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Top 20 of the Best Scottish Indie Rock Bands of the 2000s


What did the Scots bring to the music of the 21st century?

Here are the famous and the obscure, stadium fillers and club acts, million-sellers and no-hit wonders among them. You may even recognise some of the tunes and had never known who was making that great music or even that they came from Scotland.

Here are 20 of the top alternative rock bands from Scotland from those years of the new-born century.

1. Aerogramme

A quartet formed in Glasgow in 1998 with Craig B. on vocals and guitar, Iain Cook on guitar and programming with Campbell McNeil on bass and drummer Martin Scott. They released a couple of singles followed by E.P.'s before their first full album 'A Story in White' which arrived in 2001.

The band released four albums in total on different labels with their last 'My Heart Has a Wish That Would Not Go' being released in the UK, USA and Japan in 2007.

By then they had run out of steam, always struggling financially to keep their head above water. They were a hard-working band on the road with constant touring around Europe and occasional visits to America.

It took its toll and singer Craig B. even suffered serious vocal problems that meant an enforced hiatus caused by "screaming every night, whisky and smoking" as he confessed.

And so the lads decided to disband the group and move on to other ventures. Aerogramme played their final show at the popular Connect Festival in Inverary in the West of Scotland in 2007.

2. Biffy Clyro

A west coast phenomenon from Kilmarnock in Ayrshire formed in 1995 although they first existed under the name 'Skewfish'. For the most part they have been a trio of Simon Neil and brothers Ben and James Johnston. Like some of the best bands they matured at a steady rate and success took its time.

An appearance at the T-in-the-Park festival in Scotland in 2000 led to a deal with Beggars Banquet. The first three album which began with the 2002 release 'Blackened Sky' performed moderately well.

But it was their album 'Puzzle' in 2007, through a Warner Brothers company called 14th Floor, which broke them into the big time. It went platinum in the UK and the following albums have all been massive hits in the UK and Europe. Top single hits have included 'Folding Stars', 'Mountains' and 'Many of Horror'

Their crossover appeal allows them to headline at the Heavy Rock Download Festival and Glastonbury in England as well as T-in-the-Park in their home country. They are still a force to be reckoned with, selling well and a major live attraction with legions of fans.

3. Boards of Canada

A band comprising Edinburgh brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin who started out in 1986 experimenting with Electronic music and ambient sounds. This was something they had dabbled with since childhood and they often use vintage equipment, samples and sounds to evoke a nostalgic sound.

After some home-grown releases their first commercial project was the album 'Music Has the Right to Children' released to critical and public acclaim in 1998. But they never threw themselves into the music industry machine and have remained aloof from the business.

They very rarely appear live or give interviews and have only released a handful of albums. Their debut was followed by 'Geogaddi' in 2002 'The Campfire Headphase' in 2005 and, after a long wait, 'Tomorow's Harvest' in 2013.

But less is more as all their work has performed well in the charts. Plus, given the style of their music, it's not surprising that they have contributed to the soundtracks of many TV programmes, commercials and movies.

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4. The Cinematics

A band formed in 2003 in Glasgow although the members originally all came from Dingwall in the Highlands of Scotland. They were Scott Rinning on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramsay Miller on lead guitar, bassist Adam Goemans and Ross Bonney on drums.

A contract with TVT Records was secured a couple of years later with their debut album following in 2007. That was called 'Strange Education' and was produced by Simon Barnicott and Stephen Hague who had both worked with top bands in the UK Indie Rock scene.

A previous single called 'Chase', later included on the album, was used on the soundtrack of the Jason Statham movie 'Transporter 2' released in 2005. However the band's record company went bust and were sold to an American business called The Orchard but luckily for The Cinematics they were retained.

They went on to release another album entitled 'Love and Terror' in 2009. But then they split up in 2011 during recording in Berlin of their intended third album.

5. Cosmic Rough Riders

A Glasgow band started in 1998 by Daniel Wylie and Stephen Fleming. After being joined by Mark Brown and James Clifford they released their debut album 'Deliverance' the next year.

In 2001 came the fame of BBC TV's Top of the Pops with a string of singles hitting the the lower reaches of the Top 40 over a two year period between 2001 and 2003. They were 'Revolution (In the Summertime?)', 'The Pain Inside', 'Because You' and 'Justify the Rain'.

Although never breaking into the Top 10 they have enjoyed a respectable amount of commercial success. Their brand of music inspired by the Californian Rock scene of the 1970s has won them a firm following of loyal fans

They have been a hard-working touring band and have supported the likes of U2 and Robert Plant as well as appearing at major festivals in Europe and Japan. However, although not officially breaking up they haven't been in the studio since their last album 'The Stars Look Different From Down Here' in 2006.

6. Dogs Die in Hot Cars

A band from the golfing capital of St Andrews in Fife where the members met at secondary school. After learning the ropes in their early teens they emerged under the name Dogs Die in Hot Cars in 1997.

The group were Craig Macintosh on vocals and guitar, Gary Smith on guitar, Ruth Quigley on keyboards, Lee Worrall on bass and Laurence Davey on drums. Ruth and Lee also contributed on French horn and glockenspiel of all things.

They still had a way to go back then as their first album 'Please Describe Yourself' wasn't released until 2004. A single lifted from that disc entitled 'Doghopping' made Top 30 in the UK and the follow-up 'I Love You Cause I Have To' hit the Top 40.

They began work on a second album in 2006 but pulled out of the project. Subsequently they dropped the demos for that album onto the internet for download and unusually allowing anyone to re-mix or rewrite the tunes for a share of any royalties.

7. The Dykeenies

Hailing for Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire, the Dykeenies started in 2005. The personnel were Brian Henderson on vocals and keyboards, his brother Andrew Henderson on bass, Steven Ramsay on guitar and drummer John Kerr.

They quickly developed a very strong following in Glasgow with sell-out club shows and a support slot with Mystery Jets. A breakthrough came in 2006 with an invitation to play at the famous T-in-the-Park festival on the stage for up and coming bands.

This was followed by their first single, a double-A side called 'New Ideas/Will it Happen Tonight?', then an EP entitled 'Waiting for Go', before their debut album 'Nothing Means Everything' in 2007. This spawned minor hits in the UK singles charts with 'New Ideas', 'Clean up Your Eyes' and 'Stitches'.

The second album 'Canyon of Echoes' came out in 2011, followed by a tour, but then they broke up in 2012. However they returned to playing live performances in 2017 and with new recordings also promised.

8. El Presidente

A Glasgow band created by Dante Gizzi in 2002. He had previously been the bass player with Scots rockers Gun. The rest of the band were singer Laura Marks, guitarist Johnny McGlynn, bassist Thomas McNeice, and Dawn Zhu on drums.

Useful support slots followed with Kasabian, Simple MInds, Duran Duran, Jamiroquai and Oasis plus their first and only album, the eponymous 'El Presidente', which appeared in 2005. A collection of diverse sounds it was described by one critic as a "blender repertoire that recalls P-Funk, Prince, Led Zeppelin, and the Bee Gees"

Singles from that album did modestly well in the UK charts without setting the heather on fire. Their best tunes included 'Rocket', '100 MPH', 'Without You' and 'Turn This Thing Around' and they earned a couple of appearances on Top of the Pops.

But they did play both the T-in-the-Park and the V Festivals and gained a strong following among fans and the music business. However the band lasted only until 2007 and Dante went back to the newly-reformed Gun line-up.

9. Franz Ferdinand

Although featuring a multi-national line-up this band have strong Scottish credentials. Singer Alex Kapranos was born in England but moved to Edinburgh when he was seven, drummer Paul Thomson is a Glaswegian and the band are Glasgow-based.

Franz Ferdinand began in 2002 and fame and fortune arrived quickly at their doorstep. This was thanks to their second single 'Take Me Out' which was a huge success and after that the hits kept coming.

Their eponymous debut album went big in the UK and also, with over one million sales, it sold in the USA. They won the 2004 Mercury Music Prize for best group plus two BRIT Awards in 2005.

More albums have followed with the next three hitting the Top 10 in the UK. They were 'You Could Have it So Much Better' (2005), 'Tonight: Franz Ferdinand'(2009) and 'Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Actions'(2013).

The singles success may have dried up since the 2000s but the critical and popular acclaim has continued to come their way and they are still going strong, making albums and touring to large audiences

10. The Fratellis

A Glasgow band formed in 2005 and who adopted the 'Fratelli' pseudonym for their stage names. They are singer and guitarist Jon Fratelli (real name John Lawler), bassist Barry Fratelli (AKA Barry Wallace) and drummer Mince Fratelli (Gordon McRory).

Taking the surname from the bad guys in the 1985 movie 'The Goonies' the band almost immediately launched into astonishing success. Their debut album 'Costello Music' was a smash hit in the UK and even broke into the Billboard Top 50 in the USA.

Much of this rapid rise to fame came from their memorably catchy 'Chelsea Dagger' single. But in their first few years most of their singles did well in the UK charts. Their albums sold well at home but also especially in Japan where they have a large following.

They took a break in 2009 and didn't perform together for almost three years until they got back together for a charity gig and several other UK shows. New material also appeared culminating in a new album 'We Need Medicine' in 2013 followed by another entitled 'Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied' in 2016

11. Frightened Rabbit

A Borders band hailing from Selkirk who were formed in 2003. In their formative years they would send out biscuits with their demo recordings which was a good way to grab attention and bring some crumbs of comfort.

Originally a solo project for singer and guitarist Scott Hutchison their first album 'Sing the Greys' in 2006 was recorded with his brother Grant. This led to a several appearances in America followed by a full US tour and a re-mix of the album.

By the time the second album 'The Midnight Organ Fight' came out in 2008 they were a four-piece outfit with guitarist Billy Kennedy and Andy Monaghan on keyboards. Both albums failed to chart and it took their third, traditionally 'difficult' album to see them make a slight breakthrough.

Charting at No.61 in the UK and No.84 in the USA, 'The Winter of Mixed Drinks' also came in for rave reviews in the musical press. Commercially things got even better with more hit albums and in terms of singles more US success than in the UK with songs like 'Swim Until You Can't See Land', 'Nothing Like You' and 'Roadless'.

12. Glasvegas

A popular band originating from Glasgow in 2003 consisting of cousins James and Rab Allan with bass guitarist Paul Donoghue and drummer Ryan Ross. Although their first album took five years to hit the shelves it was worth the wait as it was a spectacular debut.

They had previously released various singles, EP's and free downloads and were handled by famous Scottish impresario Alan McGee who had discovered Oasis. But after signing to Columbia Records their eponymous debut album went platinum in the UK reaching No.2 in the charts and was also relatively successful in the USA.

They scored Top 20 UK hits with songs taken from the album, namely the singles 'Geraldine' and 'Daddy's Gone'. The year 2008 was a very busy period for Glasvegas with many appearances at Glastonbury, T-in-the-Park and other festivals on Continental Europe as well as supporting slots with Muse and Kings of Leon.

Further curiously entitled albums arrived with 'EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ in 2011 and 'Later...When the TV Turns to Static' in 2013. Although they haven't managed the almost impossible task of repeating their debut success their music has still satisfied both critics and fans alike.

13. The Hedrons

An all-female line-up from Glasgow founded in 2005 playing Indie Rock with a dash of Punk thrown in for good measure. The ladies were Tippi on vocals and guitar, Rosei McLune on guitar, Gill Bickerstaff on bass and 'Soup', AKA Lesley McLaren, on drums.

They used the modern utility of the MySpace website to promote themselves and establish a fan-base. In fact, Tippi had already made her mark after releasing a solo album in 2004 before deciding to form the new band.

Their early singles 'Be My Friend', 'I Need You' and 'Heatseeker' all scored well in the UK Indie charts if not in the mainstream classification. But they soon appeared at big music festivals such as Download, T-in-the-Park and the Isle of Wight.

They also opened for the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones and Alice in Chains which indicates their broad crossover appeal to different genres of Rock Music.

Their debut album 'One More Won't Kill Us' was released in 2007 and performed well in the charts. This led to a first foray to America which included an appearance at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. But after a few more raucous years with no more studio product the band eventually broke up in 2012.

14. Idlewild

A group from Edinburgh who started out as teenagers in 1995 and who began playing bars and clubs in the city the following year. The original line-up was singer Roddy Woomble, guitarist Rod Jones, bass player Andrew Mitchell, Luciano Rossi on keyboards and Colin Newton on drums.

They came to the attention of noted radio DJ's, especially Steve Lamacq of the BBC who championed their cause. They then played shows in London in the summer of 1997 and the subsequent year saw the release of their first full studio album 'Hope is Important' to encouraging reviews.

But it was their next album '100 Broken Windows' in the year 2000 which went gold with a chart success ending at No.15 in the UK. It also produced four Top 40 hit singles. It was onward and upwards as their 2002 disc 'The Remote Part' also went gold and garnered even more hit singles.

Another three solid albums fiollowed before the band decided to take a break in 2010 to concentrate on other projects. It seemed to do them good as after reforming in 2013 their next album 'Everything Ever Written' made the Top 20.

Despite some line-up changes through the years the band are still a going concern producing excellent music and touring to large audiences.

15. Looper

A side project that was an offshoot of the successful Scottish band Belle and Sebastian. Two of the members of that band, husband and wife team Stuart and Kam David, formed the new group in Glasgow in 1998. Other band members were Ronnie Black on guitar and Scott Twynholm on keyboard and samples.

What began as a sound and vision exposition of electronic music at the Glasgow School of Art resulted in a debut album 'Up a Tree' in 1999. This was followed a year later by their second album 'Geometrid' and a US tour supporting The Flaming Lips. In a prolific period around the turn of the century they released a third album called 'Snare' in 2002.

However they have put all of their back catalogue of music online for free and have managed to fund this through licensing their music for various TV and movie soundtracks plus video games. Most famous was the song 'Mondo 77' which has been used for TV commercials. Other tracks have popped up on the films 'Vanilla Sky' and 'The Edukators' as well as the cartoons 'American Dad' and 'Mission Hill'.

They withdrew from the scene for many years as Stuart and Kam pursued other interests. She studied animation and he studied literature and he became a novelist. But then a new album surfaced in 2015 ironically called 'Offgrid:Offline' a collection of mid-tempo songs filled with atmosphere and shades of traditional folk within the electronics.

16. Mercury Tilt Switch

A band started up by university students in Dundee who even took the initiative of founding their own record label called Pet Piranha Records.

After several personnel changes the settled down to a stable line-up in 2001 playing what has been described as 'Fuzz Rock' full of "catchy hooks and destructive tendencies" with a sound reminiscent of Seattle Grunge.

They released a couple of EP's, went touring around Scotland and also in England. They shared stages with the likes of the Deftones, Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro. They also enjoyed some decent air-time on the radio and built up a cult following who enjoyed their energetic live performances.

Their first album 'Brundle Kid' came out in 2002 and was self-financed. After a long wait it was followed up by the album 'Kiprono' which was released in 2006. Among their best tunes are 'Caffeine Avalanche', 'Firefly Strike', 'Half Time Shankly' and 'Not If I Get You First'.

17. Mogwai

A Glasgow band who entered the musical scene back in 1995 and named after the creature from the famous 'Gremlins' movies. The band were originally Stuart Braithwaite on guitar and vocals, John Cumming on guitar, Dominic Aitchison on bass and Brendan O'Hare on drums.

Their music is hard to define so lazy journalists have stuck the ludicrous 'Post Rock' label to describe the group. They utilise many effects, distortion and lengthy guitar interludes with most of their output being instrumentals of contrasting episodes of tempo and style.

Their first album called 'Mogwai Young Team' came out in 1997 and since then they have averaged around an album every 3 years with consistent commercial success for many years without actually hitting the the top. Their biggest hit to date was the 2014 album 'Rave Tapes' which reached No.10 in the UK charts.

Never considered as a singles band they first scraped into the Top 40 in 2006 when their song 'Friend of the Night' reached a respectable 38 in the UK classification.

Mogwai's music has been more publicly recognised through soundtracks having appeared on the scores of many movies and TV programmes. They even provided the complete soundtrack for the documentary 'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait' about the celebrated French football player.

18. The Needles

A group from Aberdeen formed in 1998 who, after releasing a couple of singles to good reviews started to get noticed on the musical scene. Both Melody Maker and the NME sang their praises and they also got some airplay on BBC Radio 1.

They then moved to Glasgow in 2001 to further their musical career but never quite managed to fulfil their earlier promise.

Singer Dave Dixon explained their approach in an original way "We've always lived in our own world. This helped us, we didn't have to fit in with a local scene or the more common trends of the industry."

But they released three albums over 8 years beginning with 'Any Other Girl' in 1999, then 'Richie and the Magic Hammond' in the year 2000 and ending with 'In Search of the Needles' in 2007.

A mixture of 80's New Wave with 60's Garage Rock they even ventured into Blues and Funk in a colourful sonic melange of discordant styles full of energy and braggadocio.

That latter year of 2007 saw their final show which was performed at the South by Southwest Festival. The Needles split up soon after.


19. The 1990s

Irony is certainly not lost on this Glasgow band judging by their title as they were actually formed in 2004. Founding members Jackie McKeown and Jamie Murrow had previously been in the highly rated band The Yummy Fur.

After only a few live appearances they were snapped up by Rough Trade Records. Useful support slots followed with Babyshambles, Franz Ferdinand and The Long Blondes.

Their first album 'Cookies' arrived in 2007 but didn't chart highly in the UK and neither did their second called 'Kicks' in 2009. Nevertheless they built up a solid cult following and were active and continually inventive in the studio and onstage. Playing music that sounds "like a blonde gets out of a car" as described by themselves.

Appearances at festivals such as the Isle of Wight Bestival helped them reach new audiences. Best songs included 'You're Supposed to be my Friend', 'See You at the Lights', '59', 'You Made Me Like It' and 'Tell Me When You'e Ready'. A third album was recorded in 2011 but never released and after leaving the Rough Trade label the band finally decided to call it a day in 2013.

20. The Zephyrs

An Edinburgh band formed in 1999 and described as playing a brand of 'Shoe-Gazing Folk Rock' whatever that may mean. They are led by musical brothers Stuart and David Nicol with the rest of the band undergoing many personnel changes over the years.

Their first album 'It's OK Not to Say Anything' was released in 1999 and they impressed their fellow Scots Mogwai so much that the latter signed them up to their Rock Action record label owned by South Paw Records. Their second album further advanced the loquacious titling streak with 'When the Sky Comes Down it Comes Down on Your Head' which came out in 2001.

Although well received critically and with the benefit of an appearance at the Reading Festival the album suffered from the liquidation of South Paw and their career ground to a halt. Bloodied but not unbowed they soldiered on and a third album appeared in 2004 the more succinctly entitled 'A Year to the Day'.

But thankfully the next album in 2005 was called 'Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed' proving they hadn't lost their loquacious turn of phrase. This was followed by some touring and festival appearances and the band are still recording and playing today much to the delight of shoegazers everywhere.

A fine selection that Scotland had to offer in only 10 years of music. A variety of styles and influences to offer up a rich menu of sound.

And so it goes on as the Scots didn't stop there with many new bands following in their wake.

The second decade of the 2010s brought fresh talent ready to plug in their guitars and beat the skins to try and find their way to the top.

© 2017 Shinkicker

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