I started to write this thing and did it all wrong. There was a long-winded history of how “indie rock” happened, an examination of my own part in that, and then a whole list of reasons why “indie” gives me a headache. Dumped.
I know what I can’t stand “indie,” and it’s because “indie” is me. Indie rock has all my generation’s vices and even worse, all of my personal artistic crimes. I list these below:
Narcissism. False naivete. Excessive pastiche and homage in place of creativity. An aristocratic disdain for the popular. Rigidity. Excessive irony. Warmed-over modernism. Obscurantism. And no goddamn songs.
I keep having these Emperor’s New Clothes moments where I hear a breathy little girl voice over some feedback, or someone dropping a Velvet Underground quote into ten minutes of detuned guitar wiggling. I know what you’re doing there! You don’t have any songs or any substance, and you know your audience won’t care as long as you follow the style guide! You suck!
I like strange, challenging sound. My favorite artists include industrial bands that sound like a broken dishwasher, jazz that goes SKWONK, scary insane singer/songwriters, medieval European music, Central Asian wailing. No way do I want everyone to sound like Tom Petty.
And I still love pastiche, and quotes, and irony. And I still love Dada and the modernist revolt, 100 years later.
And I can’t fucking stand Klosterman and his celebration of everything popular for the sake of its popularity. That’s just this same attitude turned inside out, with extra patronizing.
I just want people to make good art instead of following rules. And this is especially true when the rules are the ones I rigidly clung to when I was 18 and a shining knight of the avant weird. At least two generation of musicians have looked to the “indie” of 1985 and duplicated it exactly, from the square glasses to the narcissism. Stop! Make a different thing!
So in conclusion, my war on indie rock is a war on my own failings as well as my generation’s. My appeal to indie rockers is: Please stop being me. I’m tired of me. Be more surprising.