The 40 Best Alternative Rock Songs Ever, 1976-2000, Pt. 1 (40-21)

[Edit, 2013: Spotify playlist, as complete as possible, below ]

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Warning: Lo-hoong post, which, surprisingly, contains adult language

JAC earlier commented:

I have a standing offer to link to anyone who makes their own top 40 grunge list, with commentary on each song, and blogs it. We can then compare the lists, and see which list is best.
Challenge accepted - sort of. Given my understanding of the term "grunge", which seems to be rather narrow, a list of my favourite grunge songs would be rather short if I restricted it to one song per band. So I thought I'd post a list of the 40 best alternative rock songs, 1976-2000.

I'm not going to try to define the term. For the purposes of this list, alternative rock is what I feel alternative rock is. Just a few explanations: To qualify as rock, a song does not have to be fast, but it has to have some "oomph". Hence I did not include my favourite Pixies song ("Hey"), but I did include "Only in Dreams" by Weezer. Also, some rock (e.g., Oasis) was not included because it didn't seem "alternative" enough. "Alternative rock", as used here, includes, but is not limited to, punk, hardcore (including "melodic hardcore"), grunge, grindcore, noise, what some people call emocore and encompasses most of what in Germany is known as Hamburger Schule. I used the time restriction because 1976 was the year punk took off (sorry, Stooges) and 2000 was roughly the year I lost interest in new music, so I'm not qualified to comment on later stuff.

There is one song per band, although some specific people pop up more than once (due to having left the band/the band having dissolved). I am sure I have forgotten some important stuff and that tomorrow I would probably come up with a somewhat different list. Although some of the songs have videos, there are no YouTube links. I trust you know how to use that site, and believe me, coming up with this list was already quite a bit of work, and so is writing this post.

To listen to some of the songs, go here and click on the "play" button next to the first song. Alternatively, you can use the player at the bottom of this post, but it will fade some songs out after 30 seconds.

Here comes the list.

40. Mudhoney: In the Blood
Otherwise, an overrated band

39. Lemonheads: Mrs. Robinson
In the unlikely case you haven't seen it, The Graduate is a pretty good film.

38. Guv'ner: Break a Promise
My career as a music reviewer lasted for exactly two albums. Guv'ner's was one of them. I think I gave it 4/5.

37. The Jam: Batman Theme
Starts. Goes de-de-de-de-dem. Then is over.

36. Hole: Jennifer's Body
Somehow I never liked Courtney Love, but the song is a cracker.

35. Die Regierung: Ganz tief unten
If I'm not mistaken - and I may well be - the lyrics use the word "unten" in three meanings: "to be down with someone", "the unconscious", "those body parts one does not speak of in polite company". Pretty good. And it rrrrocks.

34. Nova Mob: Where You Gonna Land
Perfect pop. Except that it's rock. Alternative, of course.

33. Joy Division: Warsaw
Joy Division were founded when the members-to-be came from a Sex Pistols concert and said to each other, "Eh! We could do that!" Indeed.

32. The Stone Roses: I Am the Resurrection
To be found on one of the three most overrated albums of all time (the others being Thriller and Exile on Main Street), this song is clearly class. The woman who reminded me of it - resurrected it, if you like - not so much. Don't worry, it's not as though it's still hurting.

31. P.J. Harvey: Shee-La-Na-Gig
If I put in some time, I could probably check the spelling on this one, but I won't. P.J. Harvey is an attractive-looking woman despite having an incredibly large nose.

30. Kommando Sonne-nmilch: Es gibt kein Weihnachtsmann
The lyrics deal with insulting Santa Claus. No, really.

29. Sex Pistols: Bodies
A song which contains the line "I'm not an animal" can hardly be bad. Also the only song I'm aware of that mentions Birmingham. Oh, wait, except for "The Birmingham Six".

28. Hüsker Dü: These Important Years
I'm only including Hüsker Dü to avoid death threats. Just joking. But I really wish they had had a better production. I remember a friend of mine (coincidentally - and when I say coincidentally, I mean coincidentatlly - the singer of the band that comes next) playing a song to me I had never heard and asking me whether I could guess which band that was. After about two seconds, I said: "Hüsker Dü." - "Oh, you know the song?" - "No, but no other band has such crap-sounding drums."

27. Tomte: Pflügen
I met him during first semester in uni. He said something along the lines of: "Hey wait, wait... You like Pavement? I find it cool that you just scribbled it on the back of your t-shirt, rather than making it all neat." - "What? That's exactly what it looks like on the album cover!"

26. Samba: Liebe lügt
Once had the following dialogue (with somebody else): "What do you mean, you like Tocotronic and Samba?" - "Er, yeah." - "Could it be that there's something you haven't understood?" - "Erm, could it be I'm less narrow-minded than you are?" And the motherfucker still owes me 20 Marks, too. Plus interest, of course.

25. The Primitives: Stop Killing Me
Two Minutes: That's a decent length for a song.

24. Honolulu Mountain Daffodils: Death Bed Bimbo
I'm only putting this one in to make me look original. Or do you know the Honolulu Mountain Daffodils? Eh? Eh?

23. Social Distortion: Don't Drag Me down
Music by men for men.

22. Jello Biafra & D.O.A.: Full Metal Jackoff
Lasts for about fourteen minutes. In our indie club we had a little game we played: We watched who went onto the dancefloor for "Full Metal Jackoff" and bet on who would still be there when the song was over. I may be making this up.

21. Sugar: A Good Idea
A good idea indeed to have oneself be inspired by the Pixies' "Debaser" without stumbling into the realm of blatant copy. Definitely qualifies as original work. As we're not on Wikipedia, that's a good thing.

Boy, that was a lot of work; feeling a bit knackered now. Feel free to point out any spelling or grammar errors, it's appreciated!


pj said...

I've never got the appeal of the Lemonheads version of Mrs Robinson, it's like the original, only not quite as good. I like their other stuff though. I hadn't even realised they'd reformed and released an album in 2006. Shows how much I've got my finger on the pulse!

AJB said...

Nice post. I'm as big a fan of Honolulu Mountain Daffodils as you can get (which isn't that big, considering how effin rare their music is!).

I have an album and a half. How did you get that track? Can you point me in the direction of more?

LemmusLemmus said...


to me the difference is simply that they use distorted guitars. Not very creative, but it works (for me). I actually considered other songs of theirs (e.g., "It's about Time"), but ended up with the classic.

I didn't know that either. Same here.


it's on the album Tequila Dementia which I bought on vinyl in a German record store ca. 1989. Very helpful, I know. Can't you get their stuff on iTunes?

ajb said...

Thanks for the reply.

No sign of them on itunes. I first heard one of their songs a couple of years ago on a vinyl-only compilation by Sonic Boom. Had to hear more and now I've got their first album and a handful of nefariously obtained mp3s. I know the band was kind just a casual project, but their tunes are like a mix of all my favourite acts.

The search continues!

Anonymous said...

great post...i was wondering if you could share the honolulu mountain daffodils song? i have all the albums except this song and i would love to get it to complete the discography. i can share the albums with you or anyone who needs them. please let me know as they are very hard to come by.