Selling your guitars for turntables

lcd_soundsystem20

A few months ago, I had a discussion with a friend at what would replace the current ‘Indie’ revival that was swamping every media outlet with its plaid shirts, messy hair and regional accents. I usually engage in such debates because I loathe the genre, or, more specifically the appropriation of the term ‘Indie’ itself.

That particular Summer it was all looking rather bloated and derivative. ‘New’ bands seemed faintly familiar, ‘New’ songs sounded like you’d heard them before, ‘New’ bands were referring other ‘Old’ Indie bands as an inspiration – which is always a band sign for the vitality of a genre – and even Glastonbury, the bastion of British Rock music, was weary of the promise of yet another white guitar band headlining and attempted to eschew the trend by allowing an – admittedly out of touch – black Rap star to do it. Whilst, the band headlining the stage the night before, Kings of Leon, seemed like an apt metaphor for the overblown and derivative mess that the genre has become.

Despite this loathing, I couldn’t really see anything replacing it for a while. But looking back on 2008, Indie may just have reached its critical mass.

If you follow the word of Indie’s Holy Book – the NME, then it’s had a good seven year run. Since its Genesis with The Strokes‘Is This It’ – crowned, prophetically, as the magazines album of the year – we’ve had the Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party and Arcade Fire; unfortunately we’ve also had The Enemy, The Wombats and The Dirty Pretty Things

Part of the problem with the genre that I’ve always had and perhaps part of the reason why it appears to be stagnating, is the over zealousness of it’s follows to use the label ‘Indie’. Open any issue of the NME and you’ll be confronted by a multitude of different sounding bands – but somehow, they are all sub-headed under the inescapable brand of ‘Indie’. The ‘classical’ usage of this apparently flexible noun would merely suggest music made on independent record labels that was, as a result of being there, outside of the mainstream, leftfield, avant garde even.

Clearly modern Indie is anything but. A handful of dearly loved ‘Indie’ bands are on major record labels, the music largely adheres to the classic ‘Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Chorus’ structure and the higher strata of bands can sell out arenas, stadiums even.

Part of the problem is that there’s a paradox, a hypocrisy inherent in the use of ‘Indie’ when it’s used to describe a band that can sell out arenas, get no.1 singles from a top 5 album. Especially when its ‘Indieness’ is part of the appeal, it’s ‘real’ music, for the people by the people. In response to the ill-informed mocking of a band’s popularity or success, a Indie fan could cry out: ‘They’re not sell-outs, man! They’re creating ART!’

Sure, now the fashionable thing is to like bands with as few fans as possible, but the genre is nonetheless becoming what it seemed to originally aspire to be apart from – it’s getting stale, derivative, boring even. Twee songwriters and Soul singers have got in on the act, all clinching at the same aesthetic, the same market, the same credibility. Much like the brief Punk explosion of the late 70s, Indie is fated to self destruct when it becomes too popular, it’s just a contradiction in terms to have it another way.

So is the end of the Indie revival?

Obviously we won’t see the genre, the bands or even the fans disappear overnight – as seems to be the case with the current financial crisis, the strongest, most innovative and the most popular with survive; the Arctic Monkeys and The Arcade Fires who have simultaneously profited from the Indie revival but also transcend it by challenging its boundaries, will continue to hang around and produce more great music.

The derivative hanger ons, the bottom feeders and the posers will not.

So, a gradual shift towards something new and shiny seems in the offing in 2009. To what exactly? The Ian Young’s BBC article puts forward a decent argument for a genre that has been bubbling away in the background for a few years now. Afterall, MGMT‘s Oracular Spectacular was recently named the NME’s album of 2008, like Is This It was in 2001, perhaps it will be seen as the prelude to the inevitable Electro revival of 2009?

MP3: The Strokes – Last Night

[Audio http://jorichards77.googlepages.com/LastNight.mp3%5D

MP3: Arcade Fire – The Woodland National Anthem

[Audio http://jorichards77.googlepages.com/04TheWoodlandNationalAnthem.mp3%5D

MP3: LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge

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2 responses to “Selling your guitars for turntables

  1. $1.99 Mink Coat

    An obsession with “the next big thing” is nothing new. Everyone wants to be on the ‘cool’ cutting edge of music (and everything else for that matter).

    Indie as a genre, had a sorta legit beginning, back in 1999… (While artists like Limp Blink 182 were the rock stars, and pop was seeing a revival with Britney, Aguilera, Lopez, Backstreet, etc. (one with a 8 year hangover), and musicians like Sheryl Crow, Brandy, and Mariah Carey were what musicians aspired to be.) ( sidenote: Lets not overlook the Shitstorm that Outkast set upon Rap music turning ATL into the new hiphop mecca… and ruining it for …well… it’s still primarily shit. )

    Musicians, who grew up listening to the Velvet Underground, the Joy Division, and The Kinks were at the bottom of the list to be signed. There was a better chance that you could get a deal being a backpacker emcee from Minnesota or Canada than make some guitar music and get play. (remember: It wasn’t until 2003 that the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s got Maps onto alt-radio (and they were on Interscope…so that hardly even counts.))

    Rockers had no choice but to go DIY, or close there to.

    IMO the proliferation of the music blog can be seen as one main element of this picture… Music made by me and you can get an audience, with the help of blog aggregates like Elbo.ws and Hypem (even these are fairly new). A musician (I use that term loosly) like Dolby Anol can remix Kings of Leon and have it played all over the world in a few days, and Soulwax can (almost) become a household name.

    The reasons are:
    1. bloggers do it for free
    2. There are no gatekeepers
    3. They are fair weather friends…

    Bloggers will call almost anything that gets put into their in-box “the next big thing” in hopes that one of them will in fact catch on, and they can feel like the cool trend-setters that they set out to be when they were signing up for their first blogger account.

    This matters because everyone can get in on popular music these days, and the underdog is the name of the game.

    Being “Next” is more important than being good, and being good isn’t all that hard. There is an endless supply of “new and upcoming”… The Next Big Thing is always coming.

    It seems these days, almost everyone is on this same track becasue this track is easy to run, you don’t have to have taste, you have to be first. Its easy.

    The hardest part for a musician is keeping your name in sight, which either means churning out song after song, or having it remixed over and over… both water down the product overall. And worst yet, the remix may (read: most likely) become more popular than your song.

    Remixers therefore become the stars of the internet, riding the success wave of someone elses music. But even they are here today, gone tomorrow… where is Switch these days? Boys Noize anyone?

    So of course the new thing is the new thing, because the old thing already happened… and that is sooo totally last month.

  2. mink coat, you are a retard.

    where is boys noize and switch?
    they’re running record labels and being paid thousands of pounds a night to play to thousands of people all over the world.
    dolby anol not being musicians?
    one of them sings and plays drums in a respected uk indie rock band and the other is a classically trained piano player. its a sad day when people like them (and soulwax or whoever else) can’t make a remix of a track to make rooms full of kids all around the world go crazy without having people like yourself moan about how it’s ‘ruining’ music. its clear its not the music you hate but the idea that they can do it.. and you can’t.

    your entire post sounds like an bitter person who refuses to go with what is healthy musical expansion because he feels he can’t get involved at the level he wants to. go with the flow, you will find no one is ‘ruining’ anything, and you might start enjoying yourself if you listen to the music you love and ignore the music you don’t. more importantly you have ignore the people who who runs blogs who you think are looking for something ‘cool’, they are having fun getting caught up in the glorious expansion that is music and the internet (while reminding you that you hate yourself).

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