The punk rock genre is quickly growing, with many new bands joining each year. However, another side to punk rock is not commonly known or talked about. Alternative punk is a lesser-known genre, but as important as its counterpart.
What is punk?
Punk is a way of life, an attitude, and a community. It’s about being independent, creative, and original. For more than 40 years, punk has been a major force in music and culture. It began as a rejection of the existing state of affairs and has grown into an influential art movement that inspires new generations.
The early bands that inspired punks are usually credited with inventing punk rock. The Stooges from Michigan, the New York Dolls from New York City, the MC5 from Detroit, and the Velvet Underground from New York City are among them.
The Clash from London, Sex Pistols from London, and Ramones from Queens helped define the genre in its early days. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many other bands added to the early punk rock styles to create what we now call hardcore punk.
A Brief History of the Alternative Punk Genre
Punk music has always been about a more aggressive sound, challenging the mainstream and offering a little something different for its fans. When you think of punk music, you may think of bands like Green Day and The Clash. But what’s lesser known is the history of alternative punk — an even more underground genre that has its roots in the 1970s.
During this period, some of the most popular bands included The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones. A new genre emerged called New Wave, marked by a more synthesized sound with electronic instrumentation. By the 1980s, punk had become even more popular in several countries, including Canada, Australia, and Japan. Alternative punk became a subgenre of punk rock that incorporated other genres like reggae and ska.
During this period, some of the most popular bands included The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones. A new genre emerged called New Wave, marked by a more synthesized sound with electronic instrumentation.
By the 1980s, punk had become even more popular in several countries, including Canada, Australia, and Japan. Alternative punk became a subgenre of punk rock that incorporated other genres like reggae and ska.
Hardcore punk began to take over as one of the most popular forms of alternative punk music. Very fast tempos and loud distortion characterized this type of music. Famous hardcore punk bands include Bad Religion, Black Flag, and Minor Threat.
Three Waves of Alternative Punk
The first wave of alternative punk was the British punk movement in 1977. Bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned were part of this first wave. They were loud, angry, and politically charged. One can see the influence of music on the punk movement today, but some key differences set these two apart.
The second wave of alternative punk began in the mid-1980s and peaked in 1992, known as the golden age of alternative rock. This second wave is much more diverse, with bands ranging from political to pop-oriented and more experimental than their predecessors. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were part of this movement.
The third wave of alternative punk began in the mid-1990s and still exists today, although it’s far less active than its predecessor. This third wave is much more diverse, with various subgenres including pop-punk, hardcore punk, and skate punk emerging from it. Bands like Green Day, Blink 182, and The Offspring have been part of this third wave.
More Famous Bands of Alternative Punk
While it may seem like punk music has fallen by the wayside recently, many big punk bands have continued to be successful, while up-and-coming ones are keeping the genre alive. Here are just some of the top bands classified as alternative punk.
The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols formed in 1975 and are one of the most influential bands of all time. They are credited with starting both the British Punk Rock movement and influencing many other genres such as grunge and heavy metal. Their debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here are the Sex Pistols, was released in 1977 and reached number one on the UK Albums chart. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, this album is one of the greatest albums of all time.
The Ramones formed in 1974 and are considered one of the first punk bands ever. They are also credited with starting alternative rock music and inspiring many other genres such as grunge and heavy metal. The band members have said that they wanted to create a new style of music that would.
In 1966 punk band Green Day was formed in California. Since then, they have been one of the world’s most well-known alternative punk bands. They have won five Grammy Awards and have sold over 90 million records worldwide, making them among the best-selling music artists worldwide, and they are one of the world’s best-selling groups of all time.
Blink 182 was formed in 1992 in Poppy, California. They were one of the biggest acts in rock in America at the turn of the century. The band’s last album was Neighborhoods, which came out in 2011. Blink 182 has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is considered a key group in developing pop-punk.
The Adolescents are an American punk band formed in Fullerton, California, in 1980. The band’s original lineup consisted of Tony Reflex on lead vocals, Rikk Agnew and Frank Agnew on guitars, Steve Soto on bass, and Casey Royer on drums.
The Descendents is an American punk band formed in 1977 in Manhattan Beach, California, by Frank Navetta, Dave Smalley, Tony Lombardo, and Bill Stevenson. They have released seven studio albums, three live albums, three compilation albums, and three EPs. Since 1986, the band’s lineup has consisted of singer Milo Aukerman, guitarist Stephen Egerton, bassist Karl Alvarez, and drummer Bill Stevenson.
Descendents were formed from the ashes of Navetta’s band The Disappointments and Smalley’s band The Itch (which included Stevenson), with Navetta on guitar and Smalley on drums. They made their debut as a trio later in 1977 at a teen dance in Redondo.
A few years later, the Buzzcocks became the more famous of the two bands. And it all happened thanks to a chance encounter between Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley at a Sex Pistols gig. (Devoto had left the band by then.) Inspired by the Pistols, they formed a band of their back in their hometown of Manchester.
The Buzzcocks were initially a 4-piece band with Devoto on vocals, Shelley on guitar, Steve Diggle on bass, and John Maher on drums. They debuted live in May 1976 and recorded their first demo sessions in July.
Bad Religion is one of the longest-running punk bands ever. They were founded by Greg Graffin (vocals) and Jay Bentley (bass guitar) in 1979 in Los Angeles, California, who were later joined by Brett Gurewitz (guitar). They released their debut album, “How Could Hell Be Any Worse?” in 1982.