The Dissonant Truth: An Indie Rock Veteran’s Perspective on the Decay of a Genre


I’ve been around the block—played in dingy bars, headlined festivals, and been both adored and vilified by critics. In short, I’ve spent a lifetime in the indie rock scene. But this isn’t about my journey; this is about the trajectory of indie rock itself—a genre that once stood as a bastion of musical and lyrical depth but has been reduced to a shadow of its former glory. Let’s talk about why most indie music today is, to put it bluntly, bad, ill-composed, and poorly executed.

Lack of Musical Craftsmanship

Remember when indie rock bands actually cared about the intricacies of their instruments? When artists spent years honing their craft, learning to shift effortlessly between chords, scales, and arpeggios? Those days seem like a distant memory. Today, it feels like anyone with a guitar and a GarageBand account considers themselves an indie musician. The result is a cacophony of ill-conceived melodies and uninspiring chord progressions. No more of the complex layers and deep musical dialogue between instruments that once characterized the genre. The musical craftsmanship that drew me into indie rock is vanishing, replaced by an assembly-line approach to songwriting.

Shallow Lyrics and Missing Narratives

Indie rock used to be the playground of poets and storytellers. Bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Death Cab for Cutie combined literary skills with musical talent, delivering songs rich in narrative and emotional depth. But turn on any indie playlist today, and what do you hear? A mishmash of clichés and banalities, with no apparent purpose other than to fill the airspace between choruses. We’ve moved from deep dives into the human condition to superficial musings that could fit on a motivational poster. Sure, not every song needs to be a Sufjan Stevens-level epic, but they should at least strive for some level of intellectual engagement.

The Algorithmic Conundrum

The advent of streaming platforms and social media has transformed how we discover and consume music, but not necessarily for the better. Algorithms often prioritize songs with high engagement metrics, pushing artists to produce catchy, formulaic tunes that’ll garner immediate clicks. In this “viral or bust” environment, there’s less room for songs that take time to grow on the listener, that unfurl their beauty slowly, revealing more with each subsequent listen. The push for instant virality is suffocating the layered, complex compositions that used to define indie rock.

Aesthetic over Authenticity

Another disturbing trend is the triumph of aesthetics over authenticity. With Instagram and TikTok turning musicians into visual brands, there’s an increased focus on appearing “indie” rather than being indie. But having a vintage filter on your promo shots or dressing like you raided a 1990s thrift store doesn’t make up for a lack of originality or skill. This preoccupation with image is often at the expense of musical innovation. We’re now in a situation where a band’s visual branding is often more polished and thought-out than their music.

Cookie-Cutter Production

Back in the day, the rawness of indie rock was part of its charm. Each album had its unique sonic footprint, shaped by the quirks of different recording studios, producers, and even the tape machines used. Today, digital recording technology, while an incredible tool, has led to a homogenization of sound. When every garage band has access to the same Pro Tools plugins, it’s no surprise that everything starts to sound the same. That unique texture, the imperfections that made each band distinct, is being lost in this era of cookie-cutter production.

Conformity over Rebellion

Indie rock was born out of a desire to rebel against the established norms of mainstream music. The genre was a haven for those who dared to experiment, to challenge the status quo. Fast forward to today, and that rebellious spirit seems to have been tamed. In a crowded marketplace, many bands are choosing the safety of conformity over the risks of genuine innovation. It’s like we’ve forgotten the anti-establishment roots of indie rock, trading in our rebellious cred for a shot at algorithmic fame.

The Way Forward?

I don’t mean to sound like a jaded rock star clinging to the “good old days,” but if we don’t acknowledge these issues, the genre we love is in danger of becoming a parody of itself. So, what’s the solution? It starts with going back to the basics: focusing on musical craftsmanship, lyrical depth, and the rebellious spirit that made indie rock such a powerful force in the first place.

To the upcoming artists, I say this: don’t strive to be just another indie musician. Aspire to be a great musician, period. Challenge yourself and your audience, defy genres, and resist the urge to simplify your art for mass consumption. Because the world doesn’t need more indie rock; it needs more good music.

I’ve had my say. Now, guitars in hands, pens on paper, let’s prove that indie rock is not just a genre but an ever-evolving artistic statement.


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