Ten Influential Bands From Australia

How much do you know about Australia? No need to answer this question if you are Australian, but normally, for the rest of you, the answer tends to land in a strong “not so much”. And you’re not the one to blame. Generally speaking, in all non-English speaking countries, culture coming from English-speaking countries is normally presented as a huge unified indistinguishable compound. This obviously isn’t even close to reality and, without having to dig too deep, it’s easy to figure out that even artists from the same country can belong to scenes geographically and stylistically apart from each other.

Focusing back on our subject, Australia has plenty of unique bands that have found a global audience over the last 50 years. As much as the contribution of the Oceanic country can be felt in the worldwide cultural landscape, it’s rather common for folks outside of the country to not know that some of their favorite bands are originally from there. It’s time to change that. Let’s celebrate these 10 Australian bands which are NOT Jet (sorry, not sorry).

10 Essential Australian Bands

AC/DC

Love ’em or hate ’em, nobody can escape one of the biggest rock bands on Earth. Still active nowadays, the hard rock outfit was formed in 1973 by the Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. In 1975, they released their first studio record: High Voltage. And the rest is history, AC/DC is one of the most successful bands in history against all odds.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A Tasmanian devil (most likely showing its teeth).

The Avalanches

Would a debut like Since I Left You be possible in 2019? Probably not. The current copyright landscape doesn’t allow for the wild creativity that the Melbourne electronic band displayed in their game-changing debut. We will just drop a number here for those who don’t believe us, Since I Left You contains around 3,500 samples from previous recordings according to Wikipedia. After a long hiatus, The Avalanches released their second album, named Wildflower, in 2016.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A platypus.

The Church

The Church has been active non-stop since 1980 and in 2017 they released their 25th album: Man Woman Life Death Infinity. The career of this alternative rock band has evolved through time while remaining a beloved band for the alternative crowd. Their biggest hit is “Under The Milky Way“, a song whose beauty and allure remain intact after more than 30 years later.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A dingo.

Crowded House

Yes, I’m also humming “Don’t Dream It’s Over” as soon I wrote down Crowded House. The duo started their wildly successful career in 1985. Paul Hester and Nick Seymour released music and performed as Crowded House until 1996. Tragically, Paul Hester took his life in 2005 after a long battle with depression. Seymour re-formed the group with drummer Matt Sherrod in 2006 and released two more records. Albums such as Woodface or Together Alone remain as the testament to their ability to couple commercial success with beautiful songwriting.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A koala.

Cut Copy

The 2000s weren’t exactly the most memorable decade, but a bunch of records stood out and remain nowadays as pieces you feel like revisiting over and over again. In 2008, Cut Copy released their sophomore album, the fantastic In Ghost Colours. They kept releasing albums throughout the next decade and are still active nowadays. Few groups have hit the sweet spot between electronic music and traditional instrumentation the way Cut Copy do.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A wallaby.

The Go-Betweens

Fronted by pop mastermind Robert Forster, The Go-Betweens are a band that will instantly put a smile on the face of indie pop lovers. Their influence could be felt strongly in a lot of bands of the nineties (Belle & Sebastian, are you there?). The formula? Melancholic melodies, beautiful orchestral arrangements, and charming lyrics. I literally had to stop writing to listen to 16 Lovers Lane right now. A record doesn’t get much more beautiful than this one.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A wombat.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave must be the first name that popped in your mind when we mentioned Australia in the title. An institution of his own, Nick Cave started his music career fronting the post-punk legends The Birthday Party. Soon after the disbandment of this band, he started Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, still active nowadays. If you want to speak about a band with an impeccable career, they’re a very good example, let’s take a deep breath before mentioning some of the classics they have released over the last four decades: From Her To Eternity, Your Funeral… My Trial, Tender Prey, Let Love In, Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call, No More Shall We Part, Push The Sky Away, Skeleton Tree. Just to name a bunch. And that without mentioning all the output of his side project Grinderman and bands of other members of The Bad Seeds (like the incredible Dirty Three fronted by Warren Ellis).

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A kangaroo.

Severed Heads

Severed Heads are an electronic pioneering duo from Sydney. With a career spanning from 1979 to the present day, Severed Heads have always been great innovators and their contribution to the industrial scene is widely revered by the fans of this genre. Their status as a cult act has led to some very highly sought releases in our Marketplace.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A thorny dragon.

Tame Impala

The cultural dominance of Tame Impala over the last decade is out of discussion. The Perth psychedelic band debut album was released in 2010 and, since then, they’ve released two more albums which stand out as some of the best releases of the decade. The beautiful production and fantastic guitar work of Kevin Parker have landed him collaborations with other artists such as A$AP Rocky, Lady Gaga, The Flaming Lips, or Travis Scott, just to name a few. The new Tame Impala record is one of the most awaited releases of the season (it was expected for 2019, but 2020 is looking more realistic at this point).

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A cane toad (but less poisonous and more hallucinogenic).

Wolfmother

This band from Sydney was one of the last ones who benefitted from the rock revival of the early 2000s. Influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin, the tracks of their self-titled debut album were built over monolithic riffs and catchy harmonies. If you ask me, it’s hard to think of the huge commercial success of bands like Greta Van Fleet without Wolfmother opening that path in the previous decade.

What is their Australian spiritual animal? A goanna.
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Javi Gómez Martínez
Javi is a Spanish immigrant currently living in Amsterdam and our social media and blog guy. When he's not working 9 to 5 (what a way to make a living), he spends his days obsessing about music, spending his Discogs salary on attending gigs and festivals, and going to the movies more than any doctor would recommend.
37 Comments
  • Nov 2,2019 at 22:10

    What about SPK? I love Severed Heads dearly but SPK had a far broader range and much greater influence on Industrial, Noise and Dark Wave music globally. Granted Graeme Revell is from New Zealand but SPK was formed in Australia.

  • Oct 28,2019 at 06:45

    The SAINTS
    Toy Love
    The Clean
    The Scientists
    Manikins
    Chosen Few
    Lime Spiders
    and check out the CHATS!!

    Labels (flying nun)

  • Oct 27,2019 at 06:11

    As far as psych music coming out of Australia, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is ahead of the curve compared to Tame Impala, and are one of the most versatile groups around today. Tame Impala’s sound has no doubt been very influential, but there isn’t much variety.

  • Oct 26,2019 at 21:05

    1. TAMAM SHUD
    2. THE MASTER’S APPRENTICES
    3. BUFFALO
    4. AC/DC
    5. RADIO BIRDMAN
    7. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
    6. WOLFMOTHER
    7. TAME IMPALA
    8. KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD
    9. THE MURLOCS
    10. MR. DAEVID ALLEN

  • Oct 26,2019 at 10:46

    Javi
    It is difficult to provide a top 10 list. Many will disagree. Congratulations on having the courage to post yours. That said I cannot agree with yours. Though credit to you for posting some artists I have never heard of. Of course none of us know everything and my taste in music is maybe different to yours. Notwithstanding that my musical apprecition is limited to bands before the millenium here is my list…

    1. Easybeats – Australia’s answer to the Beatles
    2. The Masters Apprentices – Teenage angst to prog rock.
    3. AC/DC – Hard rock life on the road. The blueprint for pub rock.
    4. The Angels – Am I ever gonna see your face again. Doc Neeson enough said.
    5. Buffalo – Australia’s answer to Black Sabbath. Heavy Blues based rock.
    6. Cold Chisel – Quintessential Aussie Pub Rock band. – Khe Sanh
    7. INXS – Never Tear Us Apart. Pub Rock meets the 80’s.
    8. Midnight Oil – Surf rock gets a conscience.
    9. Icehouse – Flowers growing on a great southern land
    10. No Fixed Address – The first indigenous band I ever heard and a shout out to past and future aboriginal musicians. Doesn’t get more Australian than this.

    Cheers
    Andrew
    ps. Honourable mentions to Crowded House and Split Enz but those are really Kiwi bands :-)

  • Oct 26,2019 at 10:26

    Radio Birdman? For me the best.
    But also Midnight Oil…

  • Oct 26,2019 at 07:33

    What about the Eagles man…Oh and Johnny Okeefe and the Aztecs, Kylie! but she’s not a band or Jen Cloher, The Angels are a band and the fabulous Divinyls.

  • Oct 25,2019 at 09:25

    Melbourne is actually in Australia Mr Bootle & P.O.R.N.

  • Oct 25,2019 at 03:40

    Yeah…just wanted to echo the sentiment that the writer couldn’t have gotten the Crowded House segment more wrong. Identifying the band as a duo is pretty bad, but neglecting to credit (or even mention) primary songwriter Neil Finn for…well…EVERYTHING is ridiculous.

  • Oct 25,2019 at 03:25

    Hoodoo Guru’s

  • Oct 24,2019 at 23:42

    Harry Vanda and George Young (The Easybeats) along with Johnny O’Keefe introduced Australian popular music to the world and influenced many new acts in ‘straya including AC/DC.

  • Oct 24,2019 at 22:06

    Why does the author think Crowded House was a Duo??? NEIL FINN of Crowded House is one of the greatest songwriters and the author of that song you found yourself humming. The band was always led by Neil including its reformation.

  • Oct 24,2019 at 21:02

    Those bands might be influential but certainly there’ll be discussion about which are the top ten most influential aussie bands (let’s all not forget the title merely reads “Ten Influential Bands From Australia”) so it’s the writer’s take or sample he took. I’m from Uruguay but have always been fascinated with the land down under. By chance my wife’s Australian and so are some of my friends, notably one of them a musician himself so I have some aussie influence over me. In addition to some of the ones listed above I have to say the absolute top for me would be Midnight Oil, then you can’t miss You Am I, Tim Rogers solo work, Powderfinger, Cold Chisel, INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Paul Kelly, Bee Gees.

  • Oct 24,2019 at 21:01

    Those bands might be influential but certainly there’ll be discussion about which are the top ten most influential aussie bands (let’s all not the title merely reads “Ten Influential Bands From Australia”) so it’s the writer’s take or sample he took. I’m from Uruguay but have always been fascinated with the land down under. By chance my wife’s Australian and so are some of my friends, notably one of them a musician himself so I have some aussie influence over me. In addition to some of the ones listed above I have to say the absolute top for me would be Midnight Oil, then you can’t miss You Am I, Tim Rogers solo work, Powderfinger, Cold Chisel, INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Paul Kelly, Bee Gees.

  • Oct 24,2019 at 13:39

    and what’s wrong with JET ! I saw them live a couple of weeks ago and they absolutely rocked .. no studio digital enhancements needed…what you hear on vinyl is what you get live…legendary band that belong in any Aussie top 10 !

  • Oct 24,2019 at 12:36

    What is up with that “Aussie Duo” description of Crowded House? Famous New Zealand founder / singer / songwriter, Neil Finn is not even mentioned and it was his group!

    Nice list from LUV2LOOK (Australian rockers, The Angels, Silverchair and Wolfmother deserve special mention), but Mi-Sex and Dragon were also NZ artists!!

    The Aussies even tried to claim Split Enz as one of their bands ~ and they have NZ in their name! :D

  • Oct 24,2019 at 04:17

    FYI – we do have fantastic female artists / female led bands in Australia – not that you’d know it from this list. What a disgrace.

  • Oct 24,2019 at 02:14

    This saddens me…So many amazing Aussie bands, many of which have been named by others in the comments section, makes me generally rethink my thoughts on the overall knowledge of some of the staff. Very sad

  • Oct 23,2019 at 22:31

    Crowded House are a NEW ZEALAND band… Non list is perfect but this is a terrible list.

  • Oct 23,2019 at 20:28

    REALLY? Nothing about Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry aka Dead Can Dance? Seriously???

  • Oct 23,2019 at 20:25

    This ranking without INXS? What a strange mistake….

  • Oct 23,2019 at 20:10

    Sure I think someone who really knows of the past Aussie bands should have tossed more in and left a handful out.
    Cold Chisel, The Angels, Midnight Oil (Already mentioned , I Know), INXS (Already mentioned , I Know), The Models, Australian Crawl, Little River Band, Pseudo Echo, Mental As Anything, Mi-Sex, Icehouse, The Birthday Party (If I’m Correct!?) or may have tossed in Silverchair and The Lime Spiders. back maybe Dragon, Paul Kelly and The Dots/Messengers, Mondo Rock , Real Life, Sherbet, Divinyls, and the list goes on……… (Hopefully most if not all are all Australian based , apologies if incorrect!!)

  • Oct 23,2019 at 20:05

    The Masters Apprentice cannot be forgotten, they are the equivalent for Asutralia to the Rolling Stones to UK. I did not find Midnight Oil either…And another 3 great HR bands : Angel City, Rose Tattoo, Cold Chisel…

  • Oct 23,2019 at 19:54

    And what about “The Cruel Sea”?

  • Oct 23,2019 at 19:39

    How about The Triffids?

  • Oct 23,2019 at 19:22

    To not include Radio Birdman (and The New Christs) is inconceivable!

  • Oct 17,2019 at 10:08

    Is that an alternate universe Crowded House with no Neil Finn. Yes he is from New Zealand seems odd to make them a duo. Look he’s even in the picture!

  • Oct 14,2019 at 09:05

    It’s so weird that you talk about Crowded House and go on about the drummer and bassist without mentioning Neil Finn the guitarist who sang and wrote all the songs. Seriously, what’s up with that?

  • Oct 13,2019 at 11:39

    Not Drowning, Waving deserve to be in that list.

  • Oct 13,2019 at 06:30

    Billy Thorpe
    Lobby Loyde
    The Master’s Apprentice’s
    Blackfeather
    INXS
    The Saints
    Radio Birdman
    I’ll stop there , all these above shit on some of the imposters you’ve mentioned

  • Oct 12,2019 at 21:38

    This list should be named “ten good bands from Australia”. I’m not sure that Tame Impala or Wolfmother are so influential.
    And what about the Easybeats ? The Saints ? Scientists ?

  • Oct 10,2019 at 09:10

    Awful list, fuck Wolfmother. Where’s Billy Thorpe, Oils, Birdman, Saints, INXS?

  • Oct 10,2019 at 04:32

    No offence to you Javi, but there are so many better bands. There’s a huge palette to choose from here. But your list is a starting point.

  • Oct 10,2019 at 02:49

    yeah, happy to read Go-betweens and Avalanches, there are so lists as people counting them!!
    here my bunch to increase the list:
    The saints, Cosmic psychos, hard-ons, dirty three, Sia, Kim Salmon, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Radio Birdman, The boys next door (first Nick Cave band), Sia (why not) and Divinyls (best band to close the list)

  • Oct 10,2019 at 01:14

    Shit list.

    Bee Gees?!
    Hoodoo Gurus?!
    Men at Work?!

  • Oct 10,2019 at 00:06

    Crowded House are from New Zealand.
    What about INXS?
    etc etc

  • Oct 9,2019 at 23:23

    What? No Scientists or Beasts Of Bourbon ??

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