Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Has indie-rock jumped the shark?

Has indie-rock jumped the shark?

I've noticed recently that just about every new band that is hyped up recently on most blogs and in the music press has been making just about zero impression on me. I thought it was just another manifestation of the inevitable ebb and flow of acts coupled with the inevitable burnout of everyone trying to "discover" someone new, and was willing to write off my own ennui as just another symptom of the grand cycle of music. But then I read something Paul wrote and (while simultaneously wishing he'd write for a wider audience more often) it alerted me to the fact that I was not alone. He said:

I don't know if I'm just getting bored with the typical sound so prevalent in indie rock these days or what, but all the best songs this year (so far) have been straight up pop singles. I'm pretty sure I'm not embracing them in any "ironic" way either—they're just better and probably less sonically calculated than what the indiekid bloggers have anointed as genius.

I countered with a pithy quip in an "indie bloggers killed the radio star" vein, but Paul countered that -- while bloggers shoulder a portion of the blame for giving mediocre artists so much goddamn exposure -- the music itself has done gone flaccid. And you know what? For the most part he's right. Christina Aguilera is a hell of a lot more fun, and aurally rewarding, to listen to than Margot & the Nuclear So and So's.

Most artists are adhering to a few select templates for indie rock success and the end result is a whole bunch of music that is just as bland and faceless as anything you'll find on corporate radio. So it's not surprising that a lot of this stuff is now finding it's way to corporate radio.

There is lots of music coming out now that I enjoy, and a lot of it is not indie rock. Even JB commented a few weeks ago that she's noticed my DJ sets have slowly been moving towards the realm of the electronic and dancey and further from the rockin' and rollin'. The rock and/or roll is still there, but there is a whole bunch more synth / bass / fucked-up beat-stylee pop-lock-and-roll finding its way into my sets. When she said that I immediately realized she was right, and I immediately hearkened back to the last time this sort of shift made itself apparent in my DJ sets, and that time was 1996/1997, which was not so coincidentally the same time as Big Beat and drum-n-bass and all that other bang-bang-boogie stuff started to creep onto the indie rock radar.

Alternative was mainstream, indie rock bands were being called up from the Minors before they had fully developed and the true innovation was happening in unexpected places. So maybe when guitars have forsaken us (or at least less thrilling) we turn to the dance floor to save our souls all over again?

I don't know. I'm not really offering any answers here. This is just and instance where a quick observation by a friend blossomed into an online discourse which then led to further private (well, private in that this portion of the dialogue is one-sided (for now)) reflection and deeper questioning of the subject in hand. And I'm glad that happened, because it reminded me that I've experienced this situation in the past and things did indeed get better.

There's always beauty to be found, sometimes you just have to look away from where you're used to seeing it and open yourself up to sources from which you would least expect beauty to make itself known.

And that is why I'm excited about the new Avril Lavigne album, and less than pumped for the new Peter Bjorn and John.

This initial discussion was sparked by a few of the following tracks.

MP3: Good Charlotte "The River"
MP3: Joss Stone "Put Your Hands On Me" (via Fluxblog)
MP3: Sophie Ellis-Bextor "Catch You"
MP3: Fall Out Boy "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race (Kanye Remix)"

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