Difference Between Rock and Alternative Rock

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    Rock vs Alternative Rock

    A sub genre of the main music genre of rock, alternative rock started gaining ground in the early 1980s, with its cultural origins mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It was inspired by a combination of music varieties including the 1970s main stream rock music and its subgenres of punk rock, post-punk, hardcore punk and new wave. Although a few notable alternative rock artists achieved recognition in the mainstream and some commercial success during the 1980s, the larger section of alternative rock artists were cult acts that worked with independent labels and much of their exposure was by word of mouth or college radio airplay.

    The sub genre of alternative rock was commonly known as ‘college’ rock in the United States and ‘indie’ rock in the United Kingdom. College rock in the US identified mainly with college radio where it received more airplay. However many music critics use the term ‘alternative’ rock as a blanket term for a wide variety of bands that fit a particular radio format and usually attached to independent labels. As mentioned earlier, alternative identified with college rock bands such as R.E.M, The Smiths and The Cure and such subgenres as radio friendly post-punk. These college bands were actually in the mainstream rock genre as far as beats and instrumentation were concerned but diverted from mainstream by changing subject matter in their music, image and did a lot of experimentation with their instrument set up and arrangements that were not typically rock.

    Alternative rock is basically an umbrella term for post-punk bands from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. Alternative rock has a multitude of styles that include the sweet melodies of jangle-pop and the disturbing metallic grind of industrial, yet they are all tied together by a similar trend; they all didn’t operate within the mainstream. The 1980s alternative rock was even more diverse and segmented than the mainstream; roots rock, alternative dance, jangle-pop, post-hardcore punk, funk-metal, punk-pop, and experimental rock were among the classified styles here. On the other hand the 1990s alternative rock came off with a more sanitized and homogenous sound than its predecessor, especially since the heavier material proved to have greater commercial appeal than the quieter elements of alternative rock.


    1. Rock music emerged some two decades before alternative sprung out of the mainstream rock.
    2. Alternative rock is a sub genre of the mainstream rock genre music.
    3. Alternative rock was created as a break-away by bands that didn’t sign with mainstream music labels but rock evolved from more than one existing genres.
    4. Alternative includes various styles that are not typically rock and those that are hard core rock.

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