Indie Schmindie

17Oct07

Indie is the new Alternative, curdled homogenized barf;

The Nickelback of 2015 will swap denim for sweater and scarf.

Sweater Rock reigns supreme. One cannot sit through a commercial break at any point during the day without being exposed to a veritable mixtape of pseudo-hipster music. Big bucks. Everyone is cool these days, especially advertising scum.

Everything is cyclical.

Glam went Punk, Metal went Punk, Punk went Hardcore, Hardcore went Metal, Metal went Grunge, Grunge went Alternative, Alternative has gone Indie, Punk has gone Glam.

College Rock was in there somewhere.

In the days circa 1992, just after the Seattle scene exploded internationally, your sister went from Club Monaco sweatshirts and offensively high cut jeans to combat boots and riot grrl dresses seemingly overnight. Poison and Guns and Roses now sucked (well, outside of Appetite For Destruction and the occasional spin of “Talk Dirty To Me”, I suppose they always did); everyone jumped on board just long enough to justify attendance at a vigil, if required.

Digitech Grunge

I never bothered with it all that much. Sure, I liked Nirvana — not enough to actually buy an album, but I remember being struck by the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit as vividly as my first exposure to Sex Pistols footage (to which I was horrified yet strangely transfixed). But oh, the hype! The glorious hype.

Soon children were walking around with t-shirts emblazoned with the word “Grunge” in flannelized font. Columbia House were pushing albums billed as “great grunge!” Opportunistic musicians replaced their ESPs and Deans with Jazzmasters and Jaguars, tuned their E down to D and, well, I guess they didn’t really have to change their visual cues all that much — same hair, more flannel, less leather. Suddenly hair metal balladeers were playing catchup and bands that had previously been unbankable as punk were now hot grunge commodities.

But it didn’t last. Hampered by all the suicide and substance abuse, the industry needed a new, more inclusive label to expand on the conceptual limits of grunge in order to recapture the waning interest of a fickle music-buying public. Something that parents could get behind. Something alternative. Yeah, that’s it!

Alternative!

Initially, the genre was populated with bands taking most of their cues from Nirvana and Pearl Jam (most overrated band ever? perhaps, but they’re so good-natured about it), yet somewhat more cleaned up.

Alternative is to Grunge as New Wave is to Punk.

In the latter half of the nineties, things got even more fad-oriented but stayed within the acceptable bounds of Alternative, which is to say that it was all in the marketing; ska was ska and swing was swing, but since it was being played by young, cool looking quasi-punk rockers it seemed alternative enough to go over well at, say, the X-Games. Or at least on the soundtrack to a cable sports network’s late-night highlight filler programming.

But it didn’t last. Alternative had reached its saturation point, become so blatantly mainstream that this literal loss of meaning could no longer be overlooked. The people revolted! Er, actually they got bored. Either way, the music industry had to do something. New genres! Fresh from the Union Carbide Genre Mill. Namely, vacuous vacuum-sealed pop, faceless one-hit modern rock wonders, rap-metal (if your guitar player wears a hoodie and can only play while bent ninety degrees at the waist, you might be in a rap-metal band.) Other people’s children also figured in there somewhere — Tal Bachman, I’m looking at you.

Tal Bachman

Luckily the rise of Hip-Hop kept the coffers full, but it was just another stopgap.

Fortunately, Alternative reared its ugly head again under the guise of Indie Rock. Obviously, the two are quite different from an aesthetic standpoint, but their function within the record industry and the record-buying public at large are virtually identical. Alternative was not an actual alternative to anything — Indie is, by and large, not even remotely independent. Both genres are a watered-down version of something else, rendered marketable by a commercial softening of the edges coupled with the porous mentality of their respective target demographics — just more empty words stripped of their meaning in order to serve the greater good. “Art” begins to suck as want becomes need.

But it won’t last. Nothing ever does. Next spring we’ll have a whole new soundtrack for buying shit and fucking indiscriminately. It’s already changing. Electronic music appears to be making inroads within the collective head-space of the mainstream again, reborn as Indie-Dance.

So replace your drummer with a laptop while you can, de-lint your favorite sweater, freshen that scarf and polish your sunburst Telecaster with the spit of youthful corporate vitality.

Get to it. Pitchfork is waiting and Volkswagen is already getting impatient.

Hurry, because the boyband revival — children — is just a shot away.

Just a shot away.

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5 Responses to “Indie Schmindie”

  1. GREAT POST! The music industry makes me sick. The art is gone, and its all about money. I almost cried the first time I heard RANCID’s latest album. But there are still a handful of bands that refuse to sell out. Check out Matt & Kim, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, and Danielson, just to name a few.

  2. 2 arsebundren

    Thanks for the recommendations… I shall have to check them out. I too was rather let down by the last Rancid album and I can’t say I’m looking forward to the next. Especially if Tim’s collaboration with Skye Sweetnam (!) is any indication of things to come.

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