10 brilliant punk and alt. rock albums that you won't find on Spotify

10 punk and alt. rock albums not on Spotify
(Image credit: Various)

Spotify often makes headlines for the wrong reasons, but it's undeniably an incredibly easy way to access music, as even its biggest detractors agree. That said, it's important to recognise/remember that not every artist or every album is represented on the streaming service.

Here are ten brilliant punk and alt. rock albums that you won't find on the platform.

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Big Black - Atomizer (1986)

In 2022, Steve Albini pulled all the music he's previously put out into the world from Spotify, which means that you can no longer hear Big Black or Shellac (or the unforgivably named Rapeman, for that matter) on the platform.

Every album that Steve Albini had made is worth listening to, but listing 10 of them here would feel like cheating, so we'll start at the beginning, with Big Black's Atomizer, one of the most influential alt. rock albums of the 1980s. "This is the brutal guitar machine thousands of lonely adolescent cowards have heard in their heads," wrote The Village Voice when the album was released, a snarky, if entirely accurate summation of Albini's caustic, misanthropic skewering of humanity's darkest, most repellent instincts. Your loss Spotify.

Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea (2003)

There is an artist called Zwan on Spotify, but whoever he/she/they are, it sure as fuck isn't Billy Corgan's post-Smashing Pumpkins alt.rock supergroup, featuring former members of Slint (David Pajo), A Perfect Circle (Paz Lenchatin) and Chavez (Matt Sweeney). The band's debut, Mary Star of the Sea, debuted at number 3 in the US upon its release early in 2003, and singles Honestly and Lyric were strong enough to make fans of Corgan's songwriting excited about where the group might go next. The answer, unfortunately, was nowhere, with the group splitting in fractious circumstances.

The good news? Billy Corgan revealed earlier this year that we'll be hearing a lot more from the posthumous supergroup, as he's working on a box set, to include a whopping 65 unreleased songs. "I personally think the best Zwan music didn’t get released," Corgan told Rolling Stone, "the acoustic side of the band, which is really what we should have done, and not tried to do an alternative pop record." That alt. pop record is pretty damn good though, just don't waste your time trying to find it on Spotify.  

Headswim - Flood (1994)

Headswim aren't entirely absent from Spotify: the streaming service does host the band's excellent second album, Despite Yourself. But their debut, Crawl? Nope. The Essex band were one of the most under-rated British alt. rock bands of the '90s, and listening to Crawl it's hard to believe that they didn't achieve even a sliver of the success that Bush went on to achieve in the US.

Drive Like Jehu - Drive Like Jehu (1991)

Drive Like Jehu's superb major label debut (and final album), 1994's Yank Crime, is available on Spotify, but there's no sign at present of the San Diego quartet's more raw and fiery self-titled debut album. Which is a damn shame, because more people should have the opportunity to hear what talent the late, great Rick Froberg was when partnered with the still great John Reis: here, they sound like the missing link between snotty garage rock, post-hardcore and math rock, wired and wonderful. 

Killing Joke - Extremities,Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions (1990)

Killing Joke's 1987 synth-pop album Outside The Gate could hardly have been more of a disaster: it got appalling reviews, it sold terribly, it caused the band to lose their record deal with Virgin, it got drummer 'Big' Paul Ferguson sacked, and bassist Paul Raven asked for his name to be removed from the credits. In retrospect, one can understand why its follow-up, Extremities,Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions, was rather overlooked upon its 1990 release, but it's an incredible record, as furious and filthy as Killing Joke have ever been, and the start of a remarkable new chapter for Jaz Coleman's band. Absent from Spotify, it'll likely remain a cult concern, however.

Into Another - Seemless (1995)

We included Into Another on our list of '10 rock bands from the '90s who should have been absolutely massive' last month, but we're going to give the New York quartet's finest album, their 1995 major label debut Seemless, released on Hollywood Records, another shout out here, because honestly, if you have the slightest affection for Alice In Chains, Soundgarden or Temple Of The Dog, this will be an album you'll take to your heart forever.  Unless you work for Spotify, in which case it doesn't exist, much like English football didn't exist until Sky helped spawn the Premier League in 1992. Ahem. 

The Posies - Frosting On The Beater (1993)

The Posies' sublime power-pop album Frosting On The Beater was included in Kerrang! magazine's albums of the year list in 1993, alongside alt. rock classics such as Nirvana's In Utero, Brad's Shame and Girls Against Boys' Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby. For a nano-second, the critical acclaim heaped upon the album looked like it might turn Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer's band into the superstars they deserved to be, but life isn't always fair... and now this alt. rock masterpiece isn't even on streaming services. As a consolation, you can at least hear five tracks from the album on Spotify on their 2000 compilation Dream All Day.

NoMeansNo - Wrong (1989)

That the sadly now defunct NoMeansNo got called the 'Rush Of Hardcore' wasn't simply down to the fact that both trios hailed from Canada, but rather a recognition of the complexity of their prog-punk instrumentation and the fierce intelligence of their lyrics. Wrong, the band's fourth album is arguably their finest hour, with the likes of The Tower, Two Lips, Two Lungs and One Tongue, and Oh no! Bruno! brilliant examples of the Wright brothers' off-kilter, unique approach. That it's not on Spotify for future generations to drool over is indeed wrong. 

Bob Tilton - Crescent (1996)

To be fair, that this isn't on Spotify probably isn't the fault of anyone at Spotify as the extremely punk rock Bob Tilton didn't exactly crave attention even at the peak of their popularity... and the absolute peak of that popularity saw the Mansfield emo collective playing fourth on the bill to Mogwai at London Astoria in 1999. However, anyone with an affection for intense, heartfelt, non-linear and achingly sincere mid '80s US emo - particularly the transcendent Rites Of Spring - will find much to love on Crescent, the group's 1996 debut on Subjugation Records. 

Boss Hog - Cold Hands (1990)

The now out-of-print Q magazine apparently described Cold Hands, Boss Hog's debut album for noise rock label Amphetamine Reptile as "nine painfully slow nuggets of sonic indigestion", a review which surely must have delighted former Pussy Galore/future Blues Explosion leader Jon Spencer back in the day. Cold Hands is arguably best known for the fact that vocalist Cristina Martinez posed nude for its cover, which does Spencer and Martinez, then boyfriend and girlfriend, now husband and wife, a disservice, as it's a deliciously filthy slab of New York gutter punk blues, a perfect soundtrack for all manner of post-midnight mischief.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.