5 Famous Bands Who Debuted in 1994

Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994 shook the music world. It created a scene change in pop culture as the middle of the decade entered its post-grunge phase.

Videos by American Songwriter

Pop-punk bands like Green Day and The Offspring entered the mainstream each with their third studio albums. Soon, bands like Blink-182 followed and California’s sunny punk bands began to replace Seattle’s gloomy grunge on MTV.

Meanwhile, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots, Bad Religion, Alice in Chains, and Nine Inch Nails all released some of the biggest albums of their careers. Though grunge was waning, alternative music still dominated pop culture.

The five bands below debuted in 1994. Within this list, the top two bands kickstarted new musical movements following Nirvana’s abrupt ending.

Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World’s self-titled debut is no longer in print and it’s not available on Spotify either. You can find it on YouTube though it sounds like a very different band. Following their 1994 debut, Jimmy Eat World reinvented their sound, signed with a major label, and released Static Prevails in 1996.

The evolved sound, from pop-punk to emo, found mainstream audiences in 2001 with their hit single “The Middle.” Bleed American features many of the group’s signature songs and a cropped version of William Eggleston’s Memphis, Tennessee, 1968 photo graces the cover.

Also, Taylor Swift said she listened to “The Middle” on the school bus and placed the song on her Rolling Stone list of “The Music that Made Me.” Though their 1994 release wasn’t a commercial success, it was a start, and eventually they’d inspire the world’s first billionaire from music.

Bush

Not every British rock band opposed grunge. While Oasis and Blur filled stadiums with Britpop fans, Bush adopted an American sound, and their first album Sixteen Stone became one of the year’s biggest releases.

For songs like “Glycerine” and “Machinehead,” Gavin Rossdale and his band used Seattle’s despair almost like a window dressing. Bush sounded like a grunge parody but they nonetheless wrote catchy songs and American audiences embraced them while British audiences did not.

The success of Sixteen Stone was the beginning of the end of grunge. Though their second album reached No. 1, Bush quickly lost popularity. Essayist Chuck Klosterman called them “the grunge Warrant.”

Portishead

Portishead emerged from Bristol, England, with their brilliant debut Dummy. Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow, and Adrian Utley created cinematic trip-hop and their noir electronica stood apart from the ’60s-inspired bands dominating the UK charts.  

The trio created a masterwork by blending technology with old sounds. They sampled American jazz and soul records but also created their own dusty samples that sounded like well-worn vinyl. Dummy is soft and unsettling. It’s a hazy comedown after the club—the sun’s not up yet, the streets are cold and dark, and desperation looms.

Gibbons’ voice is tortured and gorgeous, a little unsure yet supported by Utley’s jazz guitar and Barrow’s obsession with turntables. Their contemporaries aimed for loud hooks. Portishead, however, were quietly devastating. “Roads” and “Glory Box” are downtempo anthems. Check out the Isaac Hayes sample on “Glory Box,” taken from “Ike’s Rap II.”

Weezer

What do you call Weezer’s outstanding debut besides the Blue Album? Power pop? Emo? Alternative rock? Geek rock? All of the above, really. Rivers Cuomo studied Kurt Cobain’s songwriting and like Nirvana’s leader, wrote an album that spawned a thousand other bands.

Weezer’s debut is full of nerd humor, massive hooks, and even bigger guitar solos. In 1994, The Fonz danced his way through the “Buddy Holly” video, and Weezer’s ironic and lonely anthems dominated radio and MTV. They were different from the other bands. The other bands were cool. Weezer weren’t and that made them a new kind of cool.

Though Kurt Cobain was gone, a new cult formed around Weezer’s anti-frontman.

Oasis

Noel Gallagher wrote and recorded “Supersonic” in only a few hours. His band was burning through hours at a recording studio in Liverpool and they needed to finish something for their first single. Oasis released “Supersonic” only days after Kurt Cobain’s death. Britpop had already begun with Suede and Blur, but Oasis’ working-class anthems gave hope to offset American grunge music’s gloomy message.

Oasis 1994 debut Definitely Maybe combined Beatles hooks with the Sex Pistols’ snarling attitude, and Noel and his brother Liam landed on the covers of every major music magazine, as well as the tabloids.

“Live Forever” was Gallagher’s answer to Nirvana’s “I Hate Myself and Want to Die,” and upon release, Definitely Maybe became the UK’s fastest-selling debut in history.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Leave a Reply

Merle Haggard

3 Merle Haggard Songs Every Country Fan Should Know by Heart

The Celebrity Cattiness that Inspired “Old School Hollywood” by System of a Down