It’s the height of the festival season, and across Britain Identikit groups of tight-trousered, floppy-haired boys with guitars are taking to the stage, to thrash out a homogenous jangle. Critics have dubbed their sound ‘indie landfill’. Is it the death knell of a once-vibrant underground scene?
Friday night on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. This is the venue Radiohead played a career-defining show 11 years ago. In the past, it has hosted masterful live performances from The White Stripes, Muse and The Who. Tonight’s headliners are the terrific Kings of Leon. Before they can take the stage, however, there’s one more support act to soak up. In the half-dark just after sunset, a tousle-haired man in a promising Pink Floyd T-shirt steps up to the mic, carrying his comforting, classic Gibson Les Paul guitar. But then he opens his mouth. His name is Jon Lawler, and his band are known as The Fratellis.
Festival season is in full swing now. Across the land, stages are being raised in city parks, in country farms and on ancient estates for what promises to be Britain’s biggest ever summer of music. But if they want to book enough acts to justify the inflated ticket prices in these harsh economic times, once-eager festival organisers have a struggle on their hands. How will they fill that gaping hole on Sunday afternoon? Who’s going to warm up the crowd for The Ting Tings? Luckily the current UK music scene has just the thing. Someone has even compounded a helpful term to use when you call the record companies in a line-up emergency; this uninspiring, guitar-gelled Polyfilla – of which The Fratellis are a fine example – is now known by some as “landfill indie”.
As in every musical era, one style dominates the hearts and minds of our nation’s youth; it dictates their fashion sense, their relationship with their parents and, quite possibly, their personal-hygiene regimen. These days, it’s indie that’s the cholesterol in the veins of popular culture, and we need to start thinking about a crash diet.