Nirvana lead the list of nominees for the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame , and the consensus among folks who care about these kinds of things is that they’re a mortal lock for first-ballot induction (sadly, the same can’t be said about the Replacements.)
Of course, nitpicking the nominees is an annual tradition, and making sense of the Hall’s nomination process practically requires an instruction booklet, so rather than wonder why certain bands didn’t make the cut this year, perhaps it’s better to focus on those who did.
And no offense to N.W.A, LL Cool J, or KISS — all of whom have been up for induction in previous years — the 2014 class basically begins and ends with Nirvana.
After all, they’re the only band in the group to make the ballot in their first year of eligibility (acts are up for enshrinement 25 years after the release of their first single or album; in this case, it’s Nirvana’s 1988 Sub Pop single “Love Buzz”), a move that certainly signifies the beginning of the Hall’s Alt-Rock Era. Sure, they’ve already inducted early influencers like R.E.M., the Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Ramones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but over the next few years, we’ll undoubtedly begin to see more bands from rock’s 1990s heyday up for enshrinement, too.
Here’s a look at the next wave of nominees from the late, great Alternative Rock Age.
The Sure Things
Pearl Jam: They’re not eligible until 2016, but thanks to their longevity, ingenuity and morality, the Hall should basically begin clearing out a spot for PJ right now. They broke through on the alt-rock boom, then survived the subsequent bust, and, in the two decades since, have become one of America’s most-celebrated bands, the kind of act capable of fighting the good fight (taking on Ticketmaster, George W. Bush, the pro-life movement and world hunger, to name just a few) while still moving units and selling out concerts around the globe. In other words, they’re the kind of band Rock Hall voters positively love.
Soundgarden: Technically, they became eligible for induction last year, when their Screaming Life EP turned 25, and while it’s odd they haven’t been nominated yet, Soundgarden’s day will certainly come. They rose to fame alongside Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and as both of those bands’ fortunes faded, Soundgarden seized the banner for alt-rock and ran with it, thanks mostly to their massive Superunknown album. Sur,e they might not have had the critical success, but you can’t paint an accurate portrayal of the era without them, which means they’ll get in.
Green Day: They’re not from Seattle, and they’re not necessarily alternative, either, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another band that defined the 1990s quite like Green Day did. From their early days at 924 Gillman to the globe-uniting success (and social import) of American Idiot, they’ve got the catalog, the critical love, and the kind of career that doesn’t come around all that often: one that actually has a fruitful second act. So when they become eligible next year, Billie Joe and Co. better start preparing their acceptance speeches.
Radiohead: Another lock for instant induction. Since they first emerged on the scene with the unlikely alt-rock hit “Creep,” they’ve pushed the boundaries further than any of their major-label contemporaries, exploring space prog (OK Computer), avant electro (Kid A) and even sorta straight-forward rock (In Rainbows). In the process, they’ve carved out a niche that is uniquely theirs, and as such, they’ve earned their place amongst rock’s all-time greats.
The Close Calls
Sonic Youth and Pixies: Both have been eligible for few years now, though so far, induction as eluded these two pioneers of alternative rock. But, that’s likely to change as more and more alt bands begin to enter the Hall over the next few years. After all, it took the induction of acts like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses to finally convince voters to honor hard-rock stalwarts like the Stooges and Black Sabbath (shoot, even Rush), proving that, in some cases, all it takes is time.
Rage Against The Machine: They were massive, and they were political, but did they burn out too quickly? Over the course of eight years, no one rocked harder — or as purposefully — as RATM, but aside from a spate of reunion shows the past decade has given us little to go on. Still, for a minute there, they were the band, and given the Hall’s recent embrace of hip-hop, Rage seem likely to make the cut. Maybe not when they’re first eligible in 2017, but soon.
No Doubt: Like RATM, they’re eligible in 2017 … unlike him, they’ll probably get in before we hit the 2020s. Sure, they’ve released exactly one album in the past decade (and it totally bombed), but you can’t ignore their impressive run from the mid-90s into the early 2000s, when they reeled off hit upon hit, sold bazillions of albums, and gleefully jumped from genre to genre. In a sense, they came to define everything “alternative” meant: a refusal to go by the books, a DIY sensibility, and an ear for the unheard. Sure, they’re probably not a traditional rock band, but neither is Madonna, and she got in five years ago.
Beck: Is he a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer? His early output certainly seemed to suggest it, as he scored a string of commercial and critical hits from the 90s into the early aughts. He was about as close as we came to the heir apparent to Bob Dylan. Of course, in recent years, his prospects have cooled considerably, as he’s largely disappeared from the public eye. The strengths of Mellow Gold, Odelay and Sea Change will certainly warrant him consideration when he becomes eligible in 2017, though it will probably take one more career-defining turn before voters are willing to give him the nod.
The Flaming Lips: They’re in the same boat as Sonic Youth and Pixies, though it’s entirely possible they’ll have to wait much longer than either of those bands before their name is called. They’ve been eligible since 2009, though have yet to be nominated, a fact that’s due in no small part to their career-long obsession with weirdness, not to mention their refusal to embrace their legacy: Just look at their last two albums — the claustrophobic Embryonic and the doomy The Terror — for proof. That said, they’ve got the critical praise and a modicum of commercial success, and, hey, eventually even Frank Zappa got into the Rock Hall, meaning that someday the Lips could make the cut. Imagine how odd their acceptance speech will be.
Stone Temple Pilots: Essentially, they were the Creed of the alt-rock era … much maligned for their similarities to other, bigger bands on the age. Funny thing though: as the decade progressed, STP kept getting bigger, to the point where they had more hits than Pearl Jam and Nirvana combined. Yet, despite that commercial windfall, they never achieved the critical acclaim, meaning they could be destined to be the genre’s KISS, massively successful musicians that Hall voters just can’t bring themselves to vote for.