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December 27, 2017 12:52 PM   Subscribe

The AV Club investigates: Has indie rock reached a midlife crisis?
posted by CatastropheWaitress (61 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The bands and the songs that flourished in that post-punk/new-wave/garage revival scene arrived prematurely wizened, their sounds inspired by previous lost generations, their lyrics already mourning broken connections and the rapid passing of time. “It’s different now that I’m poor and aging,” Interpol’s Paul Banks moaned at a ripe old 23. “When I used to go out, I would know everyone that I saw / Now I go out alone, if I go out at all,” The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser lamented on “The Rat,” offering a sing-along eulogy for the good old days while they were ostensibly in the thick of them. These bands played an older person’s music for an older person’s tastes; many of them dressed in an older person’s clothes while singing of an older person’s concerns.

Indie Rock was normcore before normcore was normcore. I guess now it's whatever normcore is called when it's unintentional.
posted by duffell at 1:04 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Say what you will about their relevance, but all of the indie rockers I know personally are aging shockingly well.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:10 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Indie rock is so boring and it takes itself so seriously. It might as well be Lincoln Center "America's Classical Music" style jazz.
posted by thelonius at 1:13 PM on December 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Anyway! Interesting article. The stuff toward the end was really the most intriguing to me--the idea that the genre is dead/dying because there is no "scene" keeping it alive any longer (as alluded to in the title of the FPP).

Maybe it's negligent on the author's part, but I personally found the general lack of Gen X/Millennial/In-betweener analysis refreshing. That'd probably provide plenty of fodder for a followup article, though.
posted by duffell at 1:13 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

The article touches upon this towards its conclusion, but if I never hear another het cis white guy holding forth about The State Of Music again, it will be too soon. Make room, motherfuckers.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:14 PM on December 27, 2017 [17 favorites]

teenage angst has paid off well
now im bored and old
posted by entropicamericana at 1:17 PM on December 27, 2017 [13 favorites]

When it comes to Indie Rock - the bum out for me is the fact that, for all the craziness in the world, guitar rock music genres are decidedly anemic when it comes to contributing to protest/social discourse, or even just new ideas. I've gravitated more and more to Black, Death, Thrash metal genres and, I guess, Punk as well (but it seems to suffer from the same lack of new avenues), solely because the song/album construction is more fitting for this mad world. Remember when Indie Rock did that? Yeah, it was more Reagan years, and early/mid nineties. It's been floundering since then IMHO. There's plenty of bursts of talent, but as the article conveys - the staying power isn't there.
posted by mctsonic at 1:17 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

This isn't specific to indie, but I'd love to see the regionality of scenes and sounds make a comeback.
posted by defenestration at 1:18 PM on December 27, 2017 [11 favorites]

True, mctsonic... even in its heyday (during the Bush years), indie rock was absolute shit as protest music.

On another note entirely, this article tangentially reminded me of The O.C. (ugh) for the first time in many, many years. That goddamned show--which mainstreamed a few indie acts--was one of those cultural phenomena that was seemingly everywhere and then fucking nowhere all of a sudden, never to be mentioned again. Its most lasting contribution to popular culture was probably the umpteen parody videos which were made, in turn, in response to SNL's "Dear Sister" sketch parodying the show.
posted by duffell at 1:26 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Indie rock is so boring and it takes itself so seriously. It might as well be Lincoln Center "America's Classical Music" style jazz.

The article touches upon this towards its conclusion, but if I never hear another het cis white guy holding forth about The State Of Music again, it will be too soon. Make room, motherfuckers.

I have many, many thoughts on this article but these comments are already touched on the first thing that came to my mind. Like many folks, I came to "indie" music in college. As a black woman I didn't grow up listening to most of the punk/post-punk/noise rock that influenced many of these bands, but it was made clear to me that I needed to study up before I was allowed to have a valid opinion. I was told what magazines to read (Paste, not Spin which was was too commercial. Rolling Stone was a joke). I was also told which bands I had to listen to and adore. Occasionally people reacted badly people reacted if I didn't have the correct responses. (Once a guy overheard me telling a friend that I couldn't stand The Velvet Underground and stomped out of the room in obvious protest.) And forget about having the "wrong" opinion as a music writer, people really came after you with their Pitchforks *rimshot.*

I didn't let that deter my becoming a fan, but I can see how it would have been discouraging to others. If music is about community, who wants to be surrounded by prickly academics " but, actuallying" between set breaks. Now that the past is the past, I'm glad to have The Smiths and most of The Cure in my life, but I think indie music might have reached more fans of the "scene" didn't require so much homework.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2017 [35 favorites]

the indie-rock heyday that sprung up around The Strokes and The White Stripes et al.
Excuse me, what? Weren’t we calling that an indie rock resurgence when it was happening?

This piece appears to be written by someone who hasn’t read all the other pieces about the decline of indie rock that began appearing in about 1987.
posted by chrchr at 1:39 PM on December 27, 2017 [21 favorites]

Brandon Flowers sure looks young. Which is good, because his brand of indie dance-rock needs to stick around so the youth has something to dance to.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:44 PM on December 27, 2017

As far as I can tell, the biggest problem with past decade indie rock is that the scene it flourished from - old P4K, NME, MySpace, Blogcore, Hypem, is dead or no longer has the same pull it used to. Pitchfork pushed Arcade Fire big. Same with MySpace with NME with the Arctic Monkeys. Countless bands got a wee bit more of exposure thanks to a blog post (if I got a few mails from PRs asking me to do a write-up on their bands - sometimes not total unknowns - I can only imagine what popular bloggers got) that allowed them to go from a local to an international band, or used MySpace to interact directly with their fans anywhere which was new then.

It's great we have hashtags on sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp (I'm sure I wouldn't have sold a thing without them), but the lack of a scene for curation itself right now that aren't facebook groups or subreddits with a terrible signal to noise ratio (and this idea that we should recommend the writers stuff is ridiculous considering AVC has been very click-driven for ages now) means it's often an impossibly long game of Where's Wally.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:19 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Indie (and "alternative") are silly labels for what is and has been for a long time the commercially dominant form of non-oldies rock music. Sure, Guns 'n Roses out-grosses The National on tour ... but whoever is making GnR-inspired hard rock these days can't fill a high school auditorium. Indie doesn't have to defend itself anymore.

And it's a good thing (right?) that rock is no longer the only genre of music that can be appreciated by people with a college degree and no taste for classical or jazz. And it's not just consumers, either -- when all of those impeccably-bearded poetic-lyrics white guitar dudes spin records after their show is over they aren't spinning Arcade Fire or Death Cab for Cuties, are they?
posted by MattD at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Fellow oldsters: whatever particular niche of indie rock you miss from twenty years ago, most likely there are women/POC/LGBTQ people who can scracth that itch just fine today. I am embarrassed how long it took me to cotton on to that. But now, when I find myself getting stuck in 90s era guitar rock like GbV, I just switch on over to Car Seat Headrest. Or when I stall out listening to say Crooked Rain and I want to hear more avant guitar rock fused to 70s singer-songwriterisms, Courtney Barnett will get me there. And god help me, if I ever dip a toe into old industrial music because sometimes it's good to dance while the world feels like it's ending, Algiers is there to save the day with its clanging rock/gospel hybrid. There's a whole if this/then that guideline in my head that is keeping me sane.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:25 PM on December 27, 2017 [27 favorites]

It doesn't refute the entire thesis, but those Walkmen lines were always screamed by me and my friends on the understanding of post-breakup devastation per the verses, not middle age.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:30 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Huh. I'm 46, was raised on classic and hair rock, blipped over to '00s rock bands (found most of them derivative), but am super stoked with current (indie- or whatever-) rock: Dead Sara, Wolf Alice, Charly Bliss, Bully, The Regrettes, Emma Ruth Rundel, Chastity Belt, Hinds, Diet Cig, Honeyblood, etc., are sooooo good.
We live among an embarrassment of riches.
posted by signal at 3:06 PM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Wank wank wank.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:11 PM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

How about we start leaving our favorite *young* indie rock, like signal did? I’ll second Chastity Belt and Charly Bliss (adding some of the other names to my list to be listened to), and add Hand Habits (like Low, if you need a ‘90s touchstone) plus Sheer Mag (righteously rawkin’). If it matters, both are female-fronted. Ditto on how stoked I am about new-breed indie.
posted by saintjoe at 3:42 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

" ... as part of the recent, scales-righting semi-movement known as 'poptimism.'"
That phrase is itself at least 20 years old, probably older, and the idea behind it can be traced back to Paul Morley's "perfect pop" almost 40 years ago. As far as I can tell, the only point to this piece is that the artists and the audiences who started playing and listening at the turn of the century are no longer so youthful. Join the club, guys. It happens.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:51 PM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

According to Spotify, I listened to a lot of Aye Nako and Baby Ghosts this year.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:54 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

First: eponysterical.

Second: Sean O’Neal is such a windbag.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

This piece appears to be written by someone who hasn’t read all the other pieces about the decline of indie rock that began appearing in about 1987.

Seriously. I'm pretty sure I was at the funeral for indie rock and it was about 1994. Windy and Carl played in an unfinished and dirty arts village basement. There was a wake involving Robotussin shots. We buried an unopened Primal Scream 12" of "Higher than the Sun" in an old beer soaked flannel. Then we went to a rave next door and never looked back.

I'm definitely not the target audience for indie rock, and this has often surprised people because apparently I often look like just the right demographic of hipster white cis male, and that just doesn't actually map because this white boy likes to dance.

"I bet you like Dashboard." "No, not really." "Death Cab? Arcade Fire?" "Err, no, got anything else?" "White Stripes?" "I mean, anything without guitars and mopey male singer-songwriters?" "Wait, what do you mean? I've got some T-Pain and 50 Cent." "Err, no?" "Metallica? Korn?" "Oh hell no, and please don't say..." "Phish. Dave Matthews Band" *winces* "No, look, I mainly like really deep underground house music and techno, and then a bunch of really weird shit." "House? You don't look gay." "I'm not, and what the hell is that supposed to mean anyway? Give me the damn aux. Just for that I'm going to make you listen to some Diamanda Galás and John Zorn, maybe some Low or Steel Pole Bathtub."

I've spent almost my entire musicological life digging into the really weird shit, not because I think it makes me look cool or keeps me relevant but because I'm just super bored by almost everything else and I'm actually a fucking weirdo with needs. Weird needs, ok? I like my music so weird it can cause synesthesia and may even trigger seizures.

Near the top of that list of extremely boring shit for me is most of the whiny, mopey scenester indie rock from the last 20-30 years. If I wanted to listen to good singer-songwriter stuff I can just go listen to John Prine, Leonard Cohen or Townes Van Zandt and mainline the really good shit. And sometimes I do.

And, yeah, when I ask even the most defensive indie rock hipsters to compare something like The White Stripes to John Prine it usually ends the argument with something like "Now, that's just not fair." Dude, it wasn't fair when I tried to turn you on to Coil or Nurse With Wound, either. Put down the ribbon mic, fedora and pawn shop Dobro for a minute and try to keep up with, like, twenty years ago. Let's get you really uncomfortable.

There is no safe Acme of indie music or pop culture for you to stand upon like a Holy Mountain, and if there was, it certainly wouldn't be a bunch of white dudes trying to recreate the garage band recording quality and production aesthetics of of the 1960s and 70s, and, y'know, re-stealing black rock/blues/folk music one more time just like those dudes in the 60s and 70s, like it wasn't bad enough the first few times.


There's a few local and up and coming indie bands I'll go see, but it's because they're local and they put on a damn good show, and I know like half of the band. And live, small, intimate shows are where it should probably be at with indie rock, not world tours.

And I mainly go for the people and the nerdy music production conversations that happen before or after the show... which, at least for me, was one of the defining facets and factors of an indie rock/music scene, that regular people were actually making music, not just talking about what music is acceptable or not to listen to and forming a bunch of cliques and scenes around it and passively consuming products.

These, to me, are the true roots of folk, and of punk, and of indie rock. The DIY of getting your hands dirty and actually making some music and not just being a consumer of a product, style or brand.

And this is just a snarky musical rant. Try not to take any of it personally. My tastes and opinions are definitely my own.

What I do love about the indie scene is all the crossovers, cross pollination and experimental stuff that has come out over the years. Stuff like Windy and Carl. Or Killing Joke's brief foray into electronica via The Orb. And really weird outsider stuff like Blectum from Blechdom. I also have a soft spot for old new psychedelia and Manchester and that era - you know, Primal Scream, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Pop Will Eat Itself.

A lot of this wouldn't exist without the sheltering umbrella of indie rock and related independent music publishing, and the experimentation that happened. Hell, a lot of the artists I'm mentioning that I like have also had more mainstream or otherwise more accessible and less experimental indie rock projects.

The irony isn't lost on me. Music isn't a hard geographical landscape. It's more like a tapestry or quilt, or mixing, flowing water. Defining the edges of genres and movements is like trying to measure a coastline by counting grains of sand - it never stops moving or flowing.
posted by loquacious at 4:02 PM on December 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

thelonius, exactly what you said. What's popularly known as indie rock has become the literary fiction of music. That doesn't mean it can't be revitalized or that it doesn't contain riches, but it does mean for too long it's largely chronicled the lived experience of a bunch of angsty white dudes. That image evoked of beardos sipping craft cocktails and craft beer while enjoying the likes of Fleet Foxes (lol) is such a well-off white male thing—and just as with the craft culture of barbecue, beer, and moonshine, it can be an appropriative thing, whence the specter arises of these dudes being arbiters and gatekeepers of popular taste. (Hat tip and an amen to CatastropheWaitress.) Yes, that dream is over! Clinging to it is silly, because so much new and good music is out there.

What has changed, perhaps, is who's leading them: The "white male voice" that was long dominant—and that Longstreth, Pecknold, Murphy et al. represent—has increasingly been replaced by women, people of color, and LGBTQ artists.

I'm glad O'Neal got there and connected those dots. 'Cause for a sec, I was like, yeah, what do the bands mentioned so far all have in common? It's a buncha white dudes, man. On the way home this afternoon I had actually been thinking about The Strokes and The National and The Killers and Hot Hot Heat and Interpol and wondering what you even call that sound, and I thought, "indie rock," but it was a very specific sound that basically was billed as the "revitalization" of indie rock about 10 years ago but was actually its death knell, because it was the sound of indie rock hitting middle age and becoming overproduced and known to the masses. That said, I'm also thinking of the aggressively underproduced but nonetheless appropriative stuff like Tom Waits. (I personally can't stand his shtick, but then again I don't like blues all that much; that said, I feel like if you like blues, you should listen to a real blues musician, not some dude singing in the faux-muddy voice of Christian Bale as Batman. He can write a good song, but he should sing it in his real voice, unless that's the only voice he has left after years of that...) Anyway, I digress.

I will say, casually bringing up the names of actual indie-rock bands from the genre's inception is like an incantation or password to a certain subset of scenester: You know the 'Mats and GBV and Pavement?! It's sort of delightful to see them light up when you say so, that spark of recognition for something in their secret pantheon. I say that genuinely—what critics discuss as indie rock is at this point more a set of shibboleths than actual independent rock, and the truly indie stuff, all that deliberately atonal weirdness from its inception, never did gain a wide audience. But that said, the only truly necessary characteristic of indie rock I can think of is that it's meant to be independent, and there's more independent rock than perhaps ever before. Anyone who says indie rock is dead is mourning some specific scene or some specific sound, and too often, as the article touches on, that's one inhabited mainly by a bunch of middle-aged white dudes at this point. I'm recalling the fiftysomething white guy in a Funkadelic T-shirt I saw pushing his way through the crowd at the Spoon show I went to in September; I'm thinking of a friend's Facebook post at the time about how those guys were basically the equivalent of the dude in a Foghat shirt someone recalled seeing at an early-'90s indie show.

I don't want to confuse a critique of this with endorsing ageism, though. I don't know those people, so I can't say they're inevitably unhip or whatever; at least they're still going to shows. I'm sympathetic to how people age and their point of view may not age well with them; not to bring generations into this unnecessarily, but I'm a millennial who married a Gen-X indie-rocker boy myself, and I've read a lot about the genesis of that particular scene in the years since we got together, seeking to understand him as much as his music. But the scene, inasmuch as there is such a scene to speak of, can certainly be something other than what it's become. The sounds were and still could be good; the focus just has to change.

And it already has. The first names that come to mind for me: Camp Cope, Neko Case, Bettie Serveert, The Bamboos, Silversun Pickups, Come, Sahara Hotnights, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Grimes, Kathleen Edwards, Cibo Matto, Tegan and Sara, 2:54... A bunch of women, in short, from all over the world. But the other thing I remember from seeing Spoon back in September is this: I took in their show, then immediately thereafter migrated with the rest of the crowd to see Cage the Elephant. The difference was just palpable. The urgent intimacy I recalled from Britt Daniel and company's set at Matador at 21 back in 2010 was entirely supplanted in my romantic and emotional imagination in short order by the shirtless contortions of Matt Shultz, channeling rock's gods and demons under the hot lights—and a crowd of all ages and genders swaying together in the dark, singing all the words with feeling. I remember feeling amazed, since I didn't recall having heard many of their songs on the radio—how did everyone know all the words already? But it's just well and truly clear at this point that none of this happens through commercial radio anymore.

But grumpybear69, your point is an important one, too. One of the things indie rock did and has done is depart from perhaps the traditional rock-star mode of party 'til you die. Indie rock from its inception valued building community over burning out, and those who stuck around built record labels and publications and have tended to live in a much more sustainable way, to generalize a bit. It was perhaps inevitable that these rockers would, in fact, live long enough to go through more than one midlife crisis apiece.

And defenestration, your point is a good one. I disagree that people don't care where bands are from—but maybe this is quaint, because I used to be a local music writer and editor myself. Nonetheless, one of my favorite forms of tourism is auditory, finding out where music comes from, the context in which it was formed, the references I wouldn't get otherwise. I didn't used to care, when I was still in school—at the time, I only cared that it sounded good. But yeah, DirtyOldTown, to pick up on your point, that changed for me when I started to listen to, in fact, Guided by Voices and the 'Mats and Pavement and hear sounds that weren't overproduced. And I read the books about those bands and the scenes they came out or and learned more of the interwoven stories of those dudes and their labels, and suddenly making music seemed possible to me, as a woman rocker, in a way it never had before, because I could hear the way the songs came together, and I could read about how these communities were organized. And then, from there, like a lot of other women and queer people, I made it my own.

There's no doubt in my mind that what all of those guys created was special; there's nothing like being among the true believers at a Guided by Voices show, even if there are always a lot of bros there who think it's all about beer and fucking. I mean, it's rock, so... The mistake that any of these dudes—the musicians and the critics and perhaps even the bros—made was was believing that they were indie rock, that the map was the territory. So loquacious, you touched on what I was about to say in that regard. Indie rock lives on, but it's something else now, and its communities are connected through things other than a shared history of BMX or skate culture or all being part of the same insular New York scene.
posted by limeonaire at 4:08 PM on December 27, 2017 [10 favorites]

I just post random half finished underground indie bullshit on the internet.

I did it in cis boymode at 20 and I do it in queer girlmode at 43.

Not giving a fuck is a fundamental part of the aesthetic of indie rock because we were punks who started taking acid and smoking weed and realized minor threat was a phase not a lifelong commitment to rage.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:15 PM on December 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Also: regarding GBV, Tobin Sprout released a phenomenal album this year called “The Universe and Me”
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:21 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

One employee at a record store held the B&S Lazy Line Painter Jane box set above my head and wouldn't give it to me unless I named 5 songs in the set.

That's a paddlin'
posted by thelonius at 4:35 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

'Cause for a sec, I was like, yeah, what do the bands mentioned so far all have in common? It's a buncha white dudes, man.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metric, Ladytron, The White Stripes, TV on the Radio, and Bloc Party beg to differ. Hell, the actual article is talking about Arcade Fire.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:52 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hell, the actual article is talking about Arcade Fire.

And Grizzly Bear
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:56 PM on December 27, 2017

Fair enough, fair enough; I overstated that. I was noticing the preponderance of white-dude bands among those mentioned, though, and one of the points made in the article was that the popular white-male perspective in indie rock was quite clearly no longer the only one. OK?
posted by limeonaire at 4:58 PM on December 27, 2017

I'm keeping an inventory of comments in this thread that read logically if preceded by "Well, actually..."
It's uh, a ot of ;
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, all those bands that have been around a decade or two are making music that sounds like they've been making music for a decade or two.

There's a relatively predictable progression that comes with being a successful indie musician. When you start out, you're probably doing it for fun, writing three- or four-chord songs that you and your friends can jam out to. Gradually, as you do music more intensively, and eventually do it for a living, your knowledge of music theory broadens, and your music becomes more complex, and is capable of expressing more complex emotions. Which is nice, because as time has passed, your thinking has become more nuanced as well.

I think Sting functions as both an excellent example and a cautionary tale.

In the meantime, the indie scene features Julien Baker who makes me cry so damned much, and Jay Som, who makes me think the world is awesome, and Perfume Genius, who simply inspires awe, or Parekh and Singh who apparently originated in an Indian Wes Anderson film...

Indie music is as exciting as ever. But it takes just as much effort as ever to find the stuff that you like.

Totally worth it though.
posted by MrVisible at 5:03 PM on December 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

I feel like if you like blues, you should listen to a real blues musician, not some dude singing in the faux-muddy voice of Christian Bale as Batman. He can write a good song, but he should sing it in his real voice ...

I mean, I don't think anyone should like Tom Waits, nor do I think there's anything wrong with not liking Tom Waits (I'm sort of so-so on his work—some of it I like a lot, some of it I'm completely bored by because yes, he's driven his shtick as far as he can), but "Tom Waits is bad because he isn't 'real blues' seems like exactly the kind of "indie" take that has less to do with the actual music than with how the music is positioned—who listens to it/who doesn't/how it seems to be received—everything that gets bound up in that fraught word "authenticity." I think it's quite possible to like Tom Waits simply because one likes Tom Waits.

I've also always liked queerness and glamour and weird stuff too much to be very into "indie" rock. But there's nothing very wrong with dudes playing earnest guitar rock and the objections (and encomiums) to it as a genre—like other kinds of popular music—often seem to have more to do with beliefs about the kind of respect/lack of such a particular scene is thought to be getting than anything else. It's a genre. And worrying about the health of the genre is like worrying about the health of the novel.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:08 PM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

To be fair, I have no great investment in this piece, since its point has been made multiple times in the last few years and probably as far back as when the Strokes/the White Stripes first got big in '01 or '02- e.g. this article from three years ago when Interpol/Karen O/Julian Casablancas all happened to release albums around the same time. It's just when I think of indie music it calls back to my high school subscription to SPIN and '04 was also the year where Kanye and M.I.A. (not to mention Rilo Kiley, Le Tigre, and Dizzee Rascal) first got big as well, when Green Day made American Idiot, when Chappelle was parodying Li'l Jon, and The O.C. and Scrubs were showcasing all of it on network TV to the mainstream masses, and it all kinda blends together in a vibrant, hyped-filled fun fest that chased the Bush II blues away a bit. So as a kid as far removed away from the NY mope scene as possible, the music of that genre and of that era seemed far less monotone and staid to me. Wasn't everything a little indie, at that moment?
posted by Apocryphon at 5:12 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I feel like the whole concept of the “indie scene” needs to be further genreified. A lot of these bands he mentions are like, big-I indie bands, which I understand what he means by calling them indie because I grew up in that scene. But damn, there are still a ton of bands that are indie bands that are performing at house shows and warehouse parties and small venues everywhere, and a lot of it isn’t by straight white guys.

And perhaps even more pointedly relevant to the New York scene that Goodman’s book memorializes, no one really knows—or gives a fuck about—where bands are from anymore. We all live on the internet now; cities and scene mean little to those outside of them. The most vibrant “scene” of the past decade is SoundCloud.
This is wrong. People care where bands are from, because it gives them a destination to move to to see more bands or to meet people to start more bands. That’s the thing that is missing here, which I mentioned above: there are still people going to shows everywhere, and that’s the indie scene. A lot of people I know moved to Portland for those reasons alone. I did, and I consequently helped the scene by having bands play my houses, which introduced people and created networks and created influences. I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, I’m saying that because that’s how shit works.
posted by gucci mane at 5:26 PM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

What I never understood from that era is what "scene kids" really are, because the subculture specifically seemed to be a variant on emo/hardcore kids, and do they still exist in the modern day? Ah I see Wikipedia has caught on.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2017

Another Obituary for the CDN Indie Rock scene from Carl Wilson in The Glob.

The churn in musical tastes continues as ever. Recent past year's anthems sound dull & faded. Give it a generation for the chaff to be winnowed.
posted by ovvl at 5:40 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm just happy Feist came back.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:15 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you start out, you're probably doing it for fun, writing three- or four-chord songs that you and your friends can jam out to. Gradually, as you do music more intensively, and eventually do it for a living, your knowledge of music theory broadens, and your music becomes more complex, and is capable of expressing more complex emotions.

To me, the fascinating thing is that there is no direct relationship between learning more complicated chord progressions, harmonic tricks, etc. and writing good songs. Many, many great songs are, in fact, extremely simple. If you apply yourself and learn a bunch of rules for stringing chords together in a way that sounds nice, you can generate songs at will, but they won't have anything compelling about them just because they have a lot of moving parts and they resolve in the right way. There's not necessarily any emotional message there, you know? If you have nothing to say, learning a fancier language won't change that.

That's not to say that there in no relationship at all. The Beatles, when they were young, would, when they learned a new chord, write a song around it, and those are often great songs indeed, although they were written, at least in part, as exercises. A song like "California Dreaming" isn't that simple, and it has some kind of fancy chords (like G#7sus), but it does have (at least for me) a lot of emotional payload.
posted by thelonius at 8:17 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I knew it was loquacious before the end of the first sentence. I met you once somewhere in the tenderloin or soma maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

We exchanged just a few words, then I started feeling socially awkward so I left the place out the back door and took a long, through GGP and the presidio all the way to immigrants point.

Listening to Coil and Throbbing Gristle and Zoviet France, the LOAD, maybe some Cyclobe. I wish I had stayed and learned about some good deep underground house.

I get the need for some weird music, and I also get bored easily by guitar music. But as long as there are people who like to make it, and people who like to enjoy, how can it be dead?

Sorry, I have nothing of substance to add to the discussion.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 8:25 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

But for real indie rock was mostly over by, like, 1995? Right?
posted by thivaia at 9:03 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wish I lived in a world where people were aware of The Strokes or Interpol, much less to have been a scene that people were able to get sick of. I think The Strokes had 1 famous song that people might be aware of, and Interpol none. The Killers (their new I'm the Man song or whatever it's called is ironically hilarious), Staind, White Stripes, and maybe Sum 41 were the famous bands from the early 2000s, not Interpol.

but whoever is making GnR-inspired hard rock these days can't fill a high school auditorium.
You mean Eagles of Death Metal and most of Josh Homme's bands? They do fine.

One employee at a record store held the B&S Lazy Line Painter Jane box set above my head and wouldn't give it to me unless I named 5 songs in the set. I got the Tigermilk and Fold Your Hands albums for for like a dollar at a used CDs store in like 1999. Different worlds man.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:05 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ah man, they didn't play Interpol's "Evil" incessantly where you are? I actually like that song, but it definitely was overplayed at one time here (U.S. Midwest). Hearing The Strokes' "Someday" makes me want to punch something. Apple also made use of "Last Night" in promos. It doesn't include whistles or handclaps as far as I can tell, upon brief relisten, but to my brain, after years of hearing twee indie garage-rock sounds, it seems like something that would. That lite-indie sound was picked up and used in a whole lot of commercial jingles that did include those elements.

So much desire for punching.
posted by limeonaire at 10:52 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I have nothing of substance to add to the discussion.

It's ok, I rarely do either. I'm trying to remember what meetup this was.
posted by loquacious at 1:13 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Q: How many scenesters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: *scoff* You don't know?
posted by duffell at 3:19 AM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

But for real indie rock was mostly over by, like, 1995? Right?

I draw the high water mark at pavement’s slanted and enchanted album hahahaha.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

A huge thank you to dirtyoldtown, signal, and Mr. Visible for the awesome band recs. I've been using Spotify to its full potential because of your posts. I'm a full album kind of woman and it's been a pleasure getting to know these groups. I'm also the kind of woman who gets most of my music recs from NPR's First Listen and Tiny Desk Concerts. As such, I don't know what's indie anymore but I know there are many people making some flipping cool music. Here are some of my recent faves: Tanks and the Bangas, Vagabon (First Listen), and Margo Price.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 4:26 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm keeping an inventory of comments in this thread that read logically if preceded by "Well, actually..."
It's uh, a ot of ;

Well, actually, that's a paddlin'
posted by thelonius at 4:28 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

As someone mentioned up thread, it's worth remembering that the commercial rock and pop in the early aughts (the indie heyday the author was discussing) was nay unlistenable. Pop was full of auto-tuned Disney actresses; rock was still trying to get blood from the stone of nu-metal while the bands that survived the '90s had gotten too comfortable to really challenge themselves. Indie music was a breath of fresh air. That's why pretty much everything that didn't sound like it was on the radio was thrown into the genre: from the ragged blues-rock of The White Stripes to the quiet computer-generated pop of the Postal Service.

Several things occurred in reaction to that period of terrible music: music piracy, which led to streaming, the cultural ascendancy of hip-hop and the rise of internet radio. Combined, these were fatal blows to Indie as a scene ( though not as a genre). With streaming, you didn't need the White Stripes to introduce you to blues rock you could explore the genre yourself, the same with singer-songwriters or folk-rock. If you were a casual fan just looking for an alternative to FM radio, the internet says you're welcome. Now you don't have to read Pitchfork to find a new throwback band, you want to listen to, you can listen to pretty much anything from the past 100 years of popular music whenever you want. If you want to find something new and wholly different, you can search these same platforms and find something cool. The scene is no longer the source.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 5:27 AM on December 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

Here’s a Spotify list of shambling twee and indie stuff compiled by mefites and others. Feel free to add to it:

Chalk Pastels and Conte Crayons
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:56 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I know it's been mentioned in thread already, but if you take away one thing from this thread, nay, this site, nay the entire internet, it should be this:


Seriously, your ears will thank you.
posted by signal at 6:26 AM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

The scene is no longer the source.

Goddamn that's sagelike.
posted by duffell at 6:27 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't look at me like that
Like you think I'm some wine twat
I like it
I sit in me house a lot
Eventually you get an idea, little shit
Go and listen to some fucking garage punk, you pointy little tit
--Sleaford Mods, "TCR"
posted by mondo dentro at 8:31 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is Indie Rock Alive is evergreen content, congratulations to Sean O'Neal on the years of future clicks.

Seems just a little weird that this article is written as indie vaguely 'losing' to hip-hop / pop, but doesn't quite consider these other genres or why they might be ascendant. Luckily, those other genres have very intelligent people who have said things! There's material there - Snoop Dogg (46) and 50 Cent (42) talking about the currently-ubiquitous versacci flow, André Benjamin (42) on how he just doesn't feel it anymore, about how hip-hop is about freshness.

For instance, through that lens, a more compelling narrative is: isn't it weird that these guys think they deserve to be famous forever?
posted by tmcw at 8:48 AM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

isn't it weird that these guys think they deserve to be famous forever?

That to me is like...the total antithesis of indie rock lol. YOU STOPPED BEING INDIE ROCK WHEN YOU STARTED PLAYING THE MAIN FESTIVAL STAGE.

You're just stadium dad rock at the point, man.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:51 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

And regarding fame and obscurity...Joni Mitchell's song "Boho Dance" really frames the whole ridiculous preciousness that is the underground "to cool to be famous" indie rock attitude:

I was a hopeful in rooms like this
When I was working cheap
It's an old romance-the Boho dance
It hasn't gone to sleep


And you were in the parking lot
Subterranean by your own design
The virtue of your style inscribed
On your contempt for mine

The irony that I never made it out of the boho dance is not lost on me. I mean, I guess someone has to be that asshole in the underground club. *sighs*.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:02 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I thought it was remarkable that R.E.M. became such a huge stadium rock band. It must be such a strange transition to make. They were as indie as you can get, originally, booking their own tours, doing their own driving, playing clubs and then small theaters.
posted by thelonius at 9:54 AM on December 28, 2017

Kurt Cobain didn't even survive that transition.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:55 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Indie rock may die but bloviating about it is eternal.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:26 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Say what you want about EDM, its default action is not navel-gazing. Well not its own navel, at least.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:03 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Say what you want about EDM, its default action is not navel-gazing.
No, it's gazing at someone else's record while you click buttons on a turntable and occasionally press the built-in presets on a keyboard and pretend you made a new song.

Just kidding, but EDM is never going to have a midlife crisis because if it ever grew up it would just become something like disco (which is not a knock against either one).
posted by The_Vegetables at 4:22 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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