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Where’s that large Dying Fetus/Stereogum crossover audience? Probably why there isn’t a bigger issue about that shirt. Mastodon has been a part of the indie hype machine for a few years now (remember that 7″ they did with Feist?), so the uproar over this makes sense.
Basically, it’s a bunch of left-leaning white dudes who thought they were being funny by making a jab at American exceptionalism but stumbled over their own privilege. Fear not though, I can assure you that somewhere on Tumblr a gaggle of social justice drones are waiting to launch a humorless counter-assault, with a thesis amounting to: all metal fans are neanderthals.
Reminds me a bit of Psychic Teens. Seems goth and shoegaze are starting to intermingle again (Lycia?). Instead of slimegaze, how about deathgaze as a ridiculous sub-categorization?
We’ve seen this before. That point in the early ’80s when new wave, an evolution of an independent strain of rock music (punk), suddenly started finding commercial success. Non-new wave artists began incorporating elements of the genre in an attempt to seem relevant (Frampton’s Art of Control) or simply out of a lack of distinction in sounds (Whodini’s first single being produced by Thomas Dolby) while new wave artists began incorporating others sounds like hip hop (Blondie’s “Rapture”, Malcom McLaren “Buffalo Gals”) and other genres that would be seemingly opposed to their sound. Then there were people like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince, people who so fully merged multiple genres that they gave us the first true conception of modern pop music. By the end of the decade, there really wasn’t much of a distinction in the pop realm between many of the genres, so you had something like Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” which appealed across a spectrum that could include college radio but also the pop charts in the same way a Lorde is positioned today, but that changed sometime in the early ’90s.
What we’re seeing isn’t a monogenre, it’s simply another ebb in the constant shifting of the musical landscape. Something in the ’90s led to a complete fracturing of sounds so that rock became distinct from dance which became distinct from hip-hop which became distinct from R&B. Everything became a niche in that era where you had so many fractured radio formats popping up to cater to specific audiences that it was almost a joke. This is those sounds finding their way back into a place where they can coexist peacefully. There were obviously a number of things the preceded this happening in the indie rock community, for example the rise of Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem as icons in a scene that valued the guitar over the sequencer, and out of that the return to a danceable form of rock music in the mid-half of the last decade which allowed for many rockists to start expanding beyond the guitar-bass-drums dynamic. But more than anything, it was the iPod. iPods and music-streaming services like Spotify have nearly killed niche radio formats. Rock stations are hard up today because they stick to a specific format of specific bands. Hell, what was the biggest hit of the ’00s? “Hey Ya”, a song that somehow appeared on rock radio just as often as it did pop or hip-hip stations. What wasn’t as big a hit? 99.9% of the stuff that was normally showing up on those stations. Seriously simple stuff like the shuffle function allowed people to see how different styles were actually quite similar. And people like Andre 3000 used that as a springboard to help merge styles that had seen distance for so many years.
I don’t think the story in HAIM or Lorde is the death of indie, it’s the ascent of women as the primary force in the market. You mentioned the gentrification of indie in a previous article, but seriously? Indie was ALWAYS gentrified. It grew out of college rock, which was white college kids grappling with the ennui of their existence. These were also almost exclusively men. You would have the occasional Siouxsie as a force but she was something of an exception because it was rare to see such a fierce female personality finding success in that world. Today there’s a general shift in America where the male half of the population is slowly losing its hold over the cultural currency it once so freely spent, while the female half is taking that growing power and using it to reshape genres to fit its idea of what they should be. So HAIM can reference Fleetwood Mac and still maintain relevance as an “indie” band.
Sorry, don’t know why my reply didn’t end up below yours. Anyway, one last point:
I also think you overstate the value of guitars being cost prohibitive. Most of the kids I see using computers at shows today aren’t fucking around on >$400 laptops, they’re using expensive Macs. You almost even concede this by bringing up GarageBand. Many good quality guitars can be had at prices that are cheaper than the rigs many use to produce that kind of music. Do some people skate by on low grade electronics? Yes, but does anyone really listen to James Ferraro besides music journalists?
I think everyone concedes that guitars aren’t cool now, but the very notion that guitars are dead is itself as retro as the guitars. It’s been said countless times before (disco, synthpop, techno, electronica, hip-hop, rap, etc.) and proven to be wrong every time. This is just another down cycle after a period of oversaturation.
I lived in Bumblefuck, USA, not Brooklyn. I wasn’t the only non-Brooklynite to hear of Peaches or Fischerspooner. Most parties at the time found a way to work “Fuck the Pain Away” into playlists. It was also at least partially responsible for helping to kickstart interest in the indie dance movement by helping to drive coverage to bands like LCD Soundsystem and Crystal Castles, both of whom were labeled as electroclash when they first emerged. It didn’t fully catch on as its own label, but it was an important piece in the formation of indie dance as a thing, which came to define a portion of that era’s music. So yes, it was part of a wider youth movement. It also turned out to be somewhat prescient of this era’s youth movement as we’re now seeing Italo disco, synthpunk, coldwave, and a host of other genres it amalgamated become hip reference points as poptimists cast off the tyranny of the guitar for the rebellion of the synthesizer.
Here’s my issue with this argument: it uses faulty logic. You claim Icona Pop “rocked” harder than Merchandise who you previously stated was “dreary shoegaze.” How would a dreary shoegaze band ever rock? They whole point of what Merchandise does is to create overwrought, dense doom pop that channels Morrissey at his most self-indulgent as it does any of My Bloody Valentine’s sonic grandeur. It isn’t meant to rock, and to single it out for not doing so is being intellectually dishonest.
Additionally, you’re being short-sighted in how you examine the decline of guitar rock in a cultural context. This argument is raised at least once a decade. Before The Strokes were being touted as a thing, electroclash was making waves in the then nascent indie press for its complete opposition to guitar-oriented rock music by creating a legacy that drew a direct line from things like Italo disco, synthpunk, and minimalist dance music to what was then the present. This was happening concurrent to the drab late ’90s/early ’00s music scene which placed a much greater emphasis on rap and pop music. It wasn’t drab simply because it was emphasizing those styles but rather because it focused so heavily on them to the detriment of a broader scope. The rock thing happened, the indie press blew up, and by the middle of the decade guitar bands were “back.” But guess what? It swung so far in the other direction that even synthesized pop stars like Pink and Kelly Clarkson started adopting guitar rock into their sound to score hits, so eventually people had to grow bored. And they did. We’re in that backlash now. That’s also why stuff like hardcore and noise rock is big amongst indie kids again; they’re forms of guitar music that are as opposed/hostile to the notion of “guitar rock” as the pop bands that you’re promoting. But in five to ten years we’ll start seeing a group of kids who are so bored with synthpop and EDM and weirdo folk pan flute solos that they’ll choose to rebel by picking up a guitar.
But what if, like, when you met her you suddenly were overcome by what a striking woman she was:
So, like, you try to talk to her and you realize that you both have things in common not including Hitler. And then maybe she begins to realize that her husband’s kind of a dick. You two really begin to get to know each other.
Whoops. You find out you’re Hitler’s real father. What then, man? What do you do?
I think there’s some truth in what you wrote, but I also think it extends itself too far and neglects the past way too much to make a point. While Kelefa Sanneh was making a valid point, his argument also neglected the fact that rock, like white culture, eventually incorporated many of the trends it claimed to be in opposition to. So yeah, disco sux was a thing, and The Knack was an immediate response by record labels as a disco-killer, but tentpole acts like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones went through disco phases, and new wave as a form of musical expression was as influenced by disco as it was punk. You listen to some early ’80s acts and it’s not hard to hear Nile Rodgers’ work with Chic in the guitars. This became even more prevalent in the revisionist early ’00s when dance-punk became code for bands influenced by new wave and almost anything ’80s (The Rapture made a habit of talking up the Bee Gees just to make kids uncomfortable). Hell, indie rock became almost exclusively electronic throughout the ’00s, although, it maintained its “rockist” attitude. James Murphy is an immediate reference point with his dedication to the album format, a holdover of the AOR era. And beginning with electroclash, which posited itself as much an heir to punk’s DIY aesthetic as it was to disco, italo, and other forms of dance, indie sort acted this ever-expanding category, gobbling up whatever could be considered cool at the time, which meant everything from the straight-up, unironic folk rock of Fleet Foxes to the bouncey, pogo-worthy synth-pop we’re experiencing today.
If anything, I’ll repeat an argument I made in the poptimism thread: this is a cycle. During the late ’80s, and eventually the late ’90s, everyone was talking about how that era was the end for rock music; it wasn’t. It was simply a period that took place after a period of hyper-saturation. The mainstream can only tolerate a sound for so long before there’s a backlash. We’re experiencing the indie backlash. Eventually, probably in five or ten years, we’ll start seeing bands ironically use the label to define their sound in the same way a band today will now call itself powerviolence or deathrock or whatever. The point of indie seems to be taking genres of music that were marginalized two decades prior and repurposing them for mass consumption.
“But my feelings to the side, Claire is still a woman working through, and writing about, the feelings brought up by an ostensibly feminist song. She didn’t do it to drive traffic to the site; she did it because it made her think. Whether you agree or not, that’s a completely valid thing for her to be doing. (Sorry, Claire, if I’m misrepresenting any of this. White male privilege! It’s a bitch!)”
I don’t think anyone had a problem with her working through the issue. It was the fact that there was never a response to other well-thought questions put out to her and the fact that her Twitter account made it appear as if she was dismissive of all criticism of her piece. I’m glad she wrote the piece. I’m glad others responded. But given the way other authors on this site have used their pieces as a way to break down the traditional notion of a columnist posting his/her work and then standing back, free from the responsibility of a two-way communication, it just seemed backwards to have something exist and then not have the author respond.
I think I’m the only person who loved “Plans” and “Compliments” more than any of the other stuff off the first album. Those are my top two Bloc Party songs, oddly enough. And that isn’t to say I don’t think much of the rest of that album, because I do. It’s one of my favorite albums to come out of the ’00s.
I never thought “On Fraternity” was intended to tell women about their experience. Just based on the name, and the later jabs at the punk community, it felt like he was crafting a narrative directed at whatever male fans he might have to help them understand, especially those who might be part of insular communities that claim to be sympathetic to feminist causes and then overlook sexual assault when it happens in their ranks (punk, for example).
Additionally, I’m curious because you refer to it a bit in the last paragraph, but can a man ever truly transcend the label of ally and become a full feminist? You mention gender privilege as a limiting factor in his understanding of this issue. Wouldn’t that also preclude him from being a feminist by its very nature?
“Poppy” is still making me feel warm and fuzzy after all these years.
The point I was making is that youth culture is never going to make sense to people who are not part of it. Every previous generation accuses the ones that come after it of narcissism (or worse). You don’t think the Greatest Generation took one look at the hippies and started criticizing the Baby Boomers for being self-indulgent? Narcissism is a product of youth because most young people lack the maturity or life experience to realize there are others ways of looking at the world than their own. And the lack of “emotional connection” due to the advent of the Internet and social media doesn’t mean they’re somehow inferior or they’ve devolved. Their experiences are going to be different, they’re going to look at the world (and their place in it) in a different light, and they’re going to interact with people in different ways than what other generations are used to.
Additionally, overindulgence in media isn’t new. Gen X was criticized for sinking too far into television and the early years of the Internet, so I guess that would be a better analogy (the Idiot Box, chat rooms subbing for real human interaction, etc). But as to your point about Boomers using social media. It’s definitely in a different way. Their lives aren’t built around Twitter and Instagram in the same a way a teen’s is today. And I’d argue that many probably do look at something like Tumblr as a foreign concept, or at least as something akin to memetic vomit splashed across a computer screen.
It’s not that, that is what’s wrong with them, it’s that the reliance on social media is what makes them different from you. This would be like boomers complaining about Gen X being a bunch of tattooed and pierced sideshow freaks. It’s a part of the culture you (or others) just don’t understand, so you view it negatively. Complaining about it or trying to stop it is pointless, because kids are kids — they’re going to take pictures.
Look, I don’t normally take pictures or videos at shows I attend, mostly because my phone is cracked and the camera doesn’t work, but I see a distinct divide in who does and doesn’t embrace picture-taking, social media, and so on. I’m not trying to say indie rock is turning into an enclave of cranky old people but it seems like the electronic shows I’ve attended/viewed, which have skewed much younger in the audiences, don’t seem to care much about this and in some cases actively embrace it. Social media is a large part of youth culture today. People define themselves by what shows they attend, and they do that partially through visual communication (i.e. pictures). Trying to impede on that seems really regressive and primitive. I understand some artists intend to try and recreate a feeling similar to what came before, especially in some punk and metal circles, but I think completely cutting off that form of expression is being unnecessarily difficult.
I like Dolph Lundgren movies. He punches shit real good. Dolph Lundgren is not Daniel Day Lewis. Dolph Lundgren will never be Daniel Day Lewis. I acknowledge this. I have no problem with this. I cast a critical eye towards any critic that would try to tell me otherwise. In fact, if a critic tells me a Dolph Lundgren movie is the best movie ever, I’m going to disregard every other review that critic will ever write because he’s clearly insane. Dolph Lundgren has a limited range and it’s limited precisely to making things bleed. I don’t pretend his movies are anything but gloriously awful trash.
Honestly though, I’ve only heard good things from fans about FLAG. I’m inclined to give the band a chance after the positive press and the few live clips that have appeared on the Internet.
Strange aside: I was looking up Minor Threat lyrics like six or seven years ago and somehow ended up Stormfront.org not knowing what it was. There are legitimately people out there in the world who believe Ian McKaye is a white supremacist. This is a terrible world sometimes.
Early ’00s? Try mid ’90s. This has Archers of Loaf written all over it.
I don’t know about Tool. They were a band I loved in high school, but that seemed to be the limit of how far they followed me. Like, they’re an entry-level weird band. They’re great until you find the really weird shit like the Melvins, King Crimson, and Nurse With Wound, then they just seem sort of average in comparison. Even amongst their MTV contemporaries, I don’t think their music has held up as well. White Zombie, Helmet, and Type O Negative (Bloody Kisses in August, maybe?) still sound essential.
But seriously, I think Bowie preference will break down into two camps when regarding his albums: fans of traditional rock music vs. fans of art rock, avant garde, electronic music, etc. The former will gravitate towards his glam period, as shown in the love for Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and Hunky Dory, while the latter will talk up his Berlin era work. Neither is necessarily right, but both will try to claim so. I think it’s more about your general outlook on music because Bowie’s catalog encapsulates such a wide range of styles and ideas.
There is Low, and then there’s every other Bowie album.
“Step” is making a bid for that pop radio money. Expect it to score heartfelt moments on a dozen or so TV dramas.
“All the Time” and “Chances” are boring because they’re The Strokes going through the motions. Everything else is uniformly amazing. If this is what they intend to do, I hope they never return to guitar rock.
Also, Michael, I forgot a point I wanted to mention: certain careers attract certain personality types, account for gender and racial differences, and various other sociological explanations. It’s why the military is something like 80% straight white, conservative men. It’s also why creative industries see a drop in that same group. Your industry might attract a disproportionately lower number of straight white men. This could explain why you’re “the minority” wherever you work. It’s not because of systemic discrimination but because of much higher interest in the field on the part of people who don’t match your genetic and psychological make up.