Die, Indie, Die – whatever happened to alternative music?

Die, Indie, DIE!
The decade of ethical decay in Indie Rock

con·verse 2
”“adjective
1. opposite or contrary in direction, action, sequence, etc.; turned around.

It wouldn’t be revelatory for me to say that the 00s saw the underground-overground, wandering free, (in aptly nicknamed ”˜Cons’ buffering their owner’s tootsies’ soles through the unimaginative labyrinth of a decade so wholly bereft of new ideas, that we eventually dug-up the most abhorrent facets of the fashions and attitudes that time so-badly wanted forgotten) but in the spirit of the age, I’m going to ask you to speed-dial your grandma, make sure she’s got a six-pack of ”˜free range’ to hand, and instruct her to pucker-up.

While Beck’s ”˜Odelay’ waved a nostalgic farewell to the 20th Century, warmed by the accumulated fuzz of a stylus’ fluff, ”˜Kid A’ drew from the synthetic legacies of previous decades’ more prescient set. In 2000 Radiohead were arguably left rudderless by their turn against a violently uncooperative-tide. By June ”˜03 when they came back to bellow: “You have not been paying attention!” at the height of the Iraq War, most of us weren’t, and in some far-off boardroom Nike penned a deal to buy Converse for $305,000,000, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why:

The Converse sneaker: erstwhile glass slipper of counter culture figurehead and disciple alike since the 50s (James Dean, Hunter S Thompson, Joey Ramone, Kurt Cobain, to name but a few) & now appearing on the foot of; A. Everyone you know, B. The people that used to bully you in school for wearing them, and C. that girl you thought you liked, but is actually a facile bitch. You know, the one with the Rolling Stones lips hitching a ride out-of their previous affiliation on her tits?

By the time the Converse deal had come to pass, Sub Pop had released what would go on to be its most successful release since Nirvana’s ”˜Bleach’: ”˜Give Up’ by The Postal Service ”“ testifying to a seismic shift in the Indie Continuum.

In 2005 when Arcade Fire appeared, smack-dab in the decade’s belly, they seemed disconnected from all the old codes and conventions. An unlikely assortment of naïve/un-affected Band Camp nerds, that seemed divinely anointed as agents of cynicism-obliteration, and swiftly jockeyed themselves atop the Indie Rock aristocracy, thanks in no small part to a sonic offering so emotionally significant, so beyond the material, so infused with goodwill that Christmas tried to prematurely manifest itself. Though by the time they asked you to take the stand and make good on the love you pledged, swearing on the ”˜Neon Bible’ proved a step too far, and as a result the rallying invitation from the end of ‘No Cars Go’, will have to wait that bit longer to be RSVP’d.

It’s a cold fact of centuries new, that its inheritors toddle around in a daze struggling to find an identity for themselves, but with the burgeoning internet, never before was a civilisation so well equipped to immediately eke one out. But instead of creating an original identity for ourselves, we bought a pre-packaged one from Urban Outfitters. And why not? Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon was selling her $415, only available in US sizes 2,4,6,8, (UK 4, 6, 8, 10) Francoise Hardy jacket “for cool moms” there. Maybe we can pick up a Sonic Youth Compilation (selected by all your favourite Indie icons) at Starbuck’s on the way home?

(*Note to Kim ”“ looking at those sizes, and knowing how y’all in Sonic Youth were inspired and effected by her life, and the tragic anorexia and bulimia that eventually scythed her talented, waifish frame down to the cold, cold kitchen ground ”“ maybe a Karen Carpenter inspired jacket next?)

Maybe the internet can get us out of the Indie inertia? Where else but ”˜The essential guide to independent music and beyond’? What’s that Pitchfork”? ”˜Altered Zones’? What, that’s where you keep your”¦how can I put this”¦for want of a better word – ”˜Alternative’ music?

MEANWHILE, IN WILLIAMSBURG . . .

As 2010 drew to a close, over in the Hipster capital of the world, Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Converse completed the construction of a FREE recording studio. Converse Rubber Tracks is Nike’s supposed goodwill gesture to the ”˜Indie’ community that has for so long championed their band boots. Which only goes to attest to that fact that any market deemed big enough to be targeted by Nike ”“ is no longer Alternative nor Independent if it’s patron is the world’s biggest sportswear manufacturer. But at this juncture, Indie’s brightest stars fail to see the conflict of interests this is supposed to present.

“Music is everywhere now, and if you have it tied to a brand, there’s nothing wrong with that,”
Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast who collaborated with Kid Cudi and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend on a track for Converse.

One-off Brand support of this kind seems to me far more whorish than a record deal which can be negotiated to protect one’s songwriting credits/creative control over any/all material released; In this bling-instance the company get all the kudos of your priceless Indie credibility during the supernova of your 15 minutes of fame, toss their dollars on the nightstand without having made an investment in-you in which they lose-out if your allure dwindles & you disappear into the bargain bin of oblivion”¦Basically a fuck for money with no emotional investment, I mean, what could be more whorish than that?!

While the recent Student protests this past December offer a glimmer of hope that today’s youth actually believe in something other than money, its possible they were irked only by the fact they were going to have to fork it over. There’s still a long way to go before a complaisance renaissance. After all, last time London saw its youth in such a tiz of civil disobedience was at soft-pornographer & clothing company: American Apparel’s Brick Lane sale back in April.

The best art has always set itself apart as something that has a value beyond the monetary. Indie by its very definition is meant to be set apart from the mainstream, being as it was born out of the Punk ethos of it’s respective UK & US scenes, eventually cross-pollinating genres with the DIY ethic & progressive philosophies on gender, politics and equality to the mainstream. Unfortunately these values are seemingly conspicuous by their absence. These first ten years have been the threshold of the maddening vacuum at the outer-rim of a Post Modern Black Hole”¦recycling our immediate past as a last clamouring at the penultimate rungs of the ladder.

Its time to lynch the Ian Curtis impersonators, and other 80s recreationists. Time for a thrilling and tumultuous cultural holocaust. Though knowing our luck, it’ll be a ”˜grunge revival’ and lets face it, Bethany ”˜Best Coast’ & Nathan Wavves are no Kurt & Courtney judging by their respective flirtations with Converse & Mountain Dew, and their joint appearance on ”˜the Christmas Gig’ compilation from those fine folks at Target.

Bring on the Black Hole”¦
DIE INDIE, DIE!

Originally published here on Manchester Scenewipe

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4 comments on “Die, Indie, Die – whatever happened to alternative music?”

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  1. Good article. I suppose there used to be a definite ‘Us v Them’ situation with monolithic record companies having loads of power – the yin to this yang would be a completely independent approach, something to actually battle. Now though majors have lost a lot of lustre and the indie stuff has been assimilated into some cybersoup – independent used to mean having to traipse around to one record shop in a twenty mile radius that dealt with bands, shows and a following you could identify with, massively set apart from the majors.

    Now though, the beauty of homogenisation has blurred the lines – more access, less demand, less interest, less importance for some, less of the us v them…you can’t fight a battle or instigate a revolution without a definitive enemy

  2. great article but the indie aesthetic (and the punk one that spawned it) have always been a case of Emporers New Clothes (or Emporers ripped jeans and converse in this case). Most of the indie/punk icons have been as much a part of the industry machine as Cher Lloyd and ELP.

    I do like the cottage craft industry vibe of genuine indie labels, that’s still alive and well, check http://ow.ly/4eHY4

    There’s a brilliant book called “The Rebel Sell” by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter about the whole counter-culture vs consumer culture thing. They’re as cynical as me!

  3. PaulWrightythen

    Nice post couldnt agree more. I myself, wouldnt be against a grunge revival, as something, needs to happen. Could just brun down the Korg factory…

  4. PaulWrightythen

    and by ‘brun’ I mean burn…

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