The future of music

30 Best Australian Bands of All Time

December 24, 2023
australian bands

I’ve curated a list of the best Australian bands of all time, showcasing the diverse and vibrant music scene from Down Under.

This article is your gateway to exploring the legendary sounds and unforgettable contributions of Australia’s greatest musical groups.

Top Australian bands of all time

  • AC/DC
  • Bee Gees
  • INXS
  • Daryl Braithwaite
  • DMA’s
  • Tame Impala
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • Hilltop Hoods
  • The Church

1. AC/DC 

AC/DC is everyone’s favorite cheeky, disruptive antidote to the staid and stale status quo.

They lacerate polite society with an audacious, vulgar swagger and they embolden the crude tendencies of the heady mullet-donning set who love them fiercely.

AC/DC’s provocative lyrics and zingin’ electric guitars carry the band infinite degrees beyond good, palatable taste. 

Listing of their carnal, karaoke-ready anthems would take all afternoon but why not start with the classics – anything off Back In Black and Highway to Hell will do.

2. Bee Gees

The high-pitched, delightfully histrionic Bee Gees are the heart and soul of the seventies disco movement.

Shameless and cheerfully vigorous, their music is identifiable for its pageantry and earnest, unbridled aplomb.

Can you resist being transported to a nostalgic, hazy community center dance when you hear such mischievous hits as “Stayin’ Alive” or “More Than A Woman”?


Rufus brought a dreamy beachside lounge ambiance to the entire world and quickly rose to unparalleled heights in the trendy electronic scene. 

Their music is preternaturally cool, hypnotically elusive, and enthralling in a way that feels not entirely of the material realm.

Effortlessly cooler-than-thou, Rufus will transport you to a sunset in a warm place or a jungle rave with the enigmatic object of your affection.

Songs like “Innerbloom”, “You Were Right”, and “Treat You Better” will expand and surpass your expectations of what music can achieve. 


INXS was the raunchy, rollicking, sensual sound of the 1980s and truly was the Australian answer to Aerosmith, or perhaps Bon Jovi.

“Never Tear Us Apart” remains one of the most sensual, moody power anthems of the eighties while “Need You Tonight” and “New Sensation” get spin time at every high school reunion and retro theme night.  

They experimented with full-bodied piano and elusive melodies that defied the conventions of eighties metal and flirted with something decidedly elegant and mature. 

INXS stood apart from their peers thanks to vocalist Michael Hutchence’s sultry, nonchalant vocal range, best appreciated in the wistful “Beautiful Girl”. 

5. Daryl Braithwaite 

Australia’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, or perhaps Don Henley, Braithwaite’s songs are saturated with the melancholy of a waning summer romance and all the uncomplicated glee of adolescent restlessness.

He was the lead singer of the seventies band Sherbet but reached the pinnacle of success with his solo career, which spawned 15 top 40 hits. 

Songs like “The Horses”, “One Summer”, and “Love Songs” are soaring, blissful pop nirvana.

6. DMA’s

DMA’s held the nation captive with their majestic, serene reimagining of Cher’s “Believe” on Australia’s buzzy Like A Version radio show.

They have an alluring maturity and an almost academic grasp of the intricacies of sound, lyrics, and melodic form.

Their elusive, stirring rhythms are like an elegy – poignant, soulful, and diffuse.

They inhabit a space of wisdom, grace, and quiet reflection and they infuse their plaintive guitar chords with a masterful fragility.

Their serene vocals are best-experienced solo so you can soak in the full weight – start with“Silver”, “Fading Like A Picture”, “Lay Down”, “Delete”, “Warsaw” and “Tape Deck Sick”.

7. Tame Impala

Tame Impala completely captivated the electronic and indie-synth world with intoxicatingly original and eclectically addictive sounds that rose the stakes for musicians of all stripes.

Some musicians simply have a current of radical vision running through their veins, and have a revelatory talent that can’t be, er, tamed.

Tame Impala songs can be replayed ad nauseum and lose none of their initial magic or vistas of possibility.  

8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The reigning eccentric of alternative music, Nick Cave has staunchly, defiantly belied label, definition, and expectation in his multi-decade tenure.

The Bad Seeds play by their own rules, refusing all pre-existing templates and polite conventions. 

The result is a wholly mesmerizing product: a synthesis of fairy tale imagery, somber, wildly evocative vocals, and uncommon compositions.

Cave’s music is poetry in motion, and it challenges its listeners, inviting them to experience an intellectual voyage.

9. Hilltop Hoods

Nary a pub night or a pregame can go by on the world’s largest island without a spin of Hilltop Hoods’ claim-to-fame anthem “The Nosebleed Section.”

Their cheeky, daring anthem “Cosby Sweater” elevates any quintessentially unbothered Aussie road trip and showcases their lyrical creativity and street poetry.

They take a bantering approach and never deign to take themselves seriously, producing an optimistic, expansive hip-hop sound.

They blend captivating instrumentals with visionary rap and uplifting choruses adroitly, synthesizing a refreshing sonic tonic. 

10. The Church

Goth rock band The Church defies our expectations of sunny, carefree Oz and brings a darker, more sensual, atmospheric undercurrent to the cheery ethos often associated with the nation’s cultural output.

The Church was moody, gloomy, sophisticated, and incisively aloof and they are often considered foundational to the dark new wave, neo-psychedelic movement of the early and mid-eighties.

Their haunting, intellectually crafted soundscapes can be best encountered in their 1988 album Starfish and their most enduring gems “Under the Milky Way” and “The Unguarded Moment.”

11. Silverchair

Silverchair rose on the tide of an alternative grunge ethos that grabbed the world by the throat in the early 1990s.

Their despondent, plaintive slacker ethos was captivating, and felt courageous and earnest in a culture seeped in materialism and conformity. 

Their songs are cathartic; redolent of downtempo Alice in Chains or the gruff, folksy bent of a Pearl Jam anthem.

“Tomorrow” remains one of the most enduring ballads of the alt-rock movement and instantly brings to mind Doc Martens, ripped jeans, and ambivalent nights spent deep in self-reflection. 

12. Cold Chisel 

The cinematic, soaring rolling credits hit to end all hits, “Forever Now” is courtesy of yours truly, Australian hard rock band Cold Chisel. 

Their songs were packed with a wide-eyed sincerity and corny vision that brings to mind the shameless melodrama of the eighties.

Formed in 1973, they are the reigning champions of the Australian pub rock genre and they are experts at rousing anthemic songs that beg for a cheeky sing-along.

They knew when to turn on the tears with smooth pianos and lovelorn lyrics but they also knew when to dial up the crooning, careening vocals for maximum impact.

13. Dope Lemon

Slacker meets synth with Dope Lemon, an atmospheric and evocative band with a sound that will have you dreaming of sun-dappled streets and lo-fi weekends filled with anti-corporate musings.

Dope Lemon is truly just a one-man musical project, the restless and musing lovechild of Angus Stone.

Their 2016 album Honey Bones is one of the dreamiest, rarefied offerings to come out of the indie-chillout microgenre. 

The spoken word, stream-of-consciousness cult anthem “Marinade” is one of the most exciting songs of the 2010s. 

14. Crowded House

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” captured the baleful, romantic hearts of the eighties and brought Crowded House international renown.

Formed in trendsetting Melbourne in 1985, they fearlessly embraced a jangle pop sound and a certain modest whimsy that set them apart from their peers. 

They also pull from an eclectic group of references, from Maori instrumentals to Irish folk songs, and they have a powerful experimental undercurrent that must be slowly teased out of their unusual arrangements.

They have sold over 15 million records and are currently back in action, performing and producing new music. 

15. Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun came in hot during a tidal wave of indie-electronica in the late noughties, rounding out a scene that included MGMT, Cut Copy, and Ratatat.

They were daringly eclectic and kooky beyond words, bringing a surreal performance art quality to their sound and silhouette.

Their palette contained a blend of synth, bold vocals, and dizzying sartorial experimentations. 

Audacious, arresting songs like “Alive” and the peculiarly addictive “Walking On A Dream” elevated them to theatrical new heights. 

16. Wolfmother

Hard rock meets stoner blues with Sydney-bred Wolfmother, an alternative band with mainstream, normie appeal.

Andrew Stockdale is the beating heart of the band, and in his dual role as guitarist and vocalist, he sets the creative tone for much of their output. 

They often draw comparisons to the jam band greats of the sixties and seventies and they certainly have an unharried self-assurance that bespeaks the wisdom of the rockers of old.

17. Men at Work

The quintessential Aussie anthem “Down Under” owes its existence to these cheeky patriots.

Formed in 1978 in Melbourne they had a litany of relaxed, happy-go-lucky hits and they had a breezy, spirited ethos that mirrored their country of origin. 

They blended new wave beats with reggae pacing and pop-rock vocals and they came into the eighties hot with their 1981 bestseller Business as Usual.

They won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1983 and began to make waves internationally with their distinctly jovial and easygoing image and brand. 

18. Gang of Youths

If you dabble in the alternative side of indie then you know their strange, violin-driven baroque hit “Achilles Come Down” and their romantic, lush “Magnolia.”

Their magnificent 2017 album Go Farther in Lightness encompassed their uncanny, academic blend of classical instruments, philosophical approach, and enticing, meticulous vocals. 

They formed in Sydney in 2015 and have an impressive list of accomplishments, awards, and critical fanfare they have pioneered an inimitable indie rock sound that is louder than The Lumineers and more surreal than the Arctic Monkeys.

19. Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers are Australia’s favorite hometown hits, an effortlessly trendy, creatively ahead-of-the-curve band born in Sydney.

They have carved out a niche for themselves with their reggae-fusion, soul-infused alt-rock. 

They are the slightly hipper Down Under iteration of ska-slackers Sublime.

Their sound distills the fragrant air of midsummer with the relaxed, carefree spirit of an outdoor craft beer garden and a post-surf beach session. 

Cruisey, synthy gems like “How To Fly” and “Gold Snafu” will have you feeling mellow, resplendent, and inquisitive.

20. Little River Band

The harmony rock kings of the seventies, Melbourne icons Little River Band endure with smooth, easy melodies and romantic, cinematic jams.

While they are often eclipsed by peers in the American jam band community, they have sold more than 30 million albums in their time and made a significant contribution to rock culture in Oz.

The soaring, anthemic “Lonesome Loser” will have you singing your heart out in a hokey roadside bar in a one-horse town and brings to mind the hits of April Wine and Trooper.

“Cool Change” was voted one of the 30 best Australian songs of all time by the Australasian Performing Right Association for its earnest piano and forlorn lyrics. 

21. Cut Copy

Synth-pop sleeper hits of the early noughties, Cut Copy had a surreal, spacey, weightless sound and an intriguing commitment to their electronic vision. 

Songs like “Strangers in the Wind”, “Far Away”, and “Lights and Music” rival anything out of New York with bands like MGMT and Crystal Castles, and had a raw, unpretentious appeal. 

Ideal for relaxing drives, introspective nights in, or study sessions alike, their sound bridges the gap between revelry and relaxation.

These Melbourne-raised creatives have been well rewarded for their efforts, being awarded a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album.

22. Confidence Man

Confidence Man put on a thrilling, flamboyant performance like no other, captivating crowds with cheeky lyrics and dizzyingly synchronized dance moves.

They embody the playfully original streak that runs through Australian creative culture, and they have a certain delightful flippancy that keeps fans and spectators enthralled.

Brisbane-raised leads Janet Planet and Sugar Bones initially wrote indie dance songs as a joke, but soon realized their tongue-in-cheek party hits deserved a wider audience. 

They’ve become mainstays of the Australian festival circuit and are poised for international acclaim for those in the know. 

23. Icehouse

You know power ballad machines Icehouse from their histrionic anthem “Crazy”, a song that enveloped all of the best, most unflinching tendencies of the hair metal movement. 

They formed in Sydney in 1977 with a decided pub rock style, before maturing into a synth-forward new wave sound as the eighties unfolded in all its neon glory.

They were one of the most critically and commercially successful bands of that decade and had constant radio play in their homeland. 

24. Angus & Julia Stone

The Stone siblings have an outsized genetic talent that is evident in every one of their folksy, homespun indie gems.

Born in the cultural tumult of Sydney, the Stones eschewed the bright lights and shiny silhouettes of the city and embraced an earthy, whimsical sound better suited for cottage core weekends than corporate rush hour. 

Formed in 2006, their bohemian look and wanderlust ethos fit flawlessly into the indie-pop movement that was blossoming across the ocean with bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons gaining critical acclaim.

“Chateau” is one of their most charming, elegant offerings. 

25. Midnight Oil

Known internationally for their pure, anthemic “Beds are Burning”, Sydney-born Midnight Oil is a group with a defiant cadence and an uncompromising silhouette.

Their rousing 1978 debut garnered them instant cult success and built up around them an elusive vitality and hipness.

Their high-voltage, uncompromising hits have reached a wide audience and they have sold over 20 million albums in their careers, spanning nearly four decades. 

They take a critical, political lens to music and they value activism as an integral part of their creative and personal journeys. 

The Guardian Australia described Midnight Oil as “one of Australia’s most beloved bands”.

26. The Presets

An enigmatic, droning, seductive electronic duo comprised of Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes, The Presets truly defy easy definition.

They have strangely alluring vocals that leave a trace of gothic, post-new wave in the air built upon a compulsive, harried instrumental bedrock.

This is by no means relaxed, easy listening and it challenges all of the senses with unusual tangents, hallucinatory synth, and arthouse eerieness.

Songs like “Paradise” showcase a lusher, more introspective heart under their heavy-hitting armor and are well worth sustained attention for any innovators and avant-garde hearts out there.

27. Mansionair

Mansionair is the prime example of the surreal, weightless electro that Australians pioneered, and which remains one of the crown jewels of their cultural influence. 

Their instrumentals blend trippy drops, otherworldly, diffuse synth, and floodlit vocals that sound like echoes through the glass.

“Easier”, and “Strangers” brings their chill-out splendor to the forefront and will have you reaching sensuous, sublime new heights. 

Their 2017 collab with Seattle-based Odesza, “Line of Sight”, brought them acclaim among the buzzy, trendy, nonplussed set and brought them an enviable hipster cache.

28. Birds of Tokyo

Perth faves Birds of Tokyo to produce thoughtful, pensive, tightly-constructed alternative rock.

Albums like Day One and March Flies garnered them sustained national success and radio play and their sound is a palatable, approachable, reflective take on rock.

Less bar room and more cozy study session, their guitar riffs are meticulous and their vocals are measured and swift, allowing listeners a pause and a chance to reminisce muse, and daydream. 

29. Ocean Alley

An alternative psychedelic rock band from Sydney’s Northern Beaches – does it get more stereotypically Aussie than Ocean Alley? 

Songs like “Confidence”, “Knees”, and “Lemonworld” took the easy-listening cottage industry by storm, entrancing classy cocktail lounges and food trucks alike. 

Their sound is mellow, restrained, and packed with easy optimism.

Honey-rich, soulful vocals ensure that Ocean Alley’s blends reach a wide, mature audience and their approachable melodies feel fresh and soothing at any hour of the day or night. 

30. Divinyls

Divinyls are so kitschy it hurts, and they eschewed all academic leanings in favor of a tart, sugar-sweet pop approach. 

Formed in the heady Sydney of 1980 they are best distinguished by lead Chrissy Amphlett’s bubblegum voice and their proto-synth instrumentals. 

Though they are best known for their raunchy “I Touch Myself” they have a wider reach in their home country, where “Science Fiction” was voted one of the Top 30 Australian Songs of all time by the Australasian Performing Right Association.

Best Australian Bands of All Time – Final Thoughts

Feeling relaxed, piqued, curious?

Checking to see how long it would take to charter a sailboat to Australia?

We feel you. 

It’s a big island and a big continent with big talent, and the thirty best bands listed here are truly just the start for those who want to familiarize themselves with everything that the nation has to offer.

Go get a cold one, grab your vision board, and give these Aussie bands the appreciation they’re due.  

You may also like: Best Bands of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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