The Null Device

Obituary / whither indie?

Apparently, the founder of one of the original non-heterosexual indie nights in London, Popstarz, which provided gay indie kids one of their first chances to come out of the I-don't-like-disco closet, has passed away. No Rock&Roll Fun has this to say:
Hobart recognised that there was a massive unsatisfied market of gay and bi people who wanted to dance with their fringes over their eyes instead of their shirts off their backs. The feeling was that gay people had been liberated from the hell that theyd been in for most of their teen to adult lives, he said. So many people said to me it was like coming out of the closet for the second time.
The success of Popstarz led to a sudden blossoming of other non-straight indie club nights around the country, most notably in the form of Poptastic, although the lack of a large geographic catchment area meant a lot of the original bright-eyed provincial nights started to water down their indie policy: first Kylie would edge out the Mudhoney; then Sonia would start to take over from the Kenickie, until at some nights it could be difficult to remember you'd turned up on the promise of an alternative. Actually, that's not so very different from most straight indie nights, now we come to think of it.
That is true. These days, indie kids are largely over indie music. They know about it, for sure, and can quote Pavement discographies chapter and verse and make allusions to Johnny Marr and Jarvis Cocker and such, but in a knowing, over-it way. Sometimes you may hear some obscure twee janglepop or what have you, but step into a night frequented by indie kids and you're more likely to hear old-sk00l Michael Jackson (if one were to compile a Coolsie Top 40, "Gotta Be Startin' Something" would be near #1) or crunk booty anthems or Eye Of The Tiger or something. Indie music serves its purpose, as the gatekeeper to the scene, but once you pass the test, you can put your Kindercore compilations back on the shelf, crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and get down to enjoyable top-40 cheese, knowing that everyone else in the room is as hip and knowing as you. The only people who still listen to indie music seem to be nostalgic thirtysomethings reliving their anxious adolescence.

Then again, the word "indie" is going the way the word "alternative" went in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nowadays it refers mostly to hype-led, ultra-derivative new-wave/garage-rock copyists, who, if not signed to major labels, are pimped by multinational corporations like Coors/Carling and Clear Channel and have multi-million-pound advertising campaigns on the same scale as Robbie Williams. (See also: "new wave" and "art rock".) Perhaps it's time for a new term, one which deemphasises the problematic concept of independence (i.e., who is more "indie": Pulp (signed to Universal) or Bloc Party? Did Primal Scream and the Boo Radleys stop being "indie" the instant that Sony bought Creation?) and talks about the æsthetic and philosophical distinctions between the artists and music in question and the commercial mainstream. Perhaps "intelligent pop", or "art pop"?

There are 1 comments on "Obituary / whither indie?":

Posted by: dj http://deej.bah.id.au Wed Oct 26 09:03:55 2005

Reminds me of the discussions I used to see on punk and heavy metal. It's like another form of biological categorization - when does a species become a species, etc.

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