Sep 27, 2011, 10:39AM

The Most Blah of the Blah

Will indie rock ever be relevant again?

Untitled.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

jj look

I came across an article yesterday that hit on every aspect of the musical-cultural malaise it feels like we’ve grown up in. A few key points: suspicion of intellectualism (any thought outside of popular convention is mocked as pretentious, the thinker a hipster), laziness as credibility (for example), suspicion of ambition, and revivalism (eugh. Yuck). But the one that resonated most was dullness as credibility: the idea that “keeping it real” and being “rootsy” somehow magically makes a performer more authentic or genuine. This doesn’t just apply to the awful plague of Boring White Boy Folk Rock—across the board, musicians are less interested in pushing the boundaries of what can make money and become truly culturally relevant. Obviously there are still many people out there making amazing, New Anything music. But for the most part, they’re disinterested or disillusioned with the idea of large-scale cultural infiltration.

Meanwhile, the most blah of the blah reap the fruit of “indie” being co-opted and sold back to us (just as grunge, punk, hip hop, and hippies were). Animal Collective and Arcade Fire are the only ones saying anything meaningful in a sea of ignorant revivalists, lazy charlatans, and utterly safe wimps. Since when was rock ‘n’ roll supposed to be benign? Yet most seem okay with this politically correct drywall: I don’t see nearly enough bands challenging the didactic and priestly voice of Pitchfork and the ephemeral cloud of blogs responsible for hyping so many useless and completely farcical “trends.” There’s no A&R rep to court anymore; these are the people you need to blow to get big these days. And they’re all such wet blankets.

Nevermind’s deluxe edition release this week and the requisite fluff pieces underscore just how deep in the muck we are. Naturally everyone’s tripping over their own feet racing to come up with the most clever and apt superlatives, yet they ignore part of what made the record and Cobain’s brief kamikaze mission so inspiring: it was an attack on popular thought, attitudes, phobias—revenge of the nerds for real. There are no nerds these days—indie music blogs and musicians are averse to ever leaving their Ourobouros circle jerk, and young adults are content, at least absentmindedly. They’re able to stake out a plot on the mountain of Superior Taste, and trick themselves into believing they’re better than most without having to lift a finger (excepting however many keystrokes it takes to torrent the Pavement discography). This is the youth we’re dealing with today, douchebags so noodly, so incompetent and aggressively deluded that they’re no different than the hair metal and adult contemporary R&B that Nirvana incinerated.

  • Animal Collective and Arcade Fire are, of course, perennial favorites of the circle jerk you so despise. So, who HAS gotten past Pitchfork and the music blogger wet blankets? Seriously: who, in your opinion, has made it big despite no love from either Pitchfork or teh blogz? Or, who has crashed and burned because of no love from the Establishment?

    Responses to this comment
  • No one, that's the point. I don't like most of the uninspired/lazy/weak new bands they hype, or their taste in general - but what I loathe is how the writing has become so self-important sage-like. I think they're responsible for helping a lot of shit bands get popular. AF and AC are the big exceptions to me, I love both those bands very much.

    Responses to this comment
  • To quote you: "I don’t see nearly enough bands challenging the didactic and priestly voice of Pitchfork and the ephemeral cloud of blogs responsible for hyping so many useless and completely farcical “trends.” There’s no A&R rep to court anymore; these are the people you need to blow to get big these days. And they’re all such wet blankets." OK, I'm asking you, who IS challenging Pitchfork et al? Are you saying that there is not a single successful band that has done well despite negative reviews from Pitchfork? I totally agree about the writing itself, but I see a lot of blowback against Pitchfork and nameless "music blogs" and it doesn't make much sense to me. The same forces that created Pitchfork and nameless music blogs are the same forces that allow you to seek out and enjoy whatever music you want. Blaming the media for poor music is like blaming the media for poor politicians.

    Responses to this comment
  • There's another, much more pedestrian explanation: Maybe you're just tired of the genre itself. The bands you cited have been around long enough now to have spawned a wave of imitators bearing songs that can't help but be derivative of their idols. Do you really want to hear another band that grew up loving The Strokes? If you're looking for youthful fire and originality, try sea punk, underground Detroit rap, even post-dubstep.

    Responses to this comment
  • Hah, Forest, I take it you didn't read his piece on dubstep?

    Responses to this comment
  • Ha! No, I hadn't. Just did, and I guess I wasn't surprised with Nicky's response. I also happen to think that dubstep (mostly) sucks. But I love post-dubstep. James Blake, Nicolas Jaar, Mount Kimbie – that stuff is all great. And firey, young, innovative, etc..

    Responses to this comment
  • Forest is pretty much right, though no one has said the obvious: Despite Flavorwire's grumblings, nothing is killing indie music. We can complain all we want that Pitchfork hypes the wrong bands, or that Wavves, for example, is too popular, or that there's a kind of bland, generic indie sound that all too many bands have glommed onto, and okay, there's good reasons to say all that, but do you know how many promo CDs I get every week, many of them debut albums? Even Pitchfork is only reviewing some small-ish fraction of all the "indie" music produced. There's just way too many kids who want to be on stage nowadays for us to ever seriously worry about the state of indie music. Now, how many of those kids believe in "large-scale cultural infiltration" I couldn't say, mostly because I have no idea what that means.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment