Napalm Death

Just as they missed the boat with rap, the champions of “alternative” music refused to acknowledge a new alternative several years later when it arose from the English hinterlands in the form of grindcore, a virulent mutation of the most extreme elements of hardcore, metal and industrial. This blurred sonic cesspool just might be the…

Pastels

Thoroughly wistful and eternally childlike, Glasgow’s Pastels exemplify a much maligned style of UK music that was, for a time, referred to as “anorak pop.” Characterized by an amateurish devotion to ’60s pop conventions and wide- eyed na‹veté, the sound is as lovable as it is easily copied. The Pastels have the distinction of being…

Ultra Vivid Scene

Listen past the pretty facade of Ultra Vivid Scene to the barely suppressed screams within, and you’ll find an admirably subversive mind at work. Whether performing techno-pop, ambient soundscapes or Patsy Cline covers, UVS wields the same breathless, desperate menace. For all its attempts to be perceived as a band, UVS is still essentially Kurt…

Hula

Formed in Sheffield by guitarist/tape manipulator Ron Wright, Hula furrowed a techno-industrial-multi-media path unmistakably influenced by Cabaret Voltaire (whose Stephen Mallinder produced their first single), yet fused with their own esoteric impulses into a unique strain of future- shock rock. Hula undercut its cluttered rhythms and flanged, ranting vocals with seriously funky bass and a…

Treponem Pal

Treponem Pal hates you. And your mother, your family and, from the sounds of it, everyone and everything else as well. Hatched in a country with a weak rock history, Treponem Pal formed in Paris in 1986, taking their name from a syphilis virus. While the quartet’s brutal sound is rooted in the bludgeoning, beyond-metal…

Japan

In one of rock’s most remarkable examples of bootstrapping, South London’s Japan pulled themselves up from lowly beginnings as a ludicrously overdressed glam-punk-pose band who (badly) emulated the New York Dolls and Alice Cooper to finish, five years later, as one of England’s most sophisticated art-rock outfits, earning the respect of their peers and branching…

Straitjacket Fits

Straitjacket Fits sprang from the ashes of the DoubleHappys, a trio (named after a particularly loud brand of firecracker) that formed in Dunedin, New Zealand in the early ’80s. Childhood friends Shayne Carter and Wayne Elsey (both singing, playing guitar and writing songs) and John Collie (drums) were younger than the rest of the Flying…

God

God has a face, and it looks like Kevin Martin. Although the band so named has had a fairly stable multi-member lineup, it is just one of many outlets for this British noise technician’s twisted creativity. Working at a point where hardcore, experimental jazz and electronic music can be made to meet, Martin’s God mines…

Godflesh

An ongoing, ever-mutating adventure into a brutal ultraworld, Birmingham-spawned Godflesh was formed in 1988 by ex-Napalm Death guitarist Justin Broadrick (who’d just finished a stint as Head of David’s drummer) and bassist G. Christian (“Benny”) Green. Godflesh is a sonic bulldozer, its ultra-low tunings and distant, disembodied vocals (not unlike Pornography-era Cure) creating a bass-heavy…

D.R.I.

Arguably the first punk-to-metal crossover band, D.R.I. was formed in Texas as Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, playing basic raw hardcore (as evidenced on the self-issued debut). Shortly after, the group relocated to the San Francisco area, and Dealing With It! blurs their sound into more of a speed metal category. By Crossover, a major blow to…

Deconstruction

Few bands have been more obviously the sum of their parts than Jane’s Addiction. After headlining the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991, the LA quartet split in half: the vocalist and drummer went one way (Porno for Pyros), the guitarist and bassist went another (Deconstruction); each suffered painfully from the absence of the other. While…

Goo Goo Dolls

Like vintage Replacements (their most obvious influence), an outback Dictators or the blue-collar spawn of early Cheap Trick, the Goo Goo Dolls brandish power-punk riffpop that just keeps getting better. Although recorded two years apart, the Buffalo, New York trio’s first two albums are virtual carbon copies of each other, flashes of brilliance (“I’m Addicted,”…

Urban Dance Squad

Cultural pluralists have been extolling the possibilities inherent in rap/metal fusion since the days of Run-DMC’s “Rock Box,” but few bands have come up with a hybrid as gleefully diverse as that found on Mental Floss for the Globe, the first volley from a Holland-based five-piece that can claim responsibility (or at least prescience) for…

David Sylvian

A restless progressive and inquisitive collaborator since the end of the extraordinary Japan in the early ’80s, exquisite London-born singer David Sylvian (né Batt) spent the first stage of his solo career discharging what remained of Japan’s dreamy, high-art pop explorations while infusing them with jazz and world musics on Brilliant Trees and paring it…

Guns n’ Roses

Hard as it may be to believe, Guns n’ Roses was once a cool and somewhat threatening rock band, bringing genuine raunch to a pathetically pouffy era before turning into a real-life Spinal Tap. Formed in 1985 by five Hollywood misfits (two locals, two Indiana refugees and a Seattle scene veteran), the quintet quickly won…

Meliah Rage

One of the pioneers of Boston’s once-burgeoning underground metal scene, Meliah Rage was formed in 1985 by guitarist Anthony Nichols. Named after the opium-induced fighting state of the Meliah Indians, the band didn’t miss a beat when Nichols accepted an offer to join Gang Green; he played in both for six months (appearing on the…

Primal Scream

Glasgow’s Primal Scream made its public debut in October ’84, the show at which vocalist/superfan Bobby Gillespie also made his first appearance as the Jesus and Mary Chain’s style-over-competence drummer. The group released a pair of singles on Creation over the next two years, but took a back seat to Gillespie’s other career until he…

Babes in Toyland

Babes in Toyland’s origins lie in Sugar Baby Doll, a mid-’80s San Francisco supergrrroup of sorts involving Oregon-born high-school friends Kat(hy) Bjelland (pronounced, suitably enough, “be-yellin’ “) and Courtney Love, augmented by future L7 guitarist Jennifer Finch and a drummer whose name no one seems to remember. The group apparently never performed or recorded, although…

Carcass

Although thought to be a Napalm Death side project, Liverpool’s Carcass was actually formed by guitarist Bill Steer, drummer Ken Owen and an Indian vocalist named Sanjiv in 1985, well before Steer joined Napalm. Participating in both bands more or less simultaneously, he and Owen were joined in ’87 by bassist/biology student Jeff Walker, whose…

Fishbone

When they were just high-school students riding the desegregation bus from South Central Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, the members of Fishbone were collectively hooked by the Funkadelic song “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock” and the bold endorsement of musical genre- blending the title implies. It became their manifesto; early…