Indie rock: the new white kids' music

The title of this might make it seem like some kind of race-intensive discussion, but I just meant to state the topic efficiently. I just read this article from AP, and according to it, bands like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and Bright eyes (doesn’t mention Iron and Wine but I’d throw that into the ‘big 4’ also) are becoming more and more popular.

I think this is good, since I’m a big fan of these bands. Despite an earlier post of mine, in support of File Sharing, which definitely ruffled a few feathers, I’m happy to see that these bands are enjoying newfound commercial success. (I think that a lot of their popularity has COME from file-sharing, but that’s a topic for another time.)

This is going to sound very un-PC and I really don’t mean to be offensive at all, but I think that white teenagers have not really had their “own voice” until indie music. Most of the popular culture (which was and is shared by whites blacks and others alike) is very “black” in that it is largely influenced by hip-hop, rap, and R&B.

One look at the top 40 charts, for the past few years, reveals hip-hop and R&B’s death-grip on the radio. However, “last November, singer-songwriter Connor Oberst’s band, Bright Eyes, had two songs top the Billboard singles chart — knocking out a duet by Usher and
Alicia Keys and sending the indie rock world into a tailspin.” (To quote the article.) This is a major thing, to me.

I am glad that teenagers (of all races, despite my title) are getting away from hip-hop’s uber-aggressive domain and getting into more “sensitive guy” music. A post of mine a long time ago, The Evolution of Wimp Rock, demonstrated my love of “wimpy” music, going all the way back to Todd Rundgren and George Harrison’s solo work and so forth.

When I was in high school, pretty much everyone, white and black, was into hip-hop and rap (myself included,) but I gradually lost interest in it and rediscovered my Beatles-influenced love of melodies and harmonies, and stopped lliking hip-hop. A lot of people love it and are more than willing to reccommend rap and hip-hop to me that they are “sure” doesn’t fit my conventional definition of what it is, but whatever - I just don’t like it.

The other part of this is that I think a lot of it - yes I know, not all - is really just pumped-up, over-macho posturing and haughty boasting. I don’t like the treating of women as utter sex objects, I think sex is a great thing that ought to be intimate, personal, and reciprocal. Not a “game” - as in “my pimp game.” Love is not random blow-jobs which so much hip-hop celebrates (what kind of asshole expects blow-job after blow-job without ever reciprocating and giving the woman a good time for once?) I don’t like hearing about “that pussy” or “hitting that” or any of that, I find it all classless and absurd. Tell me I’m “stereotyping” hip-hop, whatever, you know that so much of it fits the above description to a tee.

I hate the overtly materialistic attitude of a lot of hip-hop also - the shameless celebration of consumer goods, SUVs, women (lumped in as a commodity with the rest of it,) “bling-bling” (how many Africans do you think have to be exploited for rapper’s ‘ice?’) and all that crap. Yeah, yeah, plenty of rappers don’t do the conspicuous-consumption thing in their lyrics, but enough of them do that it’s a real phenomenon.

Whew - does this belong as pit rant against rap? I don’t think so, since I don’t hate all rap or all hip-hop, and even the kind that I’m referring to here doesn’t inspire me to attack it with true venom - I just think it’s a kind of petty, stupid thing. Instead, I’ll explain why I think indie rock is a good counterbalance against all of that.

First of all, it’s making it cool again to be a sensitive, even slightly neurotic guy. A lot of indie rock songs, you can practically see Woody Allen sitting there speaking the lyrics - I have the Postal Service in mind here, but plenty of other ones work too. Indie rock isn’t about being macho, tough, or even about being successful and famous. It’s mostly sentimental content, and that which isn’t is usually of some intellectual variety (and even if no complex ideas are expressed, the words and music flow well. Modest Mouse comes to mind.) It’s not really like some “indie lifestyle” is being espoused by the music. There absolutely IS an indie/hipster lifestyle, but it’s being created by the fans to a large degree.

Second of all, it’s bringing back a lot of good melodic stuff. Someone earlier commented that the Steel Guitar is enjoying a revival in indie music - this is just one of the good things that is coming out of the indie scene. There’s a lot of good guitar playing, specifically rhythm guitar playing, something that seemed to have been getting rarer and rarer. There’s techno-influenced, arpegiatted stuff like Grandaddy. There’s more and more vocal harmonies, something that I have loved ever since the Beatles. Groups like Mates of State and The Thrills are bringing back great vocal harmony big-time. The Kings of Convenience, a Norwegian duo, sound like the reincarnation of Simon and Garfunkel. Ben Folds (who I do consider indie) is bringing back Elton John and Billy Joel’s piano rock. It’s a renaissance of all the stuff I have always loved about older pop rock, and everything that the hip-hop and horrible Creed-type screaming bands of high school made me think was gone forever!!!

There is a lot of great lyricism coming from bands like The Decemberists. Grandaddy may be indie’s science/computer geeks, but The Decemberists and They Might Be Giants are the resident history geeks. A lot of very clever wit, integrated surpsisingly well into the music, is coming out of indie rock also.

Enough of me explaining what indie rock is. You know what it is - it’s awesome!

Whoah man, I gotta disagree.

Modern Indie rock is the final castration of rock and roll. We’ve put up with endless droning crap for years and years- and this feeble sexless warbling is what comes out? It’s a passionless movement, with it’s only value being that at least the guys finally have to be as waiflike as the girls. It’s regressive (hey girls, stay at home and fill your house with deconstructed Ikea furniture and crochet ballet slippers!) and so celebratory of consumerism in it’s own way (Hey, look at my rare record and new handmade by lesbian art students in Guatemala retro cocktail glasses.) It’s a way for young adults to satisfy their desire to spend lots of money with their newfound “artsiness.”

Where is the sex? Since when do teenagers not think about sex? We almost had electroclash- sexy, daring, dangerous, beautiful, art not-art-student, thought provoking and danceable music. But instead we got these wan ditties. We need Kiss, not Weezer. We need music that pushes limits and treads new artistic ground. We need art that challenges the human mind and evolves society, not dribbles that encourage us to hang around at home moaning about how horrible our lives are. Music doesn’t have to be about using women as objects or absolutly sexless…we can have music that encourages and explores the many different and wonderful and complicated and potentially equalizing forms of sexuality.

I’m not a big hip-hop fan. In fact, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it. But it’s pretty amazing when a tough-looking high school male walks in to my working sporting a knee-length string of pearls. Thats some envelope pushing. That beats tee shirts with little silkscreened birds on it any day. If rock wants to survive (and I think it shouldn’t be seen as some kind of direct competator to hip-hop or the “white alternative”…all music influences all other music and a world of infinite richness and variety with a minimum of lables makes for the best art) it needs to start changing and developing some kind of relevency beyond the needs of self-absorbed college students.

Geeky, sensitive, loveable rock and roll will always be around (a few of the bands you’ve mentioned are some of my favorites) but right now we have no fabulous, occasionally homosexual, erotice, danceable, gender-bending, life affirming, magical, sexy, woman power, crazy rock and roll.

First of all, being oversexed does not make music good to listen to.

Second of all, indie rock can still rock. It’s not all sensitive and wimpy. A lot of it is. A lot of it isn’t. Listen to a lot of it, as I have, (the fact that you use Weezer as the first indie band that comes to mind says a lot) , then tell me if you still agree with these statements you’ve made. I bet you won’t.

I mean I bet you won’t still think the way you do about it. Not, like, “I bet you WON’T listen to it, ya joik-off!”

Okay, wasn’t there a single by The Darkness where, in the video, the lead singer is jumping up and down on his bed, singing in an insane falsetto, and wearing a navel-cloven full-body spandex cock-rock jumpsuit? Yes. Yes there was. “Thing Called Love” or somesuch. Almost the title of a Queen song, that. No, we’ve ticked that very-extensively-named checkbox, even sven.

Not that I don’t want more.

*There’s also more acceptance of the corporate world. Though they still carry the indie flag, Death Cab, Modest Mouse and semi-indies like Franz Ferdinand and the Killers are all signed to major labels.

“Ten years ago, an indie rock band wouldn’t have been caught dead being signed to a major,” says Nic Harcourt, host of the influential radio show “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on Los Angeles’ KCRW. Today, “the sensibility is more of an aesthetic than it is a manifesto.”*

Isn’t the DEFINITION of an indie band a band who is unsigned or with a non-RIAA label? And since when were The Killers considered indie? More like New Wave Revival!

Just wanted to say, I dig indie too. Those bands are a few of my favorites.

But, even Bright Eyes has a song called Lover I Don’t Have to Love :wink:

Okay, you’re losing me here. It seems to me that there have always been several different popular “voices” out there for people to pick and choose from. Did you miss the success and popularity of Blink 182? Greenday? Good Charlotte? Everclear? The hip-hop/rap style has become a lot more popular in the last decade, but it’s been thriving simultaneously with genres like pop-punk. Maybe it seemed like everyone had moved on to hip-hop because that’s what you were into at the time?

Of course, I’m glad to see the Killers and Modest Mouse becoming more popular too, but I just can’t see how they’re filling some sort of empty space in the music world.

It’s not like white kids in the 80s were listening to rap all the time. They had new wave, and hair metal, and…

Too much of it is whiny and boring; in fact, enough that I don’t think it’s worthwhile to try track down the minority of bands who don’t play that style. Perhaps you’d care to share a few recommendations?

Hey, hey, guys don’t fight. Indie rock and hip hop are good. But please let’s not get into this stupid rockist notion that indie is good because it’s bringing back real music or because it’s in touch with its emotions or anything like that. Good indie is good because the songs are good, just like good hip hop is good because the songs are good.

No, you’re mixing up etymology and definition. They are not the same thing. I mean, Sonic Youth was on a major about 15 years ago. Modest Mouse has been on Epic for 5 or 6 years. Indie as a genre hasn’t meant indie label for a long time.

Why do you search for didacticism in art? Why must a song be morally correct to be good? The absolute worst thing for indie rock would be if it got held up as a good thing for your reasons - that musically it’s reactionary and thematically it’s socially agreeable (when in reality it is neither).

So, let’s consider the lyrical content of indie rock:

Brandon Flowers of The Killers kills his friend Jenny in an apparent act of domestic violence. But that’s OK, Brandon, because bitches ain’t shit.

Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos is “Cheating on [his girl]”. Because “it’s only love.”

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy “Dreamed of killing you again last night.” And it “felt alright” to him.

Brand New’s Jesse Lacey has got “Desperate desires and inadmirable plans,” to get a girl so drunk that she’s “barely conscious,” and although she’s scared, and he “almost feels sorry for what [he’s] gonna do” he sleeps with her anyway. At least when Eminem suggests using drunk girls for sex he has the decency to bring in Dr. Dre to offer a counter argument.

Bright Eyes, not content with having a lover he doesn’t have to love, drinks too much, snorts coke (“Gold Mine Gutted”) and in “Take It Easy (Love Nothing),” he uses women, lies through his teeth, and although “someone might get hurt,” that’s ok, because it won’t be him. Conor Oberst is such a playa that he’d find a natural home at Roc-A-Fella - he even shares a dislike of the Iraq war with the label’s founder Jay-Z.

Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, meanwhile, went to California on a holiday (“Tiny Vessels”), where he met a girl who thought their relationship meant “so much more,” but Ben just thought it was “vile and… cheap.” And though the girl was beautiful, “it didn’t mean a thing to [him].” Talk about having hos in different area codes!

When the guy from Art Brut gets rich, he’s going to move to Los Angeles, buy some new clothes, and buy a Harley Davidson (I guess he hasn’t been told that a Caddy Escalade or a Hummer would be cooler). Then he’s going to drink Hennesey (with Morrissey!) Diddy wishes he could floss like this guy.

When the Dismemberment Plan got rich, from selling drugs and dealing arms, they got a “crib in the Alps” and one of the band members bought a helicopter. Another band member “borrowed” a trust fund kid’s girlfriend. Because it ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have some.

Yes, indie rock is as vanilla as it gets. No thanks.

Said the metal fan. :wink:

Bwa? Those to me represent the final last gasp of rock. I hatehatehate bands that don’t even know what they are. Granted, a lot of third-wave grunge/numetal ripoffs are even worse than the abovementioned pop-punkers but pleeeease. They in no way to me even have a voice, much less one I agree with. And in some cases – okay, all three of them that I’ve heard (minus charlotte,) they don’t even have more than one song.*

Don’t get me wrong, I love good cock rock as much as the rest of them (ramones, sex pistols, led zeppelin, rush, etc,) along with indie-inspired music. But bands that are so afraid of taking a stance that they never really put any feeling into their music by definition cannot speak to me.

I agree with those who pointed out that a lot of indie/inspired music can portray violence (Saves the Day, I’m looking at you,) but the artistic effect is increased because it’s different from their other stuff, unlike the mostly invariantly macho posing of rap.

I can also do without the low-fi acoustic brand of singing where they sing poorly on purpose (e.g. Modest Mouse,) but I live with it because the music and lyrics are so interesting.

*And yes, I’ve heard A.M. Radio, and I actually like Longview and Minority, so sue me (dammit). Heh. Okay, make that four songs I like by them along with Heroin Girl.

Nicely done, goitazi - you’ve been listening.

I want my Rock to be Dangerous, Hooky and Well-constructed

Dangerous - something that makes parents worry, the way original rock and punk did. Maybe due to subject matter, maybe due to delivery, maybe due to having an “in” that kids like and parents don’t get.

Hooky - has a real riff or hook to it - think Satisfaction, Day Tripper, what have you.

Well-Constructed - works within a variant of the “3 chords and the truth” model and still sounds fresh. Uses the restrictions as a way to force creativity and doesn’t meander into jam-band or prog excessiveness.

If I hear music that sounds like this, I listen - I could give two shits about what Box of Stereotypes a band has been put in. Weezer - really like songs like Hash Pipe because it fits these criteria.

A lot of the bands mentioned as Indie don’t fit this criteria - too much sensitive singer-songwriter injected, so even if the lyrics are dangerous, they don’t sound dangerous and at times, not hooky either…

I am glad that kids have new music they can call their own, but some of the new stuff that meets the criteria I list above doesn’t fit. The New Garage bands - the Hives, The Strokes, The Kings of Leon, etc. - do a pretty good job heading in this direction…

Indie rock is such a broad categorization, that I cannot understand how you can make this statement. Are bands like Big Black, Sonic Youth, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The White Stripes, Rocket From the Crypt, Stereolab, Bikini Kill, The Pixies, Sleater-Kinney, etc… all whiny and boring? Most of the indie rock I listen to doesn’t fall into either categoy. The only bands I could think of that do fall into this are bands like Galaxie 500 (perhaps whiny, but one of the best bands evar), maybe some of the shoegazing bands (Ride and My Bloody Valentine, who recorded perhaps the best album of the 90s), Weezer (whom I actually don’t like much at all), etc. Only the “emo” sub-genre seems to fit the “boring and whiny” description.

Well then how would you define indie as a style? Crap rock? The only band mentioned in this entire thread that I don’t think completely sucks is The Killers, and if they aren’t New Wave (revival), then I don’t know what is!

No, but the OP only seems to have modern indie rock in mind, which seems to be very heavy on the emo these days. 9 times out of 10 when a young person talks about indie rock, that’s what they mean.

I highly reccommend the New Pornographers.

It’s really important to understand that emo and indie are not the same thing.

Yes, but looking at the top 40 charts for decades years before that, you’d see music aimed at white youth dominating it. I seem to remember being a white teenager listening to Nirvana way back when, and I think it was mostly white teens - or white youth, to be a little less specific - made up the fanbase of the Beatles, Stones, KISS, the Police, the Ramones (okay, they never had a big chart impact, but you know what I mean), Green Day, Weezer, and so on. I think you’re missing a lot of musical history here.

I’m still confused that “indie” now means a style of music, personally, but that’s my problem. Some of the material described here is a little too innocent and loser-y for my tastes, but I do like Ben Folds and there’s no point in arguing about that stuff. If we modify the comments in the OP to something like “white youth has a musical voice distinct from black and urban youth in popular culture,” the period where it didn’t have one only goes back 5 to 10 years.

That explains why I agree with her. Indie music just doesn’t impress me at all.