An Eruption Of Virtuosity In Indie Rock

There’s an aesthetic shift brewing in indie rock, or so says a great piece in the New York Times exploring the virtuoso guitar accumen of a couple of indie ladies on the rise, Marnie Stern and Kaki King. They write:

Which is certainly not to say it was Nirvana. Ms. Stern?s debut, ?In Advance of the Broken Arm,? released last month on the venerable punk label Kill Rock Stars, does fit into the punk tradition of hollered vocals and serrated melodies that that famous Seattle group helped popularize. But her flamboyant guitar approach also connects it to the ornate, virtuosic traditions of progressive rock and heavy metal: genres that punk once aimed to vanquish with a return to the three-chord simplicity and raw primitivism of early rock. Yes, virtuosity is now a virtue in the indie world.

?We were just talking about Van Halen?s ?1984? and what a great album that is,? Ms. Stern said via phone from a van last month in the midst of her first tour, citing a record that cutting-edge rockers in the Nirvana era would have been reluctant to admit owning, let alone loving.

Guitarist Carrie Brownstein (of the sadly defunct Sleater-Kinney), herself a technical adept, explained the reason for the shift:

?And I think that with the mainstreaming of a lot of indie music, people are looking for something that has an oddity to it,? she continued. ?I think that virtuoso playing is polemical in some ways. People either find it really appealing or they?re turned off by it.?

Of Van Halen’s approach to the six-string, Marnie Stern said: “That style of guitar sounds just so good to me.” Sounds just so good to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, too! But while pioneer Eddie is in rehab during his band’s induction to the Hall tonight, best you can do to relive his frenetic fret-tapping magic is to watch him set his fretboard afire on this vintage clip of “Eruption.” And his overalls match!

Name your favorite indie rock virtuoso. But if their ability isn’t obvious, you gotta make your case!