Here’s an interesting take on the current state of indie music from The Atlantic. I have to say that I kind of agree with the author about how some aspects of indie rock have started “to grow soft around the middle.”
Maybe it’s all that craft beer, but the underground scene that once produced an album dubbed Songs About Fucking now wins Grammys for fluttery New Age music about not being magnificent. Bands that might’ve once smashed guitars in sweaty clubs now top summer festivals with backing tracks and face-paint. But this year, a handful of young acts are diving headfirst back into indie’s mosh pit origins.
A decade ago, indie and punk were a Venn-diagram overlap of thrift-store cardigans, pin-covered messenger bags, and chunky, prescription-optional glasses. (Also: guitars.) Acts from Bright Eyes to the Promise Ring got cozy within mom-and-pop record stores, AIM away messages, and Audiogalaxy share folders; groups such as the Appleseed Cast and Sunny Day Real Estate balanced punk antagonism with late ’90s indie’s experimental sweep. Groups from the Shins to the Constantines had been made possible, on logistical terms if not musical ones, by D.I.Y. predecessors from Black Flag to Fugazi, a legacy that drew respect.
But things began to change with the rise of a new, commercial breed of punk’s subset emo, driven by the mainstream success of Chris Carrabba’s Dashboard Confessional, mid-career breakouts Jimmy Eat World, and a generation of tearful, tattooed bands chronicled in Andy Greenwald’s Nothing Feels Good. Blink-182 had already muddied the waters of punk status with its Total Request Live-charting videos for 1999’s Enema of the State, paving the way for Hot Topic hits from the likes of Sum 41 and Good Charlotte—when Carrabba led the angstiest sing-a-long in pop history on a revived “MTV Unplugged” in 2002, it was punk’s coolness death knell. Indie, dictated largely by obscurity fetishists on message boards and critical outlets such as Pitchfork Media, turned its back on its once-loved spouse.