Has there been a more influential rock band in the last three decades than Nirvana? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way – of course there hasn’t. Every punk rock, grunge, alternative and indie rock band formed in the Seattle trio’s wake owe a debt to the enormous sea change Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic brought about with 1991’s landmark Nevermind album. It's no secret that the feeding frenzy that followed that record resulted in hundreds of cut-price neo-grunge knockoffs trying their hand at chart domination, but when the inspiration was harnessed in a meaningful way, it could create magic all of its own.
Cut to today, and the template Nirvana left continues to inspire young and upcoming artists. If you’re a fan of Kurt and co, then here are five bands doing a pretty good job of filling the gap they left.
Considering they're from Seattle, it’s really no wonder that Sun Puddle sound so... well, like they’re from Seattle. Clearly keen to continue the musical legacy of their hometown, the trio have been open about how influenced they are by early Melvins, early Sonic Youth and, obvs, early Nirvana. Singer Trever Rose's vocals could legitimately have been lifted from a long-lost Nirvana deep cut – christ, he even looks like Kurt Cobain. The three songs they currently have available to listen to are all feedback-drenched, noisy, garage punk ragers – forget AI, this is the closest thing you're going to get to new Nirvana music any time soon.
This Texan shoegaze-grunge band have been a hot name to drop for a few years now, basically ever since they self-released their debut album Satisfaction in 2016. They've improved a hell of a lot since then though, with 2023’s wonderfully diverse Moments Of Clarity album being the best and most diverse release of their career. Alongside the 90s indie rock influences that you might expect, there’s some crushing Deftones riffing in there, and, on songs such as the quiet-loud-quiet Sunday, the chunky power pop of The World or the rasping punk rock of Gearhead, plenty of the sonic foundations of classic grunge. Nirvana fans will unquestionably love Narrow Head’s mix of power and melody.
Although they're arguably more indebted to the rough, clattering punk of Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, L7 or Bratmobile than they are Nirvana, Brighton trio Lambrini Girls are still the kind of band that you can imagine Kurt Cobain would have enthusiastically championed. Their recent six-track EP You’re Welcome tears by in a mere 16-and-a-half-minutes of chaotic noise, full of fantastically sneering, sarcastic and seething lyrics and hooks that immediately sucker themselves onto your brain. One of the most exciting young bands in the UK.
Witch Fever are kindred spirits to Lambrini Girls when it comes to attitude – that is, they're a band fuelled by pure adrenaline – but this time the Manchester-based quartet are more musically influenced by the deep, dark riffs of Black Sabbath and the destructive noise rock of The Stooges – much like Nirvana themselves, in fact. Their debut album from 2022, Congregation, does lean far more into goth and metal realms than the majority of grunge bands ever did, but there is certainly a rabid, alternative rock attitude that is present here too.
A band with precious little information available to the public, but what we do know is that Caved are a power-trio formed in Argentina with one album to their name so far. That album, 2022’s Slains, basically owes everything to Nirvana’s debut album Bleach. So, sure, originality may not be their strong suit, but some of the songs on Slains are killer. Liar could be their version of School, Coward is not a million miles away from Floyd The Barber and Valentine is a looser, uglier About A Girl. They sound eerily like their obvious biggest influence, and have a similar knack for writing catchy punk bangers.