Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gimme Pete Wentz Approved No Age

Two cannonballs into the void today. One a misty-eyed remembrance of financial instability from the founders of Sub Pop, and a fairly upbeat celebration of selling out, err, I mean "buying in" from my friend Brian over at Celebrate the Body Electric.

The back and forth argument over whether or not indie is allowed to make money, and finally pay off those student loans thanks to a nice cash infusion from Outback Steakhouse is one that I'm not particularly interested in joining. And far, far better and more lucid dissections of the debate can be found on Chris Ott's excellent blog, Shallow Rewards (sadly it seems as though fatherhood and other "grown up" responsibilities have prevented Chris from writing lately. The last post is a strong refutation of the Joy Division nostalgia express.).

Both these items bring up an interesting point, which is that Indie is essentially a highly potent marketing term. Bruce Pavitt, in a seemingly incongruous statement for someone who's business plan included at one point "World Domination", notes:

"Indie rock is very healthy, there's a lot of diversity and a lot of creativity, but it does not have the revolutionary spirit of the late-70s punk scene in regards to design and politics and fashion and stuff like that. I really miss that, and I'm looking forward to a youth musical cultural scene that's a little more revolutionary, where indie bands aren't vying for McDonald's commercial spots. I think, politically, the scene's got pretty watered down. There are economic opportunities for many people, but I don't think, artistically, it's as revolutionary as that particular period."

Easy for someone who lives on a small island in the Pacific Northwest to say! Essentially, Bruce is trying to pad his legacy. Sub Pop was, and still is (despite a rather lackluster period in the late 90s) a hugely important force in alternative music, but for them to whine and bitch that maybe the music isn't as revolutionary as it once was is just hitting the broad side of the barn.

Meanwhile, on much more "posicore" note, Brian (who's blog really is excellent and who is a stand-up guy who is totally not going to hate me for calling him out on this) sounds the "can't we all just get along" alarm in a celebration of No Age. At this point, its ridiculous to call No Age an "indie" band, despite the fact that they record for Sub Pop, technically an independent label. But like Interpol before them, No Age are straddling that often uncomfortable line of huge on the coasts, but utterly unknown in between. Still, in a show of "I paid attention in Kindergarten", Brian celebrates the (partial) ascension of bands like No Age and the culture they represent.

"It would be easy to say that the band has been “selling out,” but to use another cliche, maybe more and more people are “buying in.” There is nothing wrong with a band finding success and despite the oddity of finding them featured in a relatively mainstream spotlight, I can’t help but think how cool it is that “alternative culture” is being brought to the front lines. I don’t subscribe to the idea of exclusivity and preserving the underground nature of anything. While it’s nice having things to yourself, wouldn’t you want to share with others? I find that to be so much more satisfying."

Brian also aims for the broad side and scores a direct hit. "Indie", as a both a musical and cultural stance, is dead and gone. The fact is that now more than ever Indie has become nothing more than a t-shirt (or perhaps in this case a pair of skinny jeans) that one wears when one feels inclined. Appropriation and acceptance by the masses is not something to be scorned, but rather celebrated. The sweat and the fear are gone and your parents drive you to the bad part of town to see No Age now. One need only watch (horrified) the BBC series "Switch" to see how much indie and youth culture in general have become codified and stilted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will watch switch once I get home from my completely mainstream job in order to revert back into my non-mainstream way of life funded by said job.

Great post though. Another thing I meant to add about in our case study of No Age though, is that the fact that No Age has risen to the mainstream is something different that anything else we have seen recently. Bands like No Age shouldn't be accepted by the mainstream, due to their sound and what they represent. Interpol has always had the look and sound that could be accepted by forward thinking bros who want to have something to listen to on the one night a week they put a nice shirt on and go out.

Anyway, for the most part, despite what I have written, I don't particularly like it when a band I like peaks at #7 on the TRL charts and has that catchy song in that commercial for designer shoes. But for some reason, in this case, I feel like I can share the love with Mr. Ashlee Simpson.