When you're talking about music that inspired entire generations, that either created or became the voice of a entire subset of Americans, the list isn't extraordinarily long: The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Nirvana, Jay-Z, and The Beach Boys are a few that, arguably, might be up there. Everyone has their personal band they claim sits on top, and that's if you exclude all the people who talk about Elvis. (And all those people who talk about Robert Johnson, too.)
We don't live in that world anymore--the musical landscape found in popular culture (i.e. music that sells, bands that most people know) is one that is more tied up in money and celebrity culture than it ever has been before, and it shows no signs of stopping. It's been commonplace for years for hip-hop to fully embrace the commercial aspects of their field, shouting out how many gold records they have, and it's nearly impossible to peruse anybodies CD collection and not come upon an album whose artist is somehow associated with a reality show program. The argument for commercial art, done primarily for profit, versus art done primarily for...well, whatever reason art is done for isn't anything new--and as time moves forward, it becomes clearer that it's one that, for now at least, has been decided. Discerning palettes aside, most people aren't bothered if their albums are associated with celebrities hawking wares in the Amazon street market, and most people will continue to pick up recycled genre pieces done by bands with as much creativity as they have desire to improve their sound: not very much.
None of this was very much different in 1992--MTV was still a force to be reckoned with, as were the large corporate music empires. 1992 was also a big year for the studio owned groups: REM blew up even bigger than the surprising success of their previous "Losing My Religion" video had indicated, Tori Amos basically recreated the entire subculture of white songstress albums that wasn't felled until the last few years of Alicia Keys and her ilk, and all of this was still ocurring in the final years of the grunge era. (One of the biggest successes of the year was the Singles soundtrack, full of 90's heroes like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins.) Most of all though, all the big sellers of the year where albums that, regardless of their long hair, were relentlessly produced "clean" albums. As raw as they might have played at, grunge, REM and Tori made albums that sounded like they were made by people who knew what they were doing, and had some ambition to be doing it.
Meanwhile, in California, a group of thrift store looking dorks (and there's no better term) threw away a stupid band name, put instruments they had no business playing into their hands and recorded an album on their own. Without any major label or the support that entails, the album, Slanted and Enchanted ended up to be a critical success, and due to it's incredibly cheap cost, a financial one as well. Even today the album remains one of the most beloved of the 90's, and the entire indie-rock world can be said to have grown out of the all-too-brief seven years that they were around. They weren't anywhere near the first to release a lo-fi independent album (the 80's are rife with those stories), but Pavement was the first to fully embrace the style of recording in the songs themselves: they don't seem to sound like they know what they're doing, or like they care to learn in the first place, but this doesn't sound like a joke band either.