Last year, men and women of a certain age looked back on the 20th anniversary re-release of Nirvana's Nevermind with tears of joyful nostalgia in their eyes.

Not only did it conjure up blissful memories of a seminal album and a time of youthful abandon, but it also reminded us all that this high-octane, gnarled, self-effacing rock music could ignite hearts, scale dizzy heights and sell millions - against all odds. Twenty years have passed, and although this anniversary made me feel old, my love of amped-up rock'n'roll has not diminished. Neither have the numbers of groups writing and performing it. Fashions come and go, but a well-placed guttural scream and a loud guitar can still connect.

If you've been reading music blogs over the past year, you may have noticed something of a grunge revival. Listen to Male Bonding, Yuck, Dinosaur Pile-up and even the checked-shirt/slacker-chic of Kurt Vile – they all pay homage to the indie-rock iconoclasts of the 1990s. It seems these things are cyclical: currently the 1990s are in vogue with shoegaze, baggy, rave, jungle and Britpop all making comebacks in one way or another.

Scotland's place in grunge history may seem minimal to onlookers, but it was actually crucial. Mudhoney and Nirvana were heavily influenced by Scottish post-punk bands and especially charmed by The Vaselines, whom Nirvana famously covered. Eugene Kelly's next bands, Captain America and Eugenius, were invited as opening acts on various tours, and Mudhoney still call upon his services whenever they pitch up in Scotland. The Seattle bands also enjoyed the garage-psyche thrills of Lenny Helsing's bands The Green Telescope, The Thanes and latterly The Wildebeests, and keep in touch to this day.

Nirvana, of course, became a serious global touring concern and world domination beckoned. Their road crew, however, were all from Edinburgh, including monitor engineer Ian Beveridge, who still works for Foo Fighters, fronted by ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. As a resident of Auld Reekie, I was lucky to see them play twice in Calton Studios (now Studio 24) in the early 1990s, and unlucky to miss their infamous, impromptu acoustic performance at the city's Southern Bar.

Of all Scottish bands, it was Teenage Fanclub who were most embraced by this generation. They toured with Nirvana and Pixies, a vital band at the time. Stalwarts of the alternative scene and game-changers at Geffen Records, Sonic Youth also took them under their wing and the Fanclub were mentioned in the same reverent, hushed tones as the US bands. Although not grunge per se, and far too harmonious to completely fit in, they had the guitars, the hair, the attitude and a fine collection of plaid shirts at their disposal. With Bandwagonesque they even beat Nevermind to the honour of Spin magazine's best album of 1991. The unwashed gig-going masses took them to their hearts, and Kurt Cobain proclaimed them to be "the best band in the world". This cemented a relationship and an unbreakable bond.

Over the last decade and a half, Mogwai have taken the baton and run with it. Their brew of cathartic noise and squalling feedback owes more than a little debt to grunge. The band's Stuart Braithwaite identifies seeing Nirvana play as a teenager as being a key moment in his musical development. Mogwai have since changed the shape of this kind of music and dropped the lyrical angst, but the core socio-political message, aesthetics and tonal qualities remain the same. Recently they even signed to Sub Pop, the legendary label and incubator for many Seattle bands.

Most noticeably, Scotland's most idolised guitar slingers, Biffy Clyro, have openly praised this era, and Nirvana in particular, as massively important and even life-changing. They too are a power trio and you can hear further evidence in their hefty slabs of sound, angular chord changes and the impassioned, gravelly vocal delivery. Alongside newer kids on the block Twin Atlantic, they perhaps add a touch of stadium rock to the template, and certainly eclipse grunge's more primal technical abilities. What's more, both are radio favourites and rapidly becoming the biggest rock bands in the UK.

It seems that in among the traditional music, singer-songwriters, dance producers and pop stars that Scotland consistently churns out, we now have something of a nascent modern rock scene that is fast developing. Groups are constantly twisting and breaking rock into new, nasty, noisy pieces and reassembling them in their own aural image. United Fruit are one such band; taking a cue from uncompromising brutalists such as The Jesus Lizard and Shellac, they also channel early Nirvana. Hopefully 2012 will be the year they take their excellent Faultlines album and incendiary live act to the rest of the world.

At the other end of the spectrum, PAWS are more of a scuzz-pop proposal with Dinosaur Jr, early Lemonheads and the aforementioned Sonic Youth informing their sound. Both bands have played superb sessions on my BBC Radio Scotland show recently and prove they're merely the tip of an iceberg ready to dash itself upon the ears of the nation's unsuspecting, homogenised consciousness.

See and hear for yourself. The young, disenfranchised, six-string-abusing distortion lovers are still out there, making essential music. Long may they holler and scream.

Vic Galloway presents on BBC Radio Scotland at 8.05-10pm on Mondays (repeated 10pm-midnight on Fridays). He hosts a monthly gig night at Electric Circus, Edinburgh, which continues on Thursday with music from United Fruit, PAWS and Vasquez. Check for more info.