Indie Rock and Alternative: Music or Social Genres?

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If someone asked you about Indie Rock bands you would probably say examples like The Strokes, Tame Impala, My Bloody Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, and Arcade Fire; Artistically they’re quite different, but whenever you get to hear a song from them you probably say “it sounds like indie rock”.

However, you would be surprised that each band mentioned above belongs to another sub-genre as well (Garage-rock, neo-psychedelia, Shoegazing, Post-Punk Revival and Chamber-Pop respectively). Each sub-genre has its own musical features, and this explains why Indie Rock bands sound so different from each other.

Indie Rock Features

Indie rock has always been a difficult subject, many music critics say this is because of the overwhelming variety of subgenres that make it up, these don’t derive from the same place, and aesthetically speaking they are very diverse

Indie rock doesn’t have any defined musical characteristics, we have several social musicians, the most famous is the one that doesn’t pursue commercial success. Instead of signing with a large label, they go with a small independent label or, if successful enough produces their own stuff.

But this is still a social characteristic, not a musical one. We could say that it is a musical genre only because it descends from another, i.e. alternative rock. However, many people don’t actually consider this a musical genre, but as a counterculture. Let’s elaborate:

A musical genre should always have a particular aesthetic (musically speaking) and social characteristics. We know that the alternative rock arises in opposition to the conventional way of making music and it is said that this is a social as well as an aesthetic characteristic.

However, we can see that there are several alternative groups that do music in a conventional way (Datsuns, Futureheads, Spaceman3) and that there are several musical genres (New Wave, Fusion, Progressive Rock) that don’t enter in the traditional way and are not considered alternative.

So, what are Indie rock and alternative rock? A common answer is that they are a social genre. In fact, this would explain why is so hard to define which genre is which. Do a little research and you will see several points of view in which some say that Indie is just modern post-punk and that it belongs in alternative.

So we can see the subgenres from two perspectives, one social and one musical, when we say that alternative rock is a social genre that opened the way to musical genres such as Post-Punk, among others and later another social genre (indie rock), inspired by the alternative, gives way to new musical subgenres.

This would fix the discussions about who descends from whom since it coincides with several theories that have raised. Of course, this is just a possible solution to the puzzle called indie-rock and alternative.