Related Videos

Top 10 Underground Music Groups

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by David MacIntyre. They might not have sold a ton of records, but their influence is undeniable. For this list, we’ve narrowed it down to bands who may have a cult following and are adored by critics, but haven’t necessarily had much mainstream success. They either have a non-commercial aesthetic and/or their music was never considered that for the masses, and despite music industry changes due to the Internet, they’ve still managed to maintain their underground cred. They could also have made their name either by being on an independent or major record label. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 underground music groups. Special thanks to our users jkellis, Jackie Balliro, Woodrow Phillips, TalkingSink, Thejaysfan9293, Rajiv Hans Menghrajani, Mike Nelson, John Kato, Rene Cornejo, Syx Six, mztdub18, iamnotarobot, Vicente Contreras Soux, Kobb45, Brandon Mayhew, Iyan Diaz, lachavita, Opst3r, RainbowPyromancer, wilcofan97, HilboHabbins, Maxrex, Quickchance988, Paul Marie, Sebastian Rivera and Jess Isabel Hardie for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
Share
WatchMojo

You must register to a corporate account to download this video. Please login

Transcript
Script written by David MacIntyre.

Top 10 Underground Music Groups

They might not have sold a ton of records, but their influence is undeniable. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 underground music groups.

For this list, we’ve narrowed it down to bands who may have a cult following and are adored by critics, but haven’t necessarily had much mainstream success. They either have a non-commercial aesthetic and/or their music was never considered that for the masses, and despite music industry changes due to the Internet, they’ve still managed to maintain their underground cred. They could also have made their name either by being on an independent or major record label.

#10: Fugazi

One of post-hardcore’s most seminal acts, this Washington, D.C. group has built up a reputation that’s influenced an entire generation of bands from punk and post-hardcore circles. They’ve also produced songs like “Waiting Room,” which still sound amazing today. That said, their highest charting album was 1995’s Red Medicine – which peaked at #126 on the Billboard 200, though it did reach the top 20 in the UK. Frontman Ian MacKaye is also known for being the frontman of ‘80s hardcore punk act Minor Threat.

#9: Belle and Sebastian

They’re one of the most influential groups of the indie pop genre and in their home country of Scotland - and they’ve also been referenced in rom-com “500 Days of Summer.” But even though albums like If You’re Feeling Sinister and The Boy with the Arab Strap are loved by indie fans the world over, Belle and Sebastian haven’t had an equal amount of commercial success since becoming active in 1996. They’ve spent their career on multiple indie labels such as Matador and Rough Trade Records.

#8: Dinosaur Jr.

Known for their heavy use of feedback and classic rock influences as part of their unique blend of noise rock, this band is still touring and making records to this day. They’ve managed to overcome lineup changes and being signed mostly to indie labels like SST, Fat Possum and Jagjaguwar to earn some success on alternative radio. For example, their 1994 single “Feel the Pain” peaked at number four on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart. Today, the original lineup, which had a major impact on the ‘90s alt rock scene, continues to earn rave reviews.

#7: Guided by Voices

Backed by a revolving door of other members, lead singer Robert Pollard and co. have been making albums full of songs clocking in at two minutes or less since the band’s formation in 1983 as well as their reunion in 2010. Guided by Voices helped pioneer the lo-fi subgenre of indie rock by incorporating diverse genres into their sound. However, none of their albums made it near the Billboard 200 until 2001’s Isolation Drills, which merely cracked the charts at #168.

#6: Neutral Milk Hotel

Their second album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is often cited in indie circles as one of genre’s best, and the band’s presence on Merge Records prompted Arcade Fire to sign to that label. However, their lo-fi, lyrically complex tunes, complete with Jeff Mangum’s loud singing voice, never resulted in massive commercial success during their heyday. Eventually, Mangum tired of the road and doing interviews and Neutral Milk Hotel broke up. The indie rockers reunited in 2013, but they’re still relatively under the radar by mainstream standards.

#5: Hüsker Dü

This band first started playing hardcore punk before making the jump into more alternative territory. Active between 1979-88, none of Hüsker Dü’s albums made it higher than #117 on the Billboard 200 chart, even though their sound proved to be a huge influence on bands like the Pixies and Nirvana. Although Bob Mould and Grant Hart reunited briefly for a benefit concert in 2004, the group itself remains disbanded.

#4: The Replacements

It’d be fair to say that bands like Nirvana, Green Day and the Goo Goo Dolls wouldn’t exist without these guys. Known for their crazy drunken live shows and open and personal lyrics, the sound that The Replacements made their trademark in the ‘80s also influenced many other alternative bands as well. But despite the fact that they still tour and play huge festivals following their 2012 reunion, only their 1989 single “I’ll Be You” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100.

#3: Ween

Known just as much for their experimental tendencies and unusual but humorous style as they are for their cult fan base, this band never really hit it big on the charts. And yet, they were signed to major label Elektra Records in the ‘90s, made music for “SpongeBob SquarePants” and appeared on “South Park.” Both Gene and Dean Ween called it quits in 2012 so that Gene could focus his attention on a solo career.

#2: Sonic Youth

Before Nirvana came along and caused artists like Daniel Johnston to make the switch to a major record label, this band was the first to take that chance and signed to Geffen Records in 1990 with Goo. Since then, they’ve only had two albums crack the Top 40 on the Billboard 200 chart. Although Sonic Youth made a name for themselves with their do-it-yourself ethic and noise rock sound, and are often cited as a major influence by later rock bands, they’ve been on indefinite hiatus since 2011 thanks to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's breakup.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- My Bloody Valentine
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor
- Black Emperor
- Yo La Tengo
- Sebadoh
- Wire

#1: Pavement

You can’t really make a list like this without at least including these guys somewhere… and we put them at the top. Why? Even though their albums didn’t chart very high, Pavement still gained a massive cult following through critically acclaimed records like Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. They initially stayed away from touring and doing interviews and remained on indie labels during their active years. Often considered one ‘90s greatest indie and underground bands, Pavement also briefly reunited in 2010.

Do you agree with our list? Which underground band is your all-time favorite? With new and entertaining Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
Comments

Sign in to access this feature

Related Blogs