Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alternative times

We were lurking on a general interest forum the other day when we saw someone openly announce "how great indiepop is at the moment". He continued. "The Hoosiers and Scouting For Girls records are great".

Once we'd vowed never to speak to this person, and indeed stove their face in with a handy lump hammer should we ever meet, we got thinking about that little word. 'Indie'. Is there any more hated and abused term in the musical lexicon? Certainly these days, where all sorts of appellations are being coined and reassigned to artists who to all intents and purposes are Actually Indie, but we can't say so because that would suggest they were One Of Them. Hence we end up in this odd position where 'indie' is now only applied to bands who aren't indie at all, but carefully targeted and focus grouped major label signings. One Night Only are pushed as exciting youngsters. Alexa Chung's gurning, boss eyed uselessness is all OK because she's 'an indie style icon' as she might know who Lightspeed Champion is, when she's actually as alternative as Jordan. Traditional youth tribes and groupings have broken down so much that in the frenzy you get people attempt to identify themselves as "an indie" without the first clue of what that means. Even if, as has been overventilatedly suggested of late, Amy there is taking the piss, you're not seriously telling us that there's a horde of people falling for her after coming across this on the basis of what she's written. No, no, we do understand. We were there when jeans were normal sized. That's why we write this.

So this is where we are. Bands that sound unashamedly like ELO are 'indie' because people think that it marks them out as non-mainstream when they're actually as mainstream as Westlife, while guitar bands who would have been Britpoppers just over a decade ago try to convince people that they were pop acts all along. It's tempting to blame Toploader, the pre-Rowley soft rock revivalists who teenage magazines occasionally called 'indie' because they had guitars and hair and Jamie Oliver fandom and came along in that post-Be Here Now pre-Coldplay infertile period when anyone with a guitar was described as "like Travis and the Stereophonics", but those were shouted down as we recall. Now the Hoosiers, who emerged fully formed with prime-time advertising and a huge marketing backing, get called an indie band. Indie? You're increasingly welcome to them.


The Ledge said...

Tonight on Roundtable on 6Music I caught Gideon Coe, who I previously had a lot of respect for, calling The Fratellis and Kooks "indie" after playing their abysmal, and cynically mainstream, new singles. Depressing, but not as depressing as the words "indiepop" and "Hoosiers" occupying the same sentence. Kids spoil everything.

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