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Indie over outie
February 13, 2010 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Nitsuh Abebe gives a narrative for a decade of indie.
posted by klangklangston (54 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
For all that Pitchfork occasionally gets up its own ass, it's still probably the most literate bunch of music critics easily available online. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the sort of analysis that makes me want to molt. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 10:14 AM on February 13, 2010


Good article. I agree in England 'indie' has overlapped with the mainstream for a long time...in the early 2000's a lot of the new trends just seemed like more of the same to me, but since 2005ish there's been a lot of great new music.

I actually like the way a lot of things are considered pop now, because to be honest a lot of music is listened to as pop despite people giving it trappings of being more deep and meaningful.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2010


The most crucial takeaway for me was the point about how indie music fractured: on the one hand, the more traditional "pop but quirky" stuff slowly got subsumed into the mainstream, while on the other hand the weirder "quirky for the fun of it" stuff fell into a pattern of fads, with nothing really serving as a new locus for the sort of broader community that 90s indie sort of had, especially by the end of the decade. (I might be stretching on that second bit a little.) I don't know if I share the author's enthusiasm about the coming decade, just because it seems like the internet has changed the way musical communities form: the mainstream is larger and the niches are smaller and more insular.

Maybe that really will result in the sort of "brave new world" phenomenon that was so appealing when I was a teenager, but more likely I think the niches will continue to be cherry-picked and the mainstream will continue to trundle along well-defined avenues of taste. But this is all from the vantage point of some dude in his twenties; no doubt teenagers now have found their own brave new world to conquer, one that I have no insight whatsoever into. So it goes.
posted by chrominance at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2010


I kept waiting for him to provide some analysis or actually argue a point, but in the end it was more like a (pleasantly thorough) history lesson mixed with insightful editorial commentary.

It's tempting to argue that the history part will provide the article's intended audience with little enlightenment, but I count myself among this audience and I found myself shamefully unfamiliar with the work of Tom Jobim, so that pulls the rug right from under my argument.

The commentary aspect -- about how you can't please everyone, etc. -- came as an especially pleasant surprise to me: I've always felt Pitchfork could do with an ombudsman.

That said, I felt the entire thing was a tiny bit academic and overwrought for a general audience, but then I saw the masthead again and remembered what publication I was reading. Plus, personally I do like reading this sort of material.

The only thing that struck me as a basic omission from the history part of the article was that the author neglected to note that as soon as the Pixies et al. were done setting up the Big Indie Tent it was almost immediately gate-crashed by the very alt-rock darlings later indie bands railed against. I mean sure, Cobain may have led the charge, but Lit and Silverchair rode that same wave.

You and I know this, and it doesn't take anything away from the story in the article, but if you want to explain indie to space aliens or whatever they might wonder how you go from the Pixies to Neutral Milk Hotel, and at least part of the answer would be "Nirvana".
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:46 AM on February 13, 2010


*explodes*
posted by jonmc at 10:48 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


For those of you who hate when people post essays and articles in font sizes usually reserved for the legal restrictions of sweepstakes, I recommend using Readability.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd accuse the author of projecting his feelings onto the scene as a whole if he wasn't mostly right. This article almost feels unnecessary, but I'm pretty sure that's because its full of things I've thought about before. Good read.

Much like indie being mainstreamed, it's pretty clear that—within a lot of social circles—the nerds have won. The idea of cool has shifted and become more subjective. Things have fractured and, given the variance in people's tastes and information sources, the (once supreme) alphacool's force is now used against them, in a feat of ironical jiujitsu. The mainstreaming of computers and especially the internet have certainly aided this shift.

I can be as nostalgiac as the next guy, but I'm honestly glad that I exist in this day and age.
posted by defenestration at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


*explodes*

There, there.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:51 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having sort of "been there" from the start (community radio DJ from 1983-2001, and so on), I see it fairly simply.

First there was "independent", which simply meant anything that wasn't major label dependent and had nothing to do with a particular sound. This gradually got shortened to "indie" which meant the same thing, just required half the syllables.

Then, as the article points out, indie started to acquire a "sound" (Pixies-Sonic-Youth-Nirvana whatever). This is when indie became capital "I" Indie. This is when I stopped really caring as I've never really cared what genre a music is, just whether it's GOOD or BAD.

So small "i" indie remains what it always was, music of any genre created and distributed via independent means and networks, which is something I encourage, even if it's sometimes/often awful. Capital "I" indie is just something to argue about, which can be fun.
posted by philip-random at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


> The sensibility used to seem rarer, and then, I suppose, half the people attracted to it grew up and got creative jobs and now it floats everywhere.

'Twas ever thus and ever thus shall be. See also: pretty much any artistic movement, musical or otherwise, that starts off as fringe or avant-garde.

> This is when I stopped really caring as I've never really cared what genre a music is, just whether it's GOOD or BAD.

This phenomenon is also known as "turning 30."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:06 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Much like indie being mainstreamed, it's pretty clear that—within a lot of social circles—the nerds have won. The idea of cool has shifted and become more subjective. Things have fractured and, given the variance in people's tastes and information sources, the (once supreme) alphacool's force is now used against them, in a feat of ironical jiujitsu.

This seems to be true -- and to have been true -- throughout every strata of pop culture for a good ten years now. So would anyone mind if I made a bold proposition? "Cool," at this point, does not need more "nerd" -- cool is almost entirely nerd now. "Nerd," I must argue, needs more "cool." More visceral, chainsmoking, leather-jacket-wearing, Satan-worshiping, hard-drinking, scary cool. If not literally, then at least figuratively! This seems to be what Abebe is poking around at when he talks about even the least rocking rock bands being cited for "surliness" out of, seemingly, some vast and unvoiced need for such bands on the part of their audience. I don't think anyone needs ironical jujitsu, at least not for long: That sounds to me a little like trying to live off a diet of Sweet Tarts. Or maybe tofu? I dunno. Point is, that doesn't sound like a staple to me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:12 AM on February 13, 2010


I, too, am [CIRCLE ONE] amazed/horrified/saddened that my preferred genre of [CIRCLE ONE] guitar/electronic/urban/world music has been co-opted by [CIRCLE ONE OR ALL] the advertising industry/film industry hacks/old people who read The New Yorker/my little brother.
posted by ford and the prefects at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's kind of irritating that this guy could write a whole essay about the indie aesthetic without using the word FANZINE once.

the accessibility of DIY idiosyncrasy via internet has changed every-fucking-aspect of how people decode "coolness" for themselves and their peers.

.
posted by Hammond Rye at 11:43 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man I used to work with this guy, at Kim's Mediapolis in uptown New York. Good guy, and he really knows his stuff.
posted by 235w103 at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2010


Remember in Boogie Nights when Buck is flippin out over everyone telling him he needs to stop with the cowboy thing and he needs to "get a new look" but then Luis Guzman's character is like "....wear what ya dig"?

I think people should do that. But like with music.

If the popular preponderance of a genre of music makes you want to "listen to nothing but rap mixtapes and noise" then I suspect you don't really like music as much as you like the social identity component of fandom. I also suspect you are a knob.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:00 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the popular preponderance of a genre of music makes you want to "listen to nothing but rap mixtapes and noise" then I suspect you don't really like music as much as you like the social identity component of fandom. I also suspect you are a knob.

I both agree with you and understand what Pitchfork's saying. When Stephanie Mayer, the woman that earnestly thought she was writing something worthwhile when she wrote Twilight, tells you that when she's lot listening to Linkin Park, she's listening to Animal Collective, there's a part of me that feels a chill. Like, I understand pretty comprehensively why Twilight's such an awful novel, or why Linkin Park basically only ever had one song. Perhaps there are things comprehensively awful about Animal Collective that I somehow missed and I'm being just as much a rube as the Twihards are?

I know it's irrational, and condescending, and it relies on my deceiving myself into thinking that I'm somehow putting more thought into my everyday actions than other people are, but at the same time I do genuinely try and be thoughtful and learn to be critical of things, and so that little part of me does worry when somebody who's written something thoroughly terrible says that she's a fan of something that I think is thoroughly wicked. Perhaps not in the case of Animal Collective, which I spent a good year not liking and only recently have started enjoying, but I have this reaction with other music, movies, and books. Irrational, possibly, but understandable.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:12 PM on February 13, 2010


Yeah, that's good and all, and it's an interesting film to reference given Anderson's rap as someone who cares too much about aesthetics and capturing "authentic" idiosyncrasy—an indie indie filmmaker, I guess.
posted by defenestration at 12:14 PM on February 13, 2010


"Indie," as it's been used for the past 10 or 20 years, is too broad a term to describe any actual genre of music. It includes too much: artists that sound nothing like each other get grouped together. But it also includes too little: calling artists on major labels "indie" seems wrong, but excluding them seems joylessly pedantic.

This article seems much more reasonable and balanced than the similar article we were talking about just a few weeks ago. But it's still weak.

He relies too heavily on vague descriptions of genres and subgenres without offering enough specifics. Oh, there are references to specific bands here and there. But I don't get any sense that the author has a favorite album or song that he's listened to repeatedly and been deeply moved by. He seems more passionate about making generalizations about social groups and other people's discussions of music than about the music itself. I'm not suggesting that it's not worthwhile to discuss music in terms of its fans, but his descriptions of supposed internecine squabbles among indie fans aren't very interesting anyway.

And to the extent he does cite specific bands, it's thoroughly predictable, as if he had read some guide on "how to write an article on the history of '00s indie music." The Flaming Lips, the Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, the Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, blah blah blah... Nothing against any those bands. But how about taking the opportunity to plug a few less obvious acts that have been creating music that could point the way to future trends? I realize the piece was about the music culture as a whole and not the author's personal tastes, but I would have liked to see something out of left field. He could have at least given a shout-out to the wildly innovative Dirty Projectors (and they're hardly obscure).

The specific artists he mentions are also overwhelmingly male. It's not that I want to see some kind of affirmative action for female singers. I mean, if I were writing a history of '90s grunge rock, I'd mainly talk about men, because the most important ones happened to be predominantly male. But that just hasn't been the case with the indie music of the past decade. St. Vincent, the Dresden Dolls, My Brightest Diamond, Hanne Hukkelberg, Imogen Heap/Frou Frou, Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis, Feist, Psapp, Camera Obscura, Regina Spektor ... hello???

Oh, and the angle of "Wow, this music used to be cool and obscure ... but then it got mainstream and popular ... and now the original fans resent the popularity!" is sooooooo played out. Maybe it's just that I'm reading this at the ripe old age of 28. I suppose it's understandable if this kind of analysis remains constantly interesting to 16-year-olds who are unsatisfied by just enjoying the music and need to feel like they're the "right" kinds of fans and don't realize that this whole way of looking at music just feeds into the mass marketing of music (because not only do MTV and Rolling Stone get to sell you the music itself, but they also get to sell you cultural identities and social histories and fashion statements). But I find it hard to believe the rock critics who write up this story year after year, decade after decade, don't realize what a hollow distraction it is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


i guess this is where i go to say things like "pitchfork is the internet's best-of-1989-issue of SPIN"
posted by Hammond Rye at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2010


When Stephanie Mayer, the woman that earnestly thought she was writing something worthwhile when she wrote Twilight, tells you that when she's not listening to Linkin Park, she's listening to Animal Collective, there's a part of me that feels a chill.

I know it's irrational, and condescending, and it relies on my deceiving myself into thinking that I'm somehow putting more thought into my everyday actions than other people are, but at the same time I do genuinely try and be thoughtful and learn to be critical of things, and so that little part of me does worry when somebody who's written something thoroughly terrible says that she's a fan of something that I think is thoroughly wicked.


I have an alternative suggestion: stop caring what Stephenie Meyer thinks. Problem solved!
posted by verstegan at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2010


rap mixtapes and noise.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2010


tejano music and greek crooners
posted by jonmc at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2010


Tuvian throat singers and 60s lad bands dressed in a revolutionary war theme
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:49 PM on February 13, 2010


Tuvian throat singers and 60s lad bands dressed in a revolutionary war theme pop music producer (Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo)

For all that Pitchfork occasionally gets up its own ass, it's still probably the most literate bunch of music critics easily available online. Thanks for posting this.

At my college station, we laughed that Pitchfork was made up of former college radio music directors, the folks who listened to EVERYTHING because it was sent to them for their stations. As an MD, you listened to a couple hundred CDs a week, sent by anyone from promoters whose job it was to shill anything from anyone who paid, to friends of bad musicians who "just wanted to chat about stuff" (and maybe plug their friend's band). The Pitchfork folks are knowledgeable, but they hate everything because they've heard too much. I was an MD for a year, and at the end of it, I was done with indie rock, and I wanted to scrub my ears with Merzbow and such. We found some great things, but there were so many sound-alikes. "Hey, these guys do a pretty good impression of Death Cab for Cutie. Oh, but that band already exists. Next!"
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a tiny bit academic and overwrought for a general audience.

It is indeed a bitch when people (or groups of people) you dislike endorse the music you do like. I think many people realize the immaturity inherent in this stance, but it's not a rational response, and musical preference is difficult to explain in a logical way.

I don't what the hell you can do about it though, short of refusing to meet new people or listening to new music only until other people pick up on it. They're both losing games.

I just listen to the same twenty or so bands I've loved since high school. My music nerd friends drop new stuff on me every once in a while, and I'll give anything a shot, but when I decided that I didn't have time to spend listening to tons of crap I didn't enjoy just to find the occasional gem, I wound up getting a lot more out of the time I spend listening to music.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2010


Thanks for flagging this! There's so much stuff on Pitchfork and I don't check it regularly these days.. this is smart and thoughtful article from a really good writer. Echos a lot of what I feel about a certain sort of pleasant, nice, popular indie from the last decade, by and large the music itself doesn't interest me much and never has, but it's cool to be able to consider what was happening without making snarky attacks on the bands or the people who do like them.

I get that if some of these bands changed your life, you might get upset if the Twilight writer happened to like them, but it doesn't mean they're bad; hell, my cool friends in high school made it feel embarrassing to like Nirvana once they were on MTV and the cover of Rolling Stone, and were pissed as hell when the Flaming Lips had a hit song because suddenly a lot of people liked them. I feel like.. part of the legacy of that 90's "corporate rock still sucks" mentality + college radio snobbery meant that I didn't try to give any of these artists a chance - Wilco, Decemberists, Iron and Wine, Shins, Death Cab, Animal Collective, etc. - because I perceived they were too nice, and too many tasteful people liked them already, and there were other, weirder, noisier, dancier artists to go investigate.

And @filthy light thief, that is so true about Pitchfork re: former college radio music directors. As a former college radio nerd at a small station, myself, getting dozens of records a week made it really easy to hate a lot of music and get disproportionately angry about it, all the time. I was briefly considering trying to write for Pfork when they got started (it was so small and needed content), and kind of glad I didn't because I would've turned out a lot of angry reviews about how much I hated a lot of music. Though I recall a certain Brent D. writing for that site and turning out some of the funniest angry reviews I've ever read in my life.

Just gimme indie rock!
It's gone big
Come on indie rock!

posted by citron at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2010


Incidentally I do wonder if Pitchfork was designed with Mac audiences in mind and is more readable that way? I have a crappy PC here running Windows, in Windows if you hit "Ctrl +" (that's control key AND plus sign) a few times you can increase the font size, and just hit Ctrl and minus sign to drop it back down.
posted by citron at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2010


Indie isn't a genre. Indie is genre deconstruction.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:20 PM on February 13, 2010


Incidentally I do wonder if Pitchfork was designed with Mac audiences in mind and is more readable that way?

I use a Mac, and Pitchfork's text is always way too small for me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:21 PM on February 13, 2010


Holy shit! I did not know Huun Huur Tu was still active, or that they were moving into such production values. That song is gold, filthy light thief. Thanks.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:40 PM on February 13, 2010


citron: certain Brent D.

I miss him. He was a good writer and pretty spot on, usually. He writes for TimeOut Chicago now but he's restrained, no more craziness :(
posted by Kattullus at 4:01 PM on February 13, 2010


I did not know Huun Huur Tu was still active, or that they were moving into such production values. That song is gold, filthy light thief. Thanks.

That whole album (Eternal) is really good, if you like that sample. I'm not sure if I'd call the electronic elements "hyper-modern" as in that linked album review, but it's good stuff. Carmen Rizzo is an interesting chap.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:56 PM on February 13, 2010


i used to enjoy the sense of cosmic injustice, that the smiths werent number one or the pixies never got as big as nirvana... all that stuff.

indie also used to be more political as well if i remember correctly - nobody really believes in very much indiewise anymore.

I really miss john peel - i think his absence is one of the big differences in indie now.

Manchester is over as well - theres no counterweight to the excesses of american art rock now - this may be why the world is overrun with hipsters. When pitchfork refer to 'indie' they generally mean us art rock or art school music - it was better when there was a mixture of poor kids and rich kids.

oh, plus the really,really boring writers - theres no bravery in the writing anymore, no passion.

get the fuck off my lawn.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"...the sophisticated Boom-Boom"

Any out of left-field Shangra-Lai reference will make. my. day.
posted by The Whelk at 6:36 PM on February 13, 2010


Oh, and the angle of "Wow, this music used to be cool and obscure ... but then it got mainstream and popular ... and now the original fans resent the popularity!" is sooooooo played out.

Tell me about it. Some friends and I were among the first people who were into this kind of criticism. Then it totally went mainstream and everybody started using it. Now it's just fucking lame.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:23 PM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Back in high school I listened to the Replacements first few albums and Guns and Roses' first album and didn't flinch. (On a cassette playing Walkman, natch.) They were both edgy and "indie," although we didn't use the word yet. And today I can't fucking believe Tommy Stinson plays with Axel Rose.

And that's my single date-point.

Interesting article. It's all about the means of production and distribution these days and indeed, the little guys and geeks have thankfully won. The kids these days, I really doubt that any of them hope for a Record Company Man to discover them. It's all about recording two tracks and putting it up on the web. And that's punker than fuck.
posted by bardic at 12:59 AM on February 14, 2010


data-point, even
posted by bardic at 1:02 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


there's no pure way of enjoying music as pure sound and if you think there is you are deluding yourself. you can't disentangle aural interpretation from cultural interpretation. the platonic listener is weird: music for him is secret private bliss, headphone suckling, more like masturbation than conversation. the social listener obsessed with authenticity is also weird, trying to escape from the appropriating PR machine by being one step ahead in the very hipness race it lives by, and so driving it instead of countering it. music as commodity is a horrible monster, shameful and disgusting the whole thing. why the lucky stiff nailed it:

"when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create."
posted by mbrock at 1:04 AM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


The reason "indie" doesn't feel special anymore to a lot of people is pretty simple. The internet made accessible music that was previously the province of crate-digging obsessives. Time was you knew about music because of word of mouth, cassette dubs and exhaustive searching in dusty record stores. File sharing allowed one benevolent owner of every LP Only Six Finger Satellite Release to rip them to MP3, and watch them proliferate. Bands like Animal Collective, who might only have had enough money to print 2000 LPs could suddenly reach an infinite audience via social networking websites.

The internet is also responsible for music fracturing into niche audiences, which is why I don't think we're going to see iconic supermega music stars anymore (barring the pre-fab Ke$ha types.) The accessibility of music has grown to the point where people can have niche audiences that extend outside the reach of their town, or their county, and even the most difficult genres have acolytes (see the unexpected popularity of a band like Wolf Eyes.)

At the same time, this is what has the old school clowns frothing at the mouth about thier music being co-opted. Those folks who had to 'struggle' to find these treasures, and now any dick with a comcast connection can get all of it. I'm sure that must be frustrating for those people who build their identities around the kind of music they like, but for those of us who actually love music and seek identity elsewhere, it's nice to find that commonality with people wherever you go.

I have a lot of friends in bands who struggle to be able to tour and rarely even break even on their investments, but when I visit other cities and other states and other countries, I can still talk to fans of good music and they know who I'm talking about, which is a wonderful feeling [NOT NAME-DROPIST]

Thanks for posting this. It was a fun read.
posted by orville sash at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


there's no pure way of enjoying music as pure sound and if you think there is you are deluding yourself. you can't disentangle aural interpretation from cultural interpretation.

False choice. "Pure sound" and "cultural interpretation" aren't the only two possible ways to enjoy music.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:44 AM on February 14, 2010


Given that the two bands most often held up as the greatest in the history of Rock and Roll are also both the most commercially successful bands in the history of the genre (i.e. Beatles and Stones), it seems really stupid to lament the commercialization of good music.
posted by The World Famous at 11:46 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's a good argument against the idea that popular and commercially successful bands can't also be great bands—a point that no one was making. I'm not sure how it shows that it's "really stupid to lament the commercialization of good music" however.
posted by defenestration at 2:29 PM on February 15, 2010


I'm not sure how it shows that it's "really stupid to lament the commercialization of good music" however.

Well, what happened when the Beatles' music got wildly popular? Did their music get all slick and homogenous, did they go into an artistic slump, or ... ?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:23 PM on February 15, 2010


Do I really have to point out that I can cherrypick bands where the opposite occurred?
posted by defenestration at 8:30 AM on February 16, 2010


Do I really have to point out that I can cherrypick bands where the opposite occurred?

It's not a question of whether, once commercially successful, a given band's music declined in quality. It's a question of whether commercialization itself hurts music that is undisputably good.

Where it gets really dumb is when the debate is centered around what is now referred to as "indie" music as discussed in this post and thread; music that can fairly be described as sounding an awful lot like modern variations on the various stages of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Whether it's 1985 and you're calling R.E.M. and the Replacements "college radio music" or it's the early 2000s and you're calling Wilco, the Flaming Lips, The Shins, and whoever else "indie," it's downright comical that anyone acts surprised and disappointed that music that rejects modern pop conventions in favor of older and far more successful and enduring pop conventions - including "experimental" albums, which are a standard pop trope dating back to the '60s - "suddenly" becomes popular with the masses.

Ooh! Your favorite band eschews modern digital recording techniques in favor of all-analog recording and a lo-fi sound! In other words, they're using the same techniques employed by the most successful bands in the history of rock and roll. It's not edgy or avant garde to record an experimental album on 40-year-old technology. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn went there already. It was just as weird as anything the Flaming Lips have ever released. And it was the debut album of a band that went on to release an album that remained on the Billboard 200 for 741 weeks. And nobody lamented how sad it was that "indie" band Pink Floyd had been diluted by commercial success.
posted by The World Famous at 9:42 AM on February 16, 2010


Do I really have to point out that I can cherrypick bands where the opposite occurred?

But I don't think anyone's saying that commercialization is inherently good for a band.

In contrast, people love to raise the idea that commercialization is inherently bad. This includes the article linked in this FPP and also another FPP a weeks ago.

Now, the writers are savvy enough to not come out and say, in so many words, that commercialization is an inherently bad thing for music, because this would be too easy to disprove. Instead, they hide behind discussions of what other fans think.

But if those writers are going to vaguely suggest that the commercialization of music is evil, it's fair enough for us to point out counterexamples.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:41 AM on February 16, 2010


Yeah, personally, I don't think commercialization of music is (necessarily) bad thing.

I found that this essay was more about the reactionary nature of the flow of indie tastes, though, which is a subject I find more interesting.
posted by defenestration at 12:43 PM on February 16, 2010


I found that this essay was more about the reactionary nature of the flow of indie tastes, though

Yes, hence the second-to-last paragraph of my previous comment.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:55 PM on February 16, 2010


"In contrast, people love to raise the idea that commercialization is inherently bad. This includes the article linked in this FPP and also another FPP a weeks ago.

Now, the writers are savvy enough to not come out and say, in so many words, that commercialization is an inherently bad thing for music, because this would be too easy to disprove. Instead, they hide behind discussions of what other fans think.
"

I had a longer reply to your earlier comment, Jaltcoh, but Metafilter eated it and I was like, whatever, no big deal.

But I think you miss the point of Abebe's discussion of the tension within indie. Indie, especially given its origins vis a vis the major label system, has always carried with it an implicit critique of commercialism and capitalism as an ethos. Without that, there are just a bunch of bands. So, given that one of the big music stories of the '00s was that all of these bands, as a movement, became the mainstream, saying this promulgated the idea that commercialism is inherently bad is a facile reading at best. The '00s Indie movement is like if credit unions became the primary banking apparatus in America, in part because of a reaction against big banking. That'd be pretty interesting, even if the rise meant differing amounts of assimilation of those big banking practices. Simply mistaking that as a big banking is bad article would be a disservice, and criticizing it as such would be misguided and unfair.
posted by klangklangston at 7:18 PM on February 16, 2010


What's that, Duke? I'm having a hard time hearing you. Umm, I'm trying to use my Reanimator Fluid ™ to hear what Duke Ellington said...

(wheeeeeze)Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it.

Oh, you thought I was going to quote him on "two kinds of music--good and bad"? Well, too many other artists are credited with that one for me to use it. Interestingly, I don't really like Duke's music--not dangerous enough for me I guess. Of course, the Duke wasn't without his prejudices, either, since he's quoted as saying that playing bebop is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.

I used to be quite a music snob—but you already know that, klang—and some say I still am. Spent the latter 60s cutting my teeth on garage rock & psychedelia and when that started to turn to endless jams or glam, I turned to jazz. Got way deep in, to the point where I couldn't see anything without referencing it in those terms. Howard Moon circa 1974. Detroit club rock circa 1979-198? saved me (but if you call it power pop, I'll rearrange your face). A (Detroit club-rock impresario) friend and I engaged in spirited cross-genre education and at the end of a few years, he could listen to Jimmy Smith or Eric Dolphy without apology and I could do the same with David Bowie or the Trashbrats.

Now, I listen to a wide variety of music but for me the label hardly matters—it's got to be good, and, for me (generally, not absolutely) it has to have that element of danger. That's one reason why, no matter how many times I've tried, Belle & Sebastian have been utter fail for me. I guess I agree with the upthread discussion of radio MDs—when I hear B&S, I think, well that's Tindersticks only lame (hey, it's just my opinion, ok—I know all the B&S fans out there disagree with me; give me another 20 years and I'll probably change my mind on them, too).

I think that Abebe could have boiled a whole lot of bs out of that article, but then I understand getting paid to put out words in quantity as well as I understand finding the fewest words possible to express the idea.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


playing bebop is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing

And if you think that's difficult, try playing bbp.
posted by The World Famous at 9:31 AM on February 23, 2010


Oh, you thought I was going to quote him on "two kinds of music--good and bad"? Well, too many other artists are credited with that one for me to use it.

I always thought I invented that quote. Suddenly, I'm far less impressed with myself.
posted by philip-random at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2010


Jaltcoh, ... I think you miss the point of Abebe's discussion of the tension within indie. Indie, especially given its origins vis a vis the major label system, has always carried with it an implicit critique of commercialism and capitalism as an ethos. Without that, there are just a bunch of bands.

Sorry I'm so late to this, but it just showed up in my recent activity...

I don't think I "missed the point" -- I just find it dull, too dull to write such a long-winded and non-incisive article about, too dull for the amount of ink/pixels spilled on it year after year, and certainly too dull for two FPPs on the topic within a month of each other.

I also find the put-downs of music in this thread (your "just a bunch of bands," mbrock's "secret private bliss, headphone suckling," etc.) pretty depressing. "Just a bunch of bands"?? That's much more exciting than some musician's or critic's "critique of commercialism and capitalism." "Bands" (and solo artists and what have you) are the whole point of being a music fan. Music critics are entitled, of course, to write about the economics of popular music; but then, I'm entitled to find their writings devoid of genuine passion for that music.

I don't think talking about music is somehow too solipstic or "private," as mbrock suggests. I mean, enjoying music in private is fine, and I'm not a fan of mbrock's comments about it. But even when music is a social activity, if I'm going to a concert or talking about or listening to music with friends or family, the stuff we're probably going to be excited about talking about is the music. Not the social trends or fashions or whether some group of people who consider themselves hip look down on some formerly small bands for becoming big or signing a contract. If a band that makes good music makes it big, we'll just be glad that they have a bigger budget to make better-produced recordings and disseminate their music more widely. I mean, sure I'll criticize Death Cab for Cutie's latest album, but not because it's on a major label -- because it's not as good as their previous two albums (one of which was on a major label, one of which wasn't). I don't know who these uber-hipsters are who despise musicians who achieve the success they work so hard for, but I can't remember meeting them.

And, again, it would be different if the conflict between small bands vs. big business were at all ground-breaking rather than a theme that's been rehashed by professional music critics for decades. If there is anything new or interesting here, then yes, I suppose I missed it. But I don't think there is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:53 AM on February 23, 2010


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