Elephant Revival


It’s hard to imagine disliking Petals.






The first issue of QROCC was filled with questions and insinuations about the status of the Americana genre. It is, of course, storied, and possesses it’s own history (and Grammy). Since QROCC is largely an experiment in exploring country by someone who doesn’t have the deepest history with it, though, certain things about these histories elude me. And so some of these insinuations are based in ignorance, or in approaching the genre through different histories. There is, of course, an element of doing due diligence, but what I’ve looked into doesn’t necessarily change my mind. To be explicit about these questions, it seems to me that the Americana genre is often filled with what I’ve mentioned before as an indie rock diaspora.

By this I largely mean that bands that would have, in the early aughts, been playing in the vein of a Modest Mouse or a Built to Spill are now doing something very similar, except with the addition of a banjo or fiddle player as a band member. My intuition says that this is the consequence of a confluence of factors; there was already a thin line, both aesthetically — things like the Pickin’ on Modest Mouse bluegrass tribute to Modest Mouse were not just novelties but genuinely loved by fans of the band — and thematically, with (to use them again, for consistency at least) Modest Mouse themselves having songs like “Trailer Trash” and “Cowboy Dan” that skew remarkably close to the kinds of things that a lot of roots music tends to talk about. Conor Oberst killed Bright Eyes at a festival called Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, after all. There is also the general cultural devaluing of rock music since the indie moment, which is as wrapped up in the requirements of new models of music industry and distribution as it is in the rise of rap and the EDMification of pop.

The questions, wrapped up in those insinuations, go soemthing like this: What does it actually mean that those who would have been singing about trailer parks with elaborate solos are now singing love songs set elliptically in the same with banjo accompaniment? Do you read it as a sort of liberal grassroots, a taking back of formal elements from the dogwhistling of family values and small governments? Or is it a general rightward trend in what was never exactly revolutionary music, but which now explores the nationalism built into the form? My assumption is in the latter direction, but that requires a stronger argument than “form is political.” Because that would boil down to little more than that banjos and/or love songs are reactionary, which is goofy.

The actual answer is much harder, and would rely on a thorough look at not only the kind of music being put out under this umbrella, but the politics and economics of it, and all in relation to big picture stuff from an understanding of shifting distribution models to an analysis of the future of history. And QROCC only touches the beginning of that. To wit:

Elephant Revival’s Petals is pretty whatever.