The 20 best Australian bands of all time

26 January 2024, 06:00

Great Australian bands: INXS, AC/DC, Gang Of Youths
Great Australian bands: INXS, AC/DC, Gang Of Youths. Picture: Paul Natkin/Atlantic Records/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/Ed Cooke/Warner Records

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Radio X

By Radio X

To celebrate Australia Day, Radio X takes a look at some of the very best acts to come from Down Under....

  1. AC/DC

    The Godfathers of Aussie Rock, the legendary Acca Dacca was formed by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young - two Glaswegians who moved to Sydney in the 60s. Originally featuring the late Bon Scott on vocals (he was replaced after his death in 1980 by Brian Johnson), the band have notched up four decades of no-nonsense, lewd and crude rock 'n' roll. There is now an “AC/DC Lane” in Melbourne.

    AC/DC - Back In Black (Official Video)

  2. The Avalanches

    The Melbourne DJ collective made a huge splash in 2000 with their debut album Since I Left You, a massive mix of original tunes, memorable samples and scratches. It was long thought that they’d never follow it up - but they did, 16 years later, with Wildflower.

    The Avalanches - 'Since I Left You'

  3. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

    The dark master of Australian rock, Cave made his debut in the punk/goth outfit The Birthday Party back in 1978. The band dissolved in 1983, leaving Cave to form The Bad Seeds, who have released 15 albums. 1996's Murder Ballads saw him team up with another Australian icon - Kylie Minogue.

    Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow

  4. Crowded House

    New Zealander Neil Finn and Australian Paul Hester were members of the respected Kiwi New Wave band Split Enz; when that group folded in 1984, they joined forces with Aussie bassist Nick Seymour to formed Crowded House in Melbourne. Despite the later addition of Neil's brother Tim and other non-Aussie musicians to the ranks, Finn considers the band to be Australian, saying the group's early albums were inspired by the city. Certainly, the classic Four Seasons In One Day was inspired by the changeable Melburnian climate. Take a cardie!

    Crowded House - Four Seasons In One Day

  5. Cut Copy

    Signed to the ultra-cool Modular label, the Cutters were originally formed around Melbournian DJ and musician Dan Whitford and released their debut album, Bright Like Neon Love, in 2004. They're released a number of albums of electronic rock, including 2008's In Ghost Colours and 2020's Freeze Melt.

    Cut Copy - Hearts On Fire

  6. DMAs

    This Sydney trio are a big hit with our very own Liam Gallagher and released their debut single Delete in 2014. Their second album, For Now was issued in 2018 and was tagged as "BIBLICAL" by our Liam. Their cover of Cher’s Believe made Number 6 on Triple J’s Hot 100 in 2016 and their latest album is 2023's How Many Dreams?

    DMA'S - The Glow (Radio X Presents session)

  7. Empire Of The Sun

    An Aussie supergroup, comprising The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore of Pnau. Their self-titled 2008 album raised a few eyebrows, thanks to the outfits the duo wore, which evoked nothing less than some kind of bizarre 1980s fantasy movie.

    Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream

  8. Gang Of Youths

    Fronted by David Le'aupepe, these Sydneysiders are the hottest thing to come out of Aus since Hugh Jackman. Their second album Go Farther In Lightness gained a lot of critical acclaim on its release in 2017 and has seen the band’s appear reach beyond Australia. Their latest album is 2022's Angel In Realtime.

    Gang of Youths play What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out

  9. Howling Bells

    This Sydney rock band formed back in 2004, with Juanita Stein on vocals and her brother Joel on guitar. They have released four albums, the most recent of which is 2014's Heartstrings.

    Howling Bells - Your Love

  10. Jet

    Brothers Nic and Chris Cester were the backbone of this hard-rockin' Melbourne band, whose biggest hit was 2003's Are You Gonna Be My Girl? Rollover DJ and Look What You've Done were other great tracks from their debut album Get Born.

    Jet - Are You Gonna Be My Girl

  11. INXS

    Fronted by the charismatic singer Michael Hutchence, INXS became Australia's biggest musical export on the release of their 1987 album, Kick. The following decade saw them notch up more sales and acclaim, but the death of Hutchence in 1997 almost finished the band. They've continued, however, using other singers, including one picked from a talent show.

    INXS - Need You Tonight

  12. Midnight Oil

    Best known for their politically-charged 1987 single Beds Are Burning (about returning land to the indigenous Aboriginal people), singer Peter Garrett later became a member of the Australian Labor Party and was appointed Minister Of The Environment in 2007.

    Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning

  13. Pendulum

    Drum 'n' bass out of Perth, Western Austrlia… the much-loved Pendulum went on hiatus in 2012, but they returned in 2015 and continue to play live shows.

    Pendulum - Watercolour (Official Video)

  14. Powderfinger

    Formed in Brisbane in 1989, the band released seven albums between '94 and 2009, five of which went to Number 1 in Australia. They split in 2010, much to the anguish of Aussie rock fans, reforming for a one-night-only charity show in 2020.

    Powderfinger - My Happiness

  15. Regurgitator

    The Gurge hail from Brisbane and have been together since 1993. One of Australia's most-loved rock bands, their tenth album in 2019 was specially for kids: The Really Really Really Really Boring Album.

    Regurgitator - Polyester Girl

  16. The Saints

    When they released their debut 7" (I'm) Stranded in September 1976, The Saints became the first band outside the US to issue a "punk" single. The Brisbane act were hugely influential, but the original line-up split in '78, leaving Chris Bailey to continue the name and guitarist Ed Kuepper to forge a solo career.

    The Saints - Stranded

  17. The Sleepy Jackson

    An acclaimed musical project from Perth, based around songwriter Luke Steele. There were two albums - Lovers (2003) and Personality - One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird (2006) - but Steele's Empire Of The Sun project has taken up much of his time since then.

    The Sleepy Jackson - Come To This

  18. Tame Impala

    Perth's psych rock revivalists formed back in 2007, but it wasn't until they released the single Elephant in 2012 that they made an impression on the wider world. Fourth album The Slow Rush arrived in 2020.

    Tame Impala - Elephant (Official Video)

  19. The Vines

    Led by vocalist and guitarist Craig Nicholls, Sydney's The Vines made a huge impact with their 2002 debut album Highly Involved, which boasted tracks like Get Free and Highly Evolved. However, a troubled career saw half the band leave over the years due to Nicholls' erratic behaviour. He was subsequently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and continues to perform with the group.

    The Vines - Get Free

  20. Wolfmother

    The Sydney-based trio - featuring Andrew Stockdale on guitar and vocals - released their debut album in 2005, and featured the classic track Woman. They've released more albums since including 2009's Cosmic Egg and 2021's Rock Out.

    Wolfmother - Woman/Love Train


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