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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.