*Here we celebrate 40 Bands That Should Have Been Bigger…but didn’t. They had the talent, but couldn’t cross over. What happened?
I’ve celebrated underrated musicians recently in lists, (specifically; singers, guitarists, and riffs.). But a lot of bands listed still have a small, loyal set of fans. Some are critically lauded for their influence even if their work went largely unnoticed upon its release. They still get press for new albums and tours, it’s just to less fanfare.
But what about bands that had no such luck? That went unknown, or were written off as one-hit wonders?
Why is it that a band that had early signs of success; initial record label support, good press/reviews, 1 or 2 hit singles…. failed to connect in the long haul?
A myriad of reasons: bad management, infighting, being dropped by said label, or being ahead/behind of the musical scene curve.
Here are 40 bands that deserved broader success. Some have broken up, others keep hanging in there, and all are worthy of being re-discovered.
I have 2 ground rules for why I picked these bands:
(1) they were poised for mass appeal, and not purposely obscure.
(2) I’m not including any failed side projects by otherwise successful musicians. (I’ll be making a list of best side-projects in the near future).
So with 8 exceptions you’ll see bands never mentioned before on this site. Hopefully you’ll give them a second look, and comment with more bands worth rediscovering.
I’ll have iTunes and Amazon links where available. If you click on the band’s name (highlighted in blue) you can preview their body of work in iTunes, or click on the album cover if you wish to buy my pick for their best cd from Amazon.
40. The Music (years active; 1999-2011)
[amazon_image id=”B00008A7PW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Music[/amazon_image]
This band had a cool fusion of alt-rock and techno, with a singer who channeled Perry Farrell and Richard Ashcroft. But he had drug issues and the band collapsed. *Best tracks: “The Dance”, “Turn Out The Light”.
39. The Godfathers (years active; 1985-present)
[amazon_image id=”B004IOP2XO” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Birth School Work Death[/amazon_image]
This English band’s spiky riffs and psychedelic flourishes predated Brit-pop, and I can’t help but think they influenced many of that scene’s progenitors. Their song “Birth, School, Work, Death” is melancholic apathy at it’s most poisonous.
38. The Alarm
This 80’s band could’ve been the next U2. Despite great anthems like “Strength” and “Rain In The Summertime” major success eluded them.
37. The Bolshoi(years active; 1983-88)
[amazon_image id=”B00000E6CH” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Lindy’s Party[/amazon_image]
A goth band with great dance pop hooks, they seemed poised for great things, but crumbled due to record company troubles. *Best tracks: “Away”, “Please”.
36. Prick (years active; 1974-present)
[amazon_image id=”B000001Y6C” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Prick[/amazon_image]
Championed by Trent Reznor (and signed to his Nothing Label), this project of Kevin McMahon’s gave industrial rock a great sense of melody and melodrama. But Nothing’s parent label, dropped him after the first release. *Best track: “Other People”. (Amazon only)
35. Lime Spiders (years active; 1979-90, 2007-present)
[amazon_image id=”B000A5B8WO” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Cave Comes Alive[/amazon_image]
A throwback to 60’s garage rock, these unappreciated Aussies made fun psychedelic romps like “Slave Girl” and “My Favorite Room“.
34. Amen (years active; 1995-present)
[amazon_image id=”B00004YSBU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]We Have Come for Your Parents[/amazon_image]
Bigger in Europe than America, Amen do a brutal combo of metal and hardcore punk. Perhaps their religious name throws people off, but they are anti-authoritarian in the extreme. *Standout tracks: “Refuse Amen”, “Under The Robe”.
33. Longwave(years active; 1999-present)
[amazon_image id=”B00008O345″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Strangest Things[/amazon_image]
They came from the same scene as The Strokes, but to lesser success. Their take on echo-laden post punk was unique. *Standout tracks “I Know It’s Coming Sunday”, “Meet Me At The Bottom”.
32. The Tea Party(years active; 1990-present)
[amazon_image id=”B00000JOQ3″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Triptych[/amazon_image]
Nope, not that Tea Party. This Canadian band merge Arabic melodies with alt-rock riffing, making stirring hypnotic rock anthems. *Standout tracks : “Heaven Coming Down”, “Writing’s On The Wall”.
31.The Young Gods (years active; 1985-present)
These Swiss proto-industrial rockers were influential on artists as diverse as Mike Patton, Sepultura, David Bowie and U2 . Given how popular Industrial Metal was in the 90’s, they should’ve been a household name. *Standout tracks: “Our House”, “The Night Dance”.
30. The House of Love (years active; 1986-present)
This 80’s English alternative band seemed poised to attain the same status as bands like The Smith’s, with great moody epics like “Christine” and “I Think I Love You”. But drugs, and infighting sidelined their success. They’ve reformed recently and are planning a deluxe reissue of their début album..
29. God Lives Underwater (years active; 1993-2005)
[amazon_image id=”B000VWN47S” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Life In The So-Called Space Age[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B000009QOI” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]God Lives Underwater[/amazon_image]
This was a band that like The Prodigy, melded techno with hard rock. But they were more melodic, with vocal harmonies ala Alice In Chains. Sadly their vocalist died unexpectedly, and the band folded. *Standout tracks: “No More Love”, “23”, “Happy?”.
28. Satchel (years active; 1991-present)
This 90’s band was brave enough to combine alt-rock with Prince-style soul and went unnoticed. But their songs are melodic and haunting and Shaun Smith’s vocals are powerful. *Standout tracks: “Suffering”, “Trouble Come Down”.
27. The Veldt (years active; 1990’s-recently reformed)
This band came out of the 90’s Chapel Hill Alt-Rock scene. They blended shoegaze with funk for some massively catchy tunes. Sadly, their record company were clueless on how to promote a black American band delving into a British genre and they went unnoticed. Check out this YouTube clip below and tell me this song isn’t catchy as hell:
*Standout Tracks: “Soul In A Jar” “Until You’re Forever”, and “It’s Over”. (Amazon only)
26. Pulsars (years active; 1994-2000)
One of the earliest bands to bring back the retro-80’s vibe, this brother duo created sublime synth-pop peppered with humorous lyrics akin to They Might Be Giants. But they had a falling out and had better success as producers, making their eponymous album their only output. *The whole album is perfect. If you love new-wave, pick it up. Had it been released in 2004 instead of 1997, it would’ve been huge. (Amazon only)
25. Failure (years active; 1990-97)
[amazon_image id=”B000002N89″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Fantastic Planet[/amazon_image]
Like the best alternative 90’s heavyweights, they had the ability to make big rock hooks with dissonant textures. Perhaps they were too subtle and musically advanced. But with great songs like “Stuck On You” and “Saturday Saviour” it’s criminal they never crossed over.
Guitarist Troy Van Leuen went on to greater fame with A Perfect Circle and Queens of The Stone Age. (APC covered Failure’s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” on the album 13th Step).
But frontman Ken Andrews still can’t catch a break. He started the great electronic band On and the rocking Year of The Rabbit. Both got critical praise but were commercially ignored. Baffling! Luckily, he’s made a name for himself as a producer.
Well that wraps up 40 Bands That Should Have Made it Big Part 1. Now check out Part 2.