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Class War on the Dancefloor
October 28, 2008 3:16 PM   Subscribe

As laddish 'landfill indie' bands take over the British charts and the previous vanguard of art-school bands trouble the mainstream less, the old debate on class in pop music rears its head once again.
posted by mippy (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Personally, I just wish more bands were British Sea Power.
posted by mippy at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Class!
Sorry, I'm too old to offer a sensible comment on any of the links.
posted by Abiezer at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2008


I don't know the band in question, but this is a killer line from the first link:

Scouting for Girls are like the sound of Satan's scrotum emptying. They're abysmal.

posted by Bookhouse at 3:31 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the hatred of the Fratellis. I wasn't a huge fan of their second album, but Costello Music was all kinds of fun.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2008


I kind of think the sound of Satan's scrotum emptying would be fargin awesome.
posted by spicynuts at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh snap that one article mentioned Sleeper. I used to love that band! The other neat thing I learned from those links is that you can go to School For Being A Brtitpop Star. Craziness.

I'd say as an issue this is a few years old isn't it? There's already a pretty intense backlash against "indie" bands among a new breed of musicians, which (I hear) includes more of an admiration for pre-90s Britpop rather than Blur and Co.
(Self-link but relevant I'd say).

Over here in the US it's not really a big deal. We don't have class you see.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2008


There's so much wrong here I don't know where to begin. As the first link says, the definition of 'indie' as some sort of unique sound is a relatively new concept. This must stop. Period. It was called indie in the first place due to its independent status. It usually consisted of music with a vague lo-fi suckage. If these bands are now being plucked from clubs and garages to be signed and to play at Glastonbury, that's not the culture's fault but rather the industry's fault. There's a difference.

There are so many (often conflicting) elements which make up a good band. To read the above, the Kings of Leon were called 'excellent' and yet others state that 'art school' bands are falling by the wayside in favour of laddish, low-class bands. Well, I liked the earlier Kings of Leon stuff but educated, sophisticated and intelligent they are not. Their latest album just sucks.

The internet and iTunes has quickly unravelled the traditional ways of marketing music and the music industry is still reeling. They're responding to things rather than creating things, and where they used to pick bands out and create artificial scenes, they now find themselves trying to emulate the cultural channels that are created and destroyed much faster than they can keep up with. This, to them, is a problem. To the consumer, I'm sure most much prefer this new way. They can discover the stuff they like and discard the stuff they don't way, way faster and way cheaper than ever before.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


This article is like dancing about asymmetrical haircuts.
posted by basicchannel at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's so much wrong here I don't know where to begin.

Personally, I'm impressed that anyone could get past the first four or five paragraphs.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:03 PM on October 28, 2008


Your Band Sucks - A Play in One Act

"Hey, your band sucks because they are educated and rich!"

"Hey, your band sucks because they are uneducated and poor!"

Celine Dion enters and sings "All By Myself"

"Hey, let's give your band another listen."

"Sure - after we listen to your band again."

Lights fade
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:07 PM on October 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


jimmythefish for the win.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:09 PM on October 28, 2008


This kind of debate is kind of fun for a knockaround, but it's really just harking back to your own teenage years when you were so earnest about the real qualitative difference between the bands that you liked and the bands that everyone else liked. The article in the last link could just as easily have been about prog rock v. rock n roll, new romantics v. punk, 80s indie v. pop etc. Fact is that 90+% of the new bands will be shite, just like 90+% of all new art of any form is shite. Once the perspective of time overcomes the attraction of novelty, the wheat will have been sorted from the chaff.

On the other hand, I did listen to some myspace/youtube stuff from some of the bands mentioned that I hadn't heard of before. I quite liked Foals, even though although Hummer sounds like the guy from Black Kids singinging over an indie band playing Beat Boy.

Oh, and the Ting Tings are shite, BTW.
posted by Jakey at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


they now find themselves trying to emulate the cultural channels that are created and destroyed much faster than they can keep up with.

Example(s) please.
posted by foot at 4:15 PM on October 28, 2008


I've just returned home from giving a class this evening which included an introduction to typography. There's a quiz section where students have a list of design situations and they choose what they think is appropriate type to use from a selection of typeface samples.

One of the situations is a flyer for an indie band night and one of the students thought that the choice of type would depend on the band. I pointed out that I came from a generation where indie was a far narrower definition as opposed to every band with skinny jeans and guitars.

I also spent a bit of time explaining about stuff such as photographic film, lightboxes & the like.

I'm now officially old. Now what ever happened to The Shop Assistants?
posted by i_cola at 4:22 PM on October 28, 2008


Well, I liked the earlier Kings of Leon stuff but educated, sophisticated and intelligent they are not. Their latest album just sucks.


Always been lukewarm about them, myself, but it's interesting how they got a Number 1 single years after the press hype died.
posted by mippy at 4:28 PM on October 28, 2008


> "The essence of New Labour, indie was capitalism dressed up as revolutionary socialism."

Burn!

The Independent's piece reads largely like a clutch of old industry insiders, now replaced by twentysomethings, wheezing that today's disposable pop hits can't hold a candle to the disposable pop hits of their youth. It's a familiar round that goes back to the days when people earnestly weighed Frank Sinatra against Elvis. It doesn't often have anything to do with whether the performers are any good.

Still, there's something to the complaints. The balance of art against commerce in the music industry has become so badly tipped to the side of the businessmen that there's little motivation among the bands to develop their craft. Arguably anybody intelligent and aware of their limits will know enough to get in, make the advance, and cash out in favor of a proper career in IT or banking before embarrassing themselves with something desperate and doomed like a crossover single or holiday song.
posted by ardgedee at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


That article was all kinds of dim. I don't know anyone who calls music from twenty years ago "indie". Independent Label != Indie.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:38 PM on October 28, 2008


I also spent a bit of time explaining about stuff such as photographic film, lightboxes & the like. I'm now officially old. Now what ever happened to The Shop Assistants?

Forgotten...along with Rubylith and bluelines.


There's so much wrong here I don't know where to begin.

Start with the title, "Does the world need another indie band?". Good point, lets get all the artists and musicians together and tell them to hold off creating songs and self-expression until this twatter gives us the green light.

Does the world need another self-important tosser cultural music writer pissed about not being able to trumpet the industry's exploited golden child because the audience has moved on from reading about new music in the Guardian. Anyone?

If you want to write about the paradigm shift in music and musicians try not to pout in the rearview mirror, thankyouverymuch.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2008


Independent...not Guardian. mea culpa.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:42 PM on October 28, 2008


Their latest album just sucks.

Broke my heart. I had such low hopes and still they broke my heart.
posted by spicynuts at 5:10 PM on October 28, 2008


they can complain all they want, but here in germany the new musical fad of the youth is apparently dancing "jumpstyle" to eurotrash-techno somewhere "between irish folk dance and children's birthday party" (Der Spiegel)

Maybe Britain could send some of the "independent" bands they apparently don't need anymore over to us? We can swap them for Scooter.
posted by kolophon at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2008


Example(s) please.

Trying to create 'indie bands'. Trying to find bands on YouTube. Trying to cash in on emo. Goth. Trying to label things. Trying to fucking package and sell shit that they never should have been selling in the first place.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:38 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love "Costello Music" but I just can't get into their second album. The first time I heard them was at MacWorld last year when Steve Jobs introduced a new iPod ad featuring "Flathead".
posted by mike3k at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2008


Oh snap that one article mentioned Sleeper . I used to love that band!

Man, I'd forgotten all about them. When the fanzine me and my friends did got a write up in an NME piece about the Glasgow scene (there was even a photo of Lungleg reading our fanzine! So exciting!), the writer seemed genuinely disturbed that one of the pages consisted of a photo of Louise Wener with her eyes torn out, and a lengthy handwritten screed about how her and her band should fuck the fuck off. And that was before they did that travesty of a cover of Atomic.

Yeah, I know, 'your favourite band sucks' comments are tedious, but thanks for the trip down indie memory lane! I really miss hating bands.
posted by jack_mo at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2008


You know, articles about the death of some style of music had so much more
verve back in the 80s. There was a freshness and style when someone was
pointing out how hip hop had sold out when Run DMC started promoting Adidas.
When some drip wrote in NME in '87 that the break up of the Smiths was then
end of music you knew they meant it. Even in the 90's the death of Grunge stuff had something going for it.

Just the other day I was reading about the decline of music in some magazine
and I had to go into another room and I was unsure if it was from pitchfork,
Rolling Stone, the LA Weekly or the Independent or the Guardian.

It's like journalists just don't really feel it any more, like they are just
turning in more column inches in between using facebook and updating their
twitter accounts. They all just get their laptops (usually Macs, what a
surprise) and sit in some generic cafe writing generic whiny little articles.
posted by sien at 8:11 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


(usually Macs, what a
surprise)


What, is there a 'whine' widget on macs or something?
posted by spicynuts at 8:34 PM on October 28, 2008


Scouting for Girls are like the sound of Satan's scrotum emptying.

nope, not even close
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2008


Whining about "Landfill Indie" ignores the stark reality of Sturgeon's Law - 90% of everything is crap. Pop, especially, which also brings into play Pohl's corollary - You get no guarantees about the other ten percent. Yes, there are a few bands who light up the world with their being... and also a hundred thousand hipsters who want to be ironic and sing like a pre-pubescent Billy Idol.

That said, if it's gonna be mostly crap, I demand to be entertained by it. In that vein, I'd like a few more hard-and-fast genres, apart from the rapidly withering Emo and Scener stuff which bored me to mascara-streaked tears anyway, and the strangely resurgent "Savage Rockabilly" and "alt.country", which apparently is no longer allowed to be called alt.country. (OK, on Sirius FM's "Outlaw Country", which my 63 year old dad listens to religiously, they opened up a set with "Shine On you Crazy Diamond, Part VII of IX" and something new from Oasis, interspersed with vintage live tracks of Hank Williams Sr and a bunch of very recent stuff from various artists involving lap-steels and twanging vocals I didn't recognize, but wound up liking a lot. Now that's a genre that's comfortable with its self image, call it whatever you like.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:33 PM on October 28, 2008


*hides his Shop Assistants CD*

It isn't just that 90% of everything is crap — that number will grow higher when it comes to bands now, as being a tiny indie band doesn't mean you can't have a MySpace page. That sounds great, until you realize just how many of them there are.

As much as I loathe the record industry, they did have a few useful purposes, such as performing as a very crude peer review system. While they certainly have had their share of star-making (and turd polishing), they cannot invest too much in complete losers. It's certainly not a perfectly fair system, but I sometimes wonder if it might beat sorting through the vast bins of punch-holed discs.

I used to, every few weeks, hit the local record store (before it closed), then find the "unsorted" albums at the end of a given letter, you know, after the Madonna and the Magnetic Fields and the Ministry. Bands who had not yet earned a little tab in the rack. I'd get twenty or so CDs after eyeballing the most likely suspects and just plow through them. I averaged about one buyable album per fifteen CDs. The employees were at first not amused but developed a grudging respect for my stoicism. If I got bored with my current musical interests and wanted something new, I'd repeat this a few times.

Now take the recently-sold CDBaby (which is a great site). Although my tastes have, if anything, broadened over the years, my hit rate is now far less than one in fifteen, and that's taking into consideration the price drop. Run the numbers on the site and you'll find that the average artist makes a great average profit per CD, more than seven dollars, but only about $350 from CDBaby sales. Yes, I'm sure they have other sources, but you get my drift. A quarter of a million artists on CDBaby, just try getting close to sorting through that.

Overall, the turbulence in the market makes it a lot harder for the cream to rise to the top. Connecting artists to people who will like their music just gets harder and harder. Amazon's recommendation system is often painfully out of whack. Other recommendation systems aren't exactly setting me on fire, either.

"Landfill" is not far off the mark.
posted by adipocere at 10:25 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


We can swap them for Scooter.

We've been trying to send him back for years.

Adipocere, if you're of an indie bent you could do worse than listening to 6Music. I'd recommend Gideon Coe, Stuart Maconie or Guy Garvey's Finest Hour, the latter being a great way to wind down the week.
posted by mippy at 4:39 AM on October 29, 2008


Here in Britain, "indie" no longer means what it means elsewhere in the world; it means "stylised rock music". An indie band is usually signed to a major label, has a team of stylists working on their look and peddles dumbed-down versions of the Clash/Rolling Stones/XTC/Joy Division/some combination thereof, reduced to musical junk food acceptable for consumption by the mainstream.

The audience has changed as well; once having been a mark of being apart from the mindless mainstream, indie is now mainstream and, yes, mindless, anthems for football terraces and snorting coke off the back of lads' mags. The people who are into indie are the same sorts the typical indie kids identified themselves as being apart from in the 80s/early 90s -- the coarse, thoughtless, insensitive mainstream. Except that they just got into the tree fort and are playing all your records. This, of course, is an inevitable product of indie having become a style and having become popular. To paraphrase Morrissey, we hate it when our genres become successful.

At the moment, "indie-pop" is an exception; for some reason, it's not marketable enough to be dumbed down, so there's a pretty vibrant twee-pop/indiepop/c86 scene in the UK; it even has a festival on a steam railway. Though there is the danger that, as there's a backlash against lad-rock, the term "indie pop" will become appropriated to mean landfill indie with the swaggering machismo replaced by equally insipid lowest-common-denominator love-ballad lyrics, and none of the awkwardly unsellable subtlety of, say, Orange Juice or The Field Mice. It may be happening; I've heard Scouting For Girls referred to as "indie pop".
posted by acb at 4:54 AM on October 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


@adipocere: 90% of everything is crap, though there is a difference between organic and factory-farmed crap. The majority of small indie-pop bands with MySpace pages, homemade CD-Rs or 7"s on friends' labels may be rather ordinary, but they're so in a less homogeneous way than the stylised, marketeered landfill indie bands.
posted by acb at 4:59 AM on October 29, 2008


Can't we just call "indie bands" "bands" again?
posted by Mister_A at 6:16 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like music.

All the rest of it is just disposable fish and chip wrapper.
posted by srboisvert at 6:23 AM on October 29, 2008


Mippy,

>> but it's interesting how they got a Number 1 single years after the press hype died.

The sound of Satan's scrotum emptying could get to number one these days, the charts are pretty meaningless!
posted by gallagho at 6:54 AM on October 29, 2008


once having been a mark of being apart from the mindless mainstream, indie is now mainstream

This has been true for a while. In Australia in the mid-90s, I realized that the "indie" section of the music store was larger than the "popular" section. When I raised this to a friend, he asserted that "indie" didn't mean indie and "popular" didn't mean popular.

Black is white, up is down, war is love ...
posted by outlier at 7:15 AM on October 29, 2008



The sound of Satan's scrotum emptying could get to number one these days


Yes, I forgot all about Katie Perry.
posted by mippy at 9:24 AM on October 29, 2008


@outlier: Wasn't the term for new-mainstream in 1990s Australia "alternative"? IIRC, that exploded into dominance of the airwaves at about the time of grunge, and JJJ (the government-funded "yoof" station) played a million three-chord grunge-rock bands, most of whom sounded alike. The word "indie" there always meant something smaller and less polished, little bands from inner Melbourne or Sydney, or else 7"s imported expensively from Britain or the US.

Even now, if you say you're into indie music in Australia, people will think of the Lucksmiths or Belle & Sebastian rather than, say, the Pigeon Detectives or Oasis.
posted by acb at 9:46 AM on October 29, 2008


Indie seems to be like emo. No one knows exactly what it means.

a. It was called indie in the first place due to its independent status.

...

b. Independent Label != Indie.

...

c. One of the situations is a flyer for an indie band night and one of the students thought that the choice of type would depend on the band. I pointed out that I came from a generation where indie was a far narrower definition as opposed to every band with skinny jeans and guitars.

I think i'm with a. Indie band means independent label. There's indie rock, indie country (No River City), indie hip-hop (One Be Lo? IANAE), there's all sorts of different kinds of indie bands, right?

Also, Okkervil River and Death Cab for Cutie are emo, right? Bright Eyes?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:07 PM on October 29, 2008


I liked Sleeper too, at least the first album. After that, it went downhill quite a bit.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:09 PM on October 29, 2008


Two things it is useless to care about:

1. This label doesn't mean what it used to mean! Wrong, it didn't mean what you thought it meant back then either, you were just too young to realize nobody cool called Fugazi "emo" or the Smiths "indie" or Sebadoh "indie rock" (except Sebadoh but they was being ironics).

2. What should I call this music? Unless you're in high school, just listen to whatever you want. If in HS, you are a punk. Listen to punk rock, and hate everything else. See you in 4 years!

One of the great blessings of the internet era of music is that all the timelines are asploded. A band like Be Your Own Pet can be influenced by 70s glam, 90s Garage, 80s punk and current Southern Crunk and not even think for a second about the histories behind each of those sounds and ideas.

Learn to stop worrying and love la Bamba.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:27 PM on October 29, 2008


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