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Five of the Best Scottish Alternative Rock Bands

You feel unsure about the best scottish alternative rock bands, but no doubt Scotland has long been a source of great musicians. Annie Lennox of Eurythmics fame hales from those shores; Bon Scott of AC/DC; David Byrne of Talking Heads; Gerry Rafferty of Stealers Wheel (and solo fame); even crooner Rod Stewart claims Scottish ancestry when the occasion suits.

So it should come as little surprise that there are Scottish alternative rock bands in abundance as well.

In the pop domain, Scotland has traditionally contributed well, with bands like the Proclaimers and the Bay City Rollers using their distinctive accents to charm music lovers.

More recently, bands like Texas, Travis and Franz Ferdinand have satiated the mainstream thirst for pop and rock; but what about alternative rock bands?

Here are five of my picks from Scotland’s rich musical history over the years.

1) Orange Juice

Singer Edwyn Collins formed his first band Nu-Sonics in 1976 with some schoolmates and they quickly dropped the name, changing to Orange Juice in 1979.

Their biggest hit, Rip it Up, reached No. 8 on the UK charts and became the first commercially successful song to use the Roland TB-303, a type of bass synthesizer.

Incidentally, Edwyn Collins would go on to achieve much more fame in a solo career in the 90s with the hit “Girl Like You”.

2) The Jesus and Mary Chain

Formed back in 1983, the Jesus and Mary Chain is based primarily on the brotherly song-writing partnership of William and Jim Reid.

In their early days, they were likened to the Sex Pistols, largely due to their insistence on playing gigs with their backs to the audience, which often provoked hostility from the crowd.

They aimed to make guitar-heavy rock songs, at a time when many of them contemporaries in the 80s were making electronic pop music. For just under a year, Bobby Gillespie played drums for the band, before going on to form Primal Scream (see below).

3) Primal Scream

After leaving The Jesus and Mary Chain to focus more on Primal Scream, Bobby Gillespie led the band to stardom in 1991 with the album Screamadelica.

Featuring such hits as Loaded and Come Together, the girl moved away from their poppy roots to more extended rock epics.

Since, they have enjoyed huge success with the hits Rocks and Country, both of which are slightly more mainstream rock than the alternative Screamadelica.

4) Teenage Fanclub

Displaying impressive longevity, Teenage Fanclub have survived from 1989 to present day with its core members intact.

They have released nine albums to date, with their most critically-acclaimed effort Bandwagonesque in 1991 beating off competition from Nirvana’s Nevermind and REM’s Out of Time to be named best album of the year by Spin magazine.

Indeed, Kurt Cobain used to call them “the best band in the world”, whilst Liam Gallagher was slightly more moderate in his praise, only affording them the title of “second best band in the world” – behind Oasis, of course.

5) Mogwai

With a name taken from the alien creatures in the film Gremlins, Mogwai are a progressive post-rock band first formed in 1995 in Glasgow.

Known for their trademark slow, building melodies and the unmistakably Scottish brogue of vocalist Stuart Braithwaite (who often delivers his lyrics spoken rather than sung), Mogwai were championed by famously alternative DJ John Peel.

They are still releasing and performing today.


New Scottish Alternative Bands

The 90s and 00s saw the emergence of some great alternative Scottish bands as well, with the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Idlewild making a name for themselves. So who to look out for now?


A post-electro band from Glasgow, Errors create enthralling melodies without the use of vocals.

Broken Records

An indie-folk band from Edinburgh, Broken Records combine such eclectic instruments as violins, cellos and accordions with standard mainstream instruments to create memorable toe-tapping tunes.

Admiral Fallow

Another fledgling folksy act, Admiral Fallow have two albums to date and continue to tour extensively.

White Heath

An Edinburgh-based outfit relocated to London, White Heath also use orchestral elements in the shape of violins, pianos, and trombones to blend into soothing, lilting harmonies with a rocky undercurrent.

And there it is! With the breadth and depth of musical talent out there right now, it’s hard to keep those fingers feeling those pulses, in the past and the present day. Who have I missed?

Which is your favourite?

Feel free to add your thoughts below.


I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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