Unpopular Opinions is a weekly column written by Flavorpill’s resident music curmudgeon and esoteric record-bin enthusiast, the Beard. His opinions do not reflect those of Flavorpill, Flavorwire, or any of their affiliates…
It might make me unpopular, but i think… that indie rock is as rife with mediocrity and musician-as-commodity acts as anything else.
But, rather than wax on about Beard-abhorred bands like the National, Tapes ‘n Tapes, and others without any retort, perhaps its best to try and explore both sides of the “paint-by-numbers” indie-template argument. Sure, I think my follicly-challenged buddy Scruff is sadly misguided when it comes to defending indie kingpins the National (a band that pretty well embodies the crux of the argument), but when the time comes for a bona-fide IM throwdown, he does put up a good fight — despite the fact that he’s clearly wonting for whiskers…
Scruff: Hey. How was the rest of the show?
The_Beard: i left early. not really my scene
Scruff: Scene-y. That’s “Scene” with a capital “S,” sir. Also, I stopped hanging out with 18 year olds…when I was 18.
Scruff: So, have we talked about the National?
Scruff: What do you think? I’m finding more and more people who’re telling me how boring they are, which I don’t understand at all
Scruff: Seriously? You too?!
The_Beard: it really feels like the distillation of the more boring aspects of “indie rock”. that’s my line, but clearly you are in the majority cause the masses love ’em.
Scruff: What’s boring about a band that can make good, un-flashy music? i feel like that’s a rarity, i feel like it makes so many other indie rock bands look gimmicky. they don’t need someone to stand on stage and play a Venezuelan glockenspiel on a bottle of mountain dew.
The_Beard: First off, I love mountain dew. Second, i don’t think it’s unflashy; i think it’s contrived. if you were like, “create a generic template for indie rock”, I’d give you them.
Scruff: ouch, that hurts
The_Beard: Every other band, even simple ones, start with the template and add their own flourishes. And i feel like the national don’t, so it’s kinda the indie equivalent of that bar band last night that played really soulless rhythm and blues.
Scruff: i guess that’s what people do or don’t like about them. it’s the reason why some people love the color gray — what’s there is in what isn’t there
The_Beard: I dunno. i love gray, and i love minimalism. But there are ways to innovate and personalize within blankness.
Scruff: i guess that’s the dividing line — for me, they do it, and they do it well
The_Beard: but so do some bar bands
Scruff: oh, come on — bar bands? what we saw last night was a bar band. bar bands don’t have drummers like the national. you don’t think comparing them to a bar band is a BIT of a stretch?
The_Beard: no, my contention is that they’re the indie equivalent of that. the band last night was technically apt. I mean, they could certainly riff; dude had a good voice. the combo was just so boring that it was bad. i dunno, i guess it really comes down to an intangible. I feel like they’re both playing music to “be in a band”. my friend actually talked a lot about this idea when he toured with tapes ‘n tapes. He said they didn’t seem to think about music the same way he did. you know, like there are bands that are about being in bands and ones that are about making music
Scruff: THEY [Tapes ‘n Tapes] are the perfect example of that. there’s a band for me that has a marginal amount of soul. but once we get into the soul argument, we veer towards sacha jones territory, which becomes worrisome
The_Beard: it’s not really about soul though, it’s sorta about intent
Scruff: see, i feel as if the national has intent
The_Beard: but it’s unfocused
Scruff: i may not agree with you, but that is hysterical. i just feel like the complaint — if i were to have one — would be that they’re overly focused.
The_Beard: on what? sounding like the in-between, boring parts of every indie band ever? ok, now i’m just being mean
Scruff: you are… cock
The_Beard: But, i mean, i see your points. at least we’ve established clearly where the divide lies
Scruff: and i can see how you can hate them. they’re a band that is by all means — if you don’t enjoy them — patently unenjoyable