The 20 Best Rock Bands Of The 90s

In the early 1990s, rock music reached a new high. Grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were topping the charts, and alternative rock was all the rage. While some newer genres like hip-hop were making inroads into the mainstream, rock music still held a strong grip on the popular consciousness.

Let’s take a look at some of the 20 best rock bands of the 1990s. These bands didn’t necessarily form in the 90s, but many of them were extremely popular in this decade.

1. Nirvana

Icons from the 90s, Nirvana were one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the decade. With their raw and emotional approach to music, Nirvana struck a chord with millions of fans around the world.

The band’s album “Nevermind” was a defining moment of the 90s, and it remains one of the best-selling albums of all time. Nirvana’s other albums are also considered classics.

2. Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam was one of the leaders of the grunge movement in the 90s. The band’s debut album, “Ten,” was a huge success and propelled them to stardom. They went on to release several more critically and commercially successful albums, including “Vs.” and “Vitalogy.”

Their hit songs include “Alive,” “Jeremy,” and “Better Man.” You can’t talk about the 90s’ best rock music without mentioning Pearl Jam!

3. The Smashing Pumpkins

Many believe that The Smashing Pumpkins were the best rock band of the 90s. They had it all: great looks, great hooks, and a sense of detachment that made them cool.

Lead singer Billy Corgan was the perfect front man for the times: a suburban white kid with a bad attitude and a love for noisy guitars. The rest of the band was just as talented, and together they created a sound that was both catchy and challenging.

They were one of the few bands of their era who managed to stay relevant throughout the decade, releasing a string of acclaimed albums that sold millions of copies. Some of their hit songs include “Tonight, Tonight,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” and “1979.”

4. Weezer

Weezer is one of the best rock bands of the 90s. They have a unique style that combines elements of punk, pop, and alternative rock. Their lyrics are often sarcastic and quirky, and their music is infectiously catchy. Weezer’s debut album, “The Blue Album,” is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time.

Weezer is the kind of band that’s impossible to pigeonhole, and that’s what makes them so special. Whether they’re rocking out or slowing things down, they always sound fresh and exciting. If you’re looking for a band that epitomizes the spirit of the 90s, look no further than Weezer.

5. Rage Against the Machine

Hailing from Los Angeles, Rage Against the Machine was one of the most political and socially conscious rock bands of the 90s. With their mix of rap and metal, the band created a sound that was unique and powerful.

Rage Against the Machine’s debut album was a critical and commercial success, and it remains their best-known work. The band’s other albums, including “Evil Empire” and “The Battle of Los Angeles”, are also considered classics.

6. Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters is a rock band that was started by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. After the death of Kurt Cobain, Grohl decided to start his own band, and the Foo Fighters were born. Grohl made the entire self-titled album himself, but he was joined by other members for the band’s subsequent albums.

The Foo Fighters’ music is rooted in classic rock, but they have also incorporated elements of punk, alternative rock, and metal. The band has released ten studio albums, all of which have been successful. Some of their hit songs include “Everlong,” “My Hero,” and “Learn to Fly.”

7. Oasis

Oasis enjoyed massive success with their album “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”. The album featured the hit singles “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” which helped to make Oasis one of the biggest bands in the world.

They won the hearts of music fans with their anthemic songs and their raucous live shows. Oasis continued to enjoy success in the 90s with their follow-up album “Be Here Now”.

8. Nine Inch Nails

NIИ or Nine Inch Nails is an industrial rock band that was formed in 1988 by Trent Reznor. The band’s debut album, “Pretty Hate Machine”, was a critical and commercial success. Throughout their career, they have released a string of groundbreaking albums that have pushed the boundaries of music.

Their live shows are legendary for their intensity, and their live performances are often cited as some of the best in rock history. Love them or hate them, there is no denying that Nine Inch Nails were one of the most important bands during the 90s.

9. Korn

Korn is a nu-metal band from Bakersfield, California, formed in 1993. Originally starting out as a five-piece band, Korn’s debut and self-titled album was released in 1994 and featured a unique mixture of heavy metal and hip-hop. This debut album quickly gained popularity within the nu-metal scene, and Korn became one of the most successful bands in the genre.

They released thirteen more studio albums to date, with their latest album coming out in 2022. The band has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and has won two Grammy Awards. Korn remains an active touring band and continues to perform to sold-out crowds.

10. The Cranberries

The Irish rock band The Cranberries was formed in 1989 and rose to international fame in the early 1990s with their debut album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”. The band was known for its distinctive sound and melding elements of alternative rock, pop, and folk.

They were also known for having a female lead singer in this male-dominated genre. Some of their most popular songs include “Linger,” “Zombie,” and “Dreams.” The Cranberries are one of the most successful Irish bands of all time.

11. Counting Crows

Counting Crows is an American rock band from San Francisco, California. The band was formed in 1991 and their debut album, “August and Everything After”, was released in 1993 to critical acclaim. The single “Mr. Jones” was a massive hit, and the album has sold over 7 million copies in the US.

The band has released six more albums to date, with their latest album coming out in 2014. They continue to tour regularly and are still a hugely popular live act.

12. Creed

Creed was an American rock band, formed in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1994. Creed released a total of four studio albums but their 90s compilation consists of “My Own Prison” (1997) and “Human Clay” (1999).

The band has sold over 28 million albums worldwide and was one of the most successful rock bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some of their most popular songs include “With Arms Wide Open,” “Higher,” and “My Sacrifice.”

13. Blink-182

Formed in 1992, Blink-182 was one of the biggest pop-punk/punk-rock bands of the 90s. They released their debut album, “Cheshire Cat,” in 1995 and followed it up with the highly successful “Dude Ranch” in 1997. The band achieved mainstream success with their 1999 album, “Enema of the State.”

They have been nominated for a few Grammy Awards and have sold over 50 million albums worldwide. Blink-182 is still going strong today, and their iconic tracks like “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” will continue to be remembered as classics.

14. Radiohead

Many people consider Radiohead to be one of the best rock bands of the 90s. I have to agree. They were definitely ahead of their time, and their music is still relevant today. Some of their fan-favorite songs are “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” and “No Surprises.”

What makes Radiohead so great is their ability to experiment with different sounds and styles. They’re not afraid to take risks, and it really pays off in their music. This award-winning band is one of the best bands of the 90s.

15. Alice in Chains

One of the things that made Alice in Chains such a great rock band was their ability to create a unique sound that combined elements of metal, grunge, and pop. They had a knack for writing catchy hooks and stadium-worthy riffs, and they weren’t afraid to experiment with different sounds and styles.

They released hit songs like “Would?,” “Them Bones,” and “Down in a Hole.” But it was their song “Man in the Box” that made them famous. The song’s dark and eerie atmosphere perfectly captured the feeling of the 90s, and it remains one of their most popular songs to this day.

16. U2

Formed in 1976, the Irish rockers rose to prominence in the 1980s with their anthemic and often political brand of rock music. By the 1990s, U2 had gained massive popularity throughout the world. Some of their most popular songs from the 90s include “One” and “Mysterious Ways”. They continue to make music and tour today and are widely considered to be one of the best bands of all time.

17. Jimmy Eat World

Hailing from Arizona, Jimmy Eat World were one of the few american bands to find success in the UK during the 90s. With hits like “The Middle” and “Pain,” the band achieved mainstream success without compromising their musical integrity.

Jimmy Eat World continued to enjoy success in the 2000s with their album “Bleed American”. The band is still going strong today, and they continue to be one of the best rock bands of all time.

18. No Doubt

No Doubt are undoubtedly 90s icons. The ska-punk-meets-new wave band rose to prominence in the mid-90s with their hit album “Tragic Kingdom”. The album spawned a string of hits, including “Just a Girl,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Spiderwebs.”

In a male-dominated genre, No Doubt’s lead singer Gwen Stefani stood out as a powerful female voice. She has since gone on to have a hugely successful solo career. The band has reunited several times over the years and went on to release more iconic hit songs.

19. Hole

The Hole was an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1989. The band was founded by lead singer and guitarist Courtney Love and drummer Eric Erlandson. The band achieved mainstream success with their 1994 album “Live Through This”, which was certified platinum only a few weeks after its release.

Hole’s follow-up album, Celebrity Skin (1998), was also a huge success. They released the singles “Celebrity Skin” and “Malibu”, which both became hits.

20. Tool

The American rock band Tool has been one of the most popular and influential bands of the past few decades. Formed in 1990, the band quickly gained a following with its unique blend of metal, rock, and alternative music.

Throughout their career, Tool has released five studio albums, each of which has been highly successful. The band is known for their elaborate and often strange music videos, as well as their intensely cerebral lyrics.

Tool has won multiple Grammy Awards and is widely considered to be one of the best rock bands of all time. Their songs “Schism” and “Parabola” are considered to be among the greatest rock songs of all time.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that the 90s was a decade that saw the rise of many great rock bands. While some have since disbanded, others have continued to make music that is loved by fans all over the world. Nonetheless, the 90s were a time when rock bands ruled the airwaves and the hearts of many music lovers.

U2 Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Remy, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pearl Jam Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Lugnuts, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Foo Fighters Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Raphael Pour-Hashemi, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The Smashing Pumpkins Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Gyang333, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Brian Clark

Brian Clark

I’ve been a writer with Musician Wave for six years, turning my 17-year journey as a multi-instrumentalist and music producer into insightful news, tutorials, reviews, and features.

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