A wise man once said that every indie rocker secretly wants to be Neil Young. And it's true. Those guys (and it's always guys) prize that stonery, soulful thing Neil has, that quavery-voiced sensitivity, that loosey-goosey songwriting style, and above all those guitar heroics. Just listen to the extended jams of Stephen Malkmus and the interminable solos of whatshisface, that Built to Spill guy, who really the let the cat out of the bag with his faithful-to-the-point-of-pointless cover of "Cortez the Killer."
But now it seems that every indie rocker secretly wants to be Glen Campbell. Exhibit A: their hair. They've all got the longish but tidy and parted-on-the-side style Glen had in the late '60s and early '70s as he made the hippie-vagabond vibe more palatable to Middle America, and/or his neatly trimmed beard of the late '70s. And, like Glen, they're actively courting the mainstream with an adult-contemporary sound. The Head and the Heart? They're basically AM radio circa 1976. Fleet Foxes? Successful because they're such easy listening.
None of this is intended as a diss. I myself tried for years to get my hair to look like Glen's does on the cover of Gentle on My Mind. So if I seem to mock, it's pure jealousy. As for the music, brilliant things can happen in the middle of the road. One of the three albums I've listened to more than any other is Reunion, Glen's 1974 collaboration with songwriter Jimmy Webb. (The other two are the "White Album" and The Marshall Mathers LP.) It's a stone-cold '70s soft-rock classic—redolent of denim jackets, dusty roads, and THC-soaked sunsets—but the songs are also intensely odd, in the way that only the man behind "MacArthur Park" and "Where's the Playground Susie" could write them.
No, the point is bands should be more like Glen. With Campbell, 75, currently battling Alzheimer's and in the middle of his farewell tour, the time is right to take up his mantle. In place of trendy but musically threadbare Americana, the beards of the new generation could consider emulating the Rhinestone Cowboy's symphonic pop, gorgeous, wide-open vocal tone, and Broadway-ready enunciation. Let us hear the words you mystical lumberjacks are dreaming up. The hair is a fabulous start. Now let's take it the rest of the way, all the way to that star-spangled rodeo.