‘Plug in and Play!’
In the context of the UK, ‘indie-guitar’ has become an essentially generic term in popular music vocabulary to describe a loosely defined, guitar-based sound and its attendant performance/consumption aesthetic. 1 Despite the claim of British popular music journalists at various points during the last twenty years that guitarbased bands are‘a thing of the past’, a claim most recently made with the rise of dance music in the late 1980s, guitar music, and particularly‘indie-guitar’, has shown considerable resilience. In relation to indie-guitar, such resilience is undoubtedly due in part to the perception among indie-guitar bands and their fans of indie-guitar as a more‘authentic’ musical style than, for example, ‘boy’ or‘girl’ band music, or the various forms of‘commercial’ dance music that currently dominate the UK charts. Central to the ethos of indie-guitar is a‘back to basics’ sensibility grounded in the notion that good and meaningful music can be made without the showbusiness trappings of the mainstream music industry, relying instead on minimal stage set-ups, ‘small-club/pub’ venues (Street 1993) and a sense of‘community’ between bands and their audiences (Fonarow 1995). Similarly, the originally‘shoestring’ production of indie-guitar music by small-scale independent record companies with‘localized networks of production and distribution’ has also done much to enhance indie-guitar's self-styled‘alternative’ ethic (Burnett 1996: 59). Although such definitions of indie-guitar are, as Negus (1992) points out, problematized due to its increasing incorporation into the mainstream music industry, indie-guitar bands and their fans continue to buy into the notion of indieguitar as an‘independent’ and alternative music, the resulting‘sense of “otherness” [being] crucial to the development of a sense of group identity’ (Street 1993: 50). Indeed, this self-styled indie belief is by no means unique to the UK, the‘myth’ of independence just described also being central to the construction of‘otherness’ in other indie scenes, for example in New Zealand (Bannister 1999) and the US (Santiago-Lucerna 1998).
While several studies have analysed indie-guitar using a subcultural type of analysis, in which song titles, lyrics, visual style (see, for example, Mohan and Malone 1994) or the emphasis on regionalism and roots culture as a means of