Phillip Phillips: The next R.E.M.?
  • David Conger
  • Phillip Phillips: The next R.E.M.?

After a decade-long love affair between indie rock and the mainstream cultural infrastructure—the cause of, among other things, e-mail blasts advertising Universal Music Group’s “indie” offerings and one of the most respected indie groups of the past five years soundtracking an ad for a Taco Bell/Doritos mashup—it can be difficult to remember that indie rock once had serious revolutionary aspirations. Ironically it’s not just commercialization that’s removed so much of that aspect from the indie scene, but the fact that so many of its demands have been met. DIY culture has grown massive enough to threaten monolithic corporations. The desire for intensely authentic products and experiences has been fully adopted by the mainstream. Social media has turned millions upon millions of people into, essentially, zinesters. There is sincere, unprocessed-sounding guitar music on pop radio.

The doubly ironic part is that as all of this has happened the counterculture that the term “indie rock” used to describe has turned largely away from sincere, unprocessed-sounding guitar music. The blogs and online magazines that are supposedly the arbiters of “indie” credibility devote a considerable amount of their energy to covering rap and electronic music, both of which are flourishing madly as they attract a generation of young musicians raised with Pro Tools jockeys as heroes and not guitar gods.