  They create good music that pushes the boundaries. 

9. The Killers – I have made it no secret that I am obsessed with The Killers. I think they are doing a great job evolving forward the music genre.  Do they deserve #9 of all time?  Sadly, no.  #9 of most influencial of the past 5 years? Probably. I agree.  They belong with Death Cab. 

8. Muse – These guys have been around since the early 90s.  And they surprise me each time I hear them as I’m never sure if it is them – then am pleasantly surprised. Do they deserve this position? I’m not sure.  Hell yes they deserve this position.  I mean, if bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and Oingo Boingo are going to get the shaft, then it is only fair that a talented, quality band such as Muse gets this kind of recognition.  Would they make MY top 10 list?  Probably not.  But as skewed as this list is, this is probably a pretty solid and accurate showing. So now you are going to approve of a position on the list because this list is already skewed?? 

7. Foo Fighters – Another band that I love.  I love how they got their start – drummer of Nirvana creating a demo where he did everything – played all instruments and sang.  Because of how people responded, his band formed pretty quickly thereafter.  These guys combine rock and that alternative sound fairly well. That all being said, I’m not sure they deserve this rank above others like The Smiths, the Ramones, etc. I agree.  I think the Foo’s are a top 25 band.  Musically gifted.  Incredibly fun to listen to.  But they are just not as influential as they could/should be. 

6. The Cure – Agreed!! I might even flip-flop them with Depeche Mode when it comes to influence and creative expression. Yeah, of course you think they should be flipped. I mean, I just made you get rid of that Cure t-shirt you’ve had since high school.  Clearly, you are a fan! 🙂

5. Depeche Mode – Another one I agree with! Oh yeah.  No question here.

4. U2 – Love U2 – but do they deserve this position above other bands? Not sure. Indeed they do!  See my argument for REM.  This is probably where they would have ended up on my list.  Maybe at Number 3. See, I like U2. I do.  And most bands that are up and coming will list them as a band they are influenced by.  But my question is always how – what part of that band’s sound is influenced by U2. You can hear the influence from many other bands on this list.  But U2? Really?

3. Pearl Jam – Too high. Nah.  This is right.  I give the edge to Pearl Jam over U2 in this case because Pearl Jam (along with Nirvana) defined the grunge movement. Where U2 clearly defined their own sound and has influenced others, Pearl Jam helped to define an entire genre of music.  Like it or hate it, they were the John Adams of the birth of grunge and the explosion of alternative music as a whole. But, again, here is my rub. “GREATEST BANDS OF ALL TIME”.  Yes, they defined the grunge movement.  But, it was one movement in the history of movement. Do they deserve being ahead of other bands that probably influenced them? I think not.

2. Radiohead – Having been around since 1985, these guys deserve being in the upper part of this list.  #2? Not so much. Radiohead is the band that musicians love to listen to.  This is the band that influences the people who make music day in and day out.  It is no surprise that they are this high on the list.  While they may not have had as long of a commercial success as other bands (*cough* green day *cough*), they have had a much greater impact on the overall musical scene

1. Nirvana – This, IMO, is a case of “you know you are living in the Pacific Northwest when everyone believes Nirvana is the greatest alternative bands of all times”.  But then again, they did put other “local” bands on this list above other more deserving bands so I shouldn’t be surprised.  I will be honest.  I hated Nirvana when they were popular, but enjoy them now. I thought this was unique to me, but I’ve met others who felt the same way.  They deserve to be on the list, but not #1. There was no question that Nirvana was going to be the #1 choice.  More so than any other band, Nirvana defined a genre and an era. they are the James Dean of alternative music, being iconic and burning out before they could fade away.  Their album, Nevermore, changed the musical landscape overnight.  Gone were bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard.  In their place were Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.  Overnight bands that were selling out stadiums were reduced to playing the county fairs while fans flocked to this new music.  Smells Like Teen Spirit became an anthem for an entire generation (yes, the dreaded Generation X/Slacker crew).  Nirvana is the modern equivalent of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley ushering rock ‘n roll in to the bedrooms and living rooms of the 1950’s. So they should be #1 because they helped create the falsehood that all GenXers are slackers? Nirvana was important.  I can’t disagree with that.  But, if you look at who Kurt Cobain listed as his musical  influences, they were The Stooges, The Pixies, Neil Young, REM, John Lennon, Sonic Youth, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Blondie and Devo – to name a few.  Clearly there are people on this list – lower on this list or even excluded from it – that contributed to Nirvana and their sound.  While Nirvana was a huge evolution point within the music scene, it wouldn’t have happened without the others influencing.  It’s that whole “GREATEST of ALL-TIME” problem.

So, who do you think was missed off of this list?  Who should have been #1? 

And for everyone who still does not believe me (Emmy), enjoy this awesomeness!

You are lucky I’m playing fair and left this one in….I could have editing the annoyance out!

And this concludes the music debate between us.  Next year, the radio station will be doing the top 947 greatest songs of all time.  We won’t be doing that one.  Maybe the top 10, but not the whole list.  (I know, you are thankful for it!)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Secretia says:

    Nice review of those bands.
    Greenday only had one good one-When September Ends.

    REM is good for all they did.

  2. Great review. The only one I don’t like is Death Cab…. I can take them or leave them. Green day was catchy for about 10 minutes then I lost interest.

  3. Osbasso says:

    Barry Manilow didn’t make the list???

  4. Not a lot of surprises here. Except Modest Mouse? WTF. I may not agree with all the other bands order but this is the only one I can day for SURE doesn’t belong anywhere near this high!. I like the Killers but I think they’re far too new to put up with REM and U2. Maybe next decades all time list but not this one’s. And the RHCP have made as much new music as nirvana in the last 15 years. :-p

  5. garbonzo says:

    It was a The Cult t-shirt, not The Cure ;P

  6. John and Ann says:

    It is an interesting list, but like many lists voted on by the people, it has decidedly recent focus (as represented by the Killers, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab for Cutie in the Top 15). Another challenge is the vague nature of the label alternative. Does it mean the Smiths/Cure decidedly British/European mopey pale version, REM’s southern slant (which growing up the south in the 80s resonates with me), the college radio cool of the Replacements and the absent Husker Du, or is the punk of the Ramones or some other version of punk which had decidedly regional variations in the U.S. (or later versions like Green Day), whatever sells t-shirts at Hot Topic or is it simply all of the above.

    There are some real crimes that reflect this focus on the present with no understanding of those who came before as others have noted: The Stooges/Iggy Pop’s absence (and the aforementioned Husker Du/Bob Mould), the low placement of the Ramones, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground are notable examples. The question is part is what makes someone tops? Is it influence, longevity, quality of effort, consistency of effort?

    One great things about these lists or the version of my college days, Desert Island disks (left on a deserted island with only 5 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be) is that we can debate them forever and the length of this list invites more scrutiny.

    Great post and a fun way to learn more about you both!

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