Acting as a sampler for MTV's flagship alternative show, Never Mind the Mainstream... was the best compilation of '80s alternative music released in America at the time. Featuring powerhouse tracks by R.E.M., Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and the Violent Femmes, this album serves as the ultimate introduction to what was popular in the alternative underground at the time. Several good, underrated songs are stacked up next to the classics and do just fine on their own. New Order's "Perfect Kiss" stands surprisingly well between Joy Division's classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Depeche Mode's mega-hit "Personal Jesus." Hüsker Dü and the Jesus and Mary Chain contribute driving, powerful rock tracks; elsewhere, Ministry showcases their paranoid anger with the club hit "Stigmata." The only weak moments are provided by Public Image Ltd.'s repetitive "This Is Not a Love Song" and Wire's boring "Eardrum Buzz." If only they had chosen PiL's "Rise" and Wire's "Reuters," the album would be nearly perfect. But between the awesome liner notes (which include bios and a thank you from host Dave Kendall) and the general high quality of the music, this is a fantastic album that serves as a wonderful sampler for these artists' talents.
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano