Sunday, March 04, 2007

Indie Rock has become like that friend that everyone constantly makes fun of but still keeps around. It seems like the investment alot of people my age (28) had in this music came from the bitterness of having been constantly told 'You missed the 60's'. When I heard Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices I was almost shocked. Like, 'this is as good as The White Album'. It was amazing somehow to 15 year old me that music could still be that good. Of course I had just undergone some no-Motley-Crue-for-you-cuz-they-sing-about-satan trauma, some hybernating with the Dances With Wolves score (which I will always claim has good qualities), and was nearing the end of my interest in sports. But that 'this is as good as the White Album' kinda-realization was a door for me to actually stop caring about the whole now vs. then dichotomy, even if I didn't know it then. But this icky kind of nostalgia persists, everywhere one looks. Definitely in poetry.

But back to Indie Rock, it's interesting to note the change in nomenclature surrounding this genre. And the genre is so broadly defined, it doesn't really exist. Obviously Indie Rock exists in the way Jazz exists, and not in the way a more specificly defined genre such as Be Bop exists. It's almost like saying 'Classic Rock'. Think about it. Just as there is that little (large) niche in every city for a Classic Rock station, there'll soon enough be one for the Indie Rock station. And it'll be aimed at us (18 to 35 at the present time) as we age (dis)gracefully.

The word 'Indie' seems to stick and lend itself to marketing in a peculiar way. Remember when it was 'underground' or 'alternative' or even 'cutting edge'! And of course the word 'punk' is like this gauzy spectrality, looming over the whole field. And obviously the meanings of these words dissolve completely, in the process of being utelized to sell Bloc Party and Bright Eyes albums.

But maybe I'm way off. One definable trend is that music is becoming specialized, more compartmentalized within the internet. Maybe Kurt Cobain would have liked this. Nirvana fans, in the present context, would be able to go to Nirvana's myspace, commiserate among themselves in chat rooms. And Nirvana would never have to sign to a major label. Never have to deal with dreaded jocks!

But maybe that's internet-utopia idealizing.

And maybe there is no next Nirvana. Not that they were so unbelievably great. The Nirvana phenomenon was that people who would never listen to a band like that (supposedly) started listening to a band like that. So much so that (gasp) Michael Jackson was briefly no longer the top-selling artist.

Its come to be considered naive to say 'My favorite kind of music is Indie Rock.' I think it would be funny to say 'Mostly, I'm into alternative.' Remember alternative? Vedder on Time's cover? I have the feeling that kind of media phenomenom-a-non isn't going to happen anymore. The zeitgeist belongs more to technology and the market now than it did even in the 90's. More people are excited about the new iPhone than about the new Arcade Fire, regardless of how you feel about that band.

And nobody missed anything, don't worry. Anyone can get a copy of Bee Thousand, and its still great. The 90's were not a GREAT ERA in music. There was never a time when the nomenclature of music, or even the context of music, was more important than the music. You wouldn't get more out of The Beatles' songs by transporting yourself back to the 60's. You would get more out of the 60's maybe, and realize they 60's were never about the Beatles, or even the 60's.

The trick is not to be fooled by the nomenclature. There is no such thing as Indie Rock. It's really just industry jargon now, and maybe always was. Maybe there never was an Indie Rock. Of course there's independent produced and marketed music. Always will be. But Indie Rock, all it is, is dust in the wind.

5 comments:

andy mr. said...

Hey Mike, I have been thinking some along the same lines. I remember in highschool when all I really listened to was Patti Smith, Neil Young, the Stones, and VU and then when I heard Pavement and Yo La Tengo and Guided by Voices and was really psyched that there were bands playing music that was obviously influenced by the older bands that I liked, but these people were closer to my age than my parents, and something about that was appealing to me. Also there seemed to be a certain kind of self-consciousness that you don't find in the music of the 60's that I identified with in indie rock. Then at some point a few years ago I realized that I liked bands whose members were about the same age as I am, and for some reason I stopped being interested in finding new music. Instead I was just content to keep listening to Slanted and Enchanted or Bee Thousand--probably in the same way that my dad would rather listen to Horses than Eleven Eleven, no matter how many times I told him that Thalia Zedek is the Patti Smith of her generation.

Mike H said...

I agree about the self-consciousness thing. Of course I was one self-consciousness guy when I heard GBV et al. Indie Rock provided my self-consciousnes outlet. I think maybe the reason people don't like hearing so & so is the so & so of her generation is that it makes the original look obsolete in some way. But that's maybe from a conception we Americans have that new is better than old etc. I guess my whole thing is 'why rank?'. Tho ranking is fun.

andy mr. said...

Hey Mike, I don't think I was really talking about ranking artists. I mean I guess saying "so and so is the X of his/her generation" is a way of ranking but only a way of ranking an artist against their own generation, and a severely limited way, at that. What I was more interested in is why certain people (me) seem to gravitate towards works of art from their own era--for me this somehow alleviates my alienation a bit--and then when or why this tendency ends--in the case of my dad... I don't know if this makes any sense...

uncle wiggle said...

Or how about:

"I like X now, but was it just because I used to hate Y? Now I like Y just as much as X. Where does this leave my liking/not liking Y? Reaction to X?"

Obviously, the best thing to do
is carry the Y and keep the X
neutral, but only as long as it's
worth liking.

I like you guys.

Mike H said...

Andy, I know what you mean. I think Pavement in particular are one of those bands who seem to better as they age. There is alot that I don't listen anymore too, however. Punk for instance. I don't listen to Hip Hop much anymore, unless I'm driving around with Brock. And there are alot of CDs I miss, from being poor and needing to buy groceries, and having to sell.

Maybe the question is whether, as one gets older, whether to listen with extreme prejudice or, to quote George Michael, to listen without prejudice.