Indie Rock Hipsters.
The term alone sends feelings of dread through any music lover. You know who they are, the ones who sap energy out of a show just by standing there. The ones who try so hard to look like intellectuals that they take the fun out of everything. These days Indie Rock Hipsters are like musical Free Masons, a group that’s right in front of us who claims they don’t exist. Let’s be honest here, Indie Rock Hipsters aren’t Bigfoot, they aren’t hard to spot and they do exist no matter what they say. It’s a stance, a type of facial hair, and a commitment to working incredibly hard to look like you don’t care at all. It’s an air of disinterest that reflects a bold lack of self-esteem.
For a group that has zero members, it’s never hard to pick them out. Of all my issues with them, the biggest problem I have is that their rock doesn’t rock. Using “rock” to describe that music is like using orgasm to describe a root canal. I’ve decided that the Hipsters just don’t realize that their rock is sorely lacking in actual rock. Therefore I have come up with a quick list for them of the Five Reasons Indie Rock Doesn’t Rock. Hopefully, this will help.
05. Self-Importance Doesn’t Rock
Who wants to go to a party where nobody wants you there?!
I said, who wants to go to a party where nobody wants you there?!!
Yeah, see, nobody wants to go to that party, that party sucks, and that’s most Indie Rock shows. I’ve plunked down enough money over the years to witness what was shilled to me as the next “saviors of rock” only to have the band step on stage looking like they just found out all their puppies died. I get it, you’re intellectual and clever and you take an ironic stance on everything. Totally understand that, but you make us all feel like we’re not welcome. Rock is a party, a big jamboree that everybody comes to and gets drunk and grooves to the jams being laid down. Indie Rock shows have none of that; it’s more like watching the kids who ran the audio/video department in school having a talent show. If you’re too good to rock for me, then I’m too damn good to buy your crap.
Think I’m crazy? Watch the crowd at the next Indie Rock hoedown you attend. Everybody stands around looking bored and disinterested or they might possibly move their heads back and forth ever so slightly. WOO HOO doesn’t that sound like a hot time in the city. The band acts like they don’t want to be there. The audience act like they’re too bored to enjoy the show and by the end of it I feel more like I waiting to see the principal than watch a rock show. I also don’t want to impress anybody by my unique ability to sub-reference some rare album that might have a tenuous grip on the music I’m seeing now.
04. Don’t Dress The Part, Kick Out The Jams!!
Dressing like the era you want to mimic sucks. The music is still average, the vibe is still mockingly superior, but hey, these guys are dressed like a rock band from said era so I guess that makes them good? It’s astonishing to me that so many bands spend so much time on their look, to a point that it almost puts the music in second place. Two things to remember there pal, the first is that bands dressed that way back then because that was how people dressed. Don’t make us suffer because you have no ideas of your own. The second is that those bands didn’t kick ass because they dressed that way. You’ve got the whole damn thing backwards.
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03. Genre Layering Won’t Save You
So, what does the band sound like?
“We’re noise punk with alt-country ideals but with a DJ specializing in eighties synth pop break beats”.
Yeah, okay but what does the band sound like?
“It’s an amalgam of textures that we channel through our own ideas growing up listening to post-funk political disco rock.”
Ok, seriously, what DOES the band sound like?
“I guess we’re electronic but with firm roots in prog-rock and noise soundscapes revolving around a neo-folk vibe that we use to write our future-punk songs.”
If you need a fucking road map to figure out what a band sounds like, then they don’t rock. Genre Layering is an easy way to try and mask the fact that you write crappy songs. I’ve rarely, if ever, heard a band that talks in circles about their sound actually sound any good. Metal doesn’t do this, rock doesn’t do this, even experimental tries to keep the explanations to a minimum. Only Indie Rock bands and their never-ending need to feel superior keep rambling on like somebody tossed an encyclopedia into a blender.
02. I Am Irony Maaaaan
This is one that really pisses me off. For some reason the indie hipster crowd need everything to be an ironic joke. It’s as if they’re afraid to take anything seriously because it might force them to have to take responsibility for what they do. If the whole thing is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink bit of humor, then when the music sucks they can claim it was all a big punch line. The bigger problem is they take everything that once mattered and make it their little joke. They wear Iron Maiden and AC/DC shirts ironically, then talk about bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and so on with a mocking tone. This lack of reverence for these bands translates to a lack of understanding and thusly a lack of being able to rock. For some of us this music is everything, it’s the lifeblood and watching bands belittle it for their pathetic little scene sucks.
01. The Music Doesn’t Rock
Ever tried to rock an awesome air guitar solo while listening to indie rock? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Ever had an indie rock band playing and you spilled some of your drink because you were fist pumping to the action too hard? Nope, not a drop spilled. In fact the can of PBR is probably on the counter while you adjust your army cap just so in a mirror with a New Radiant Storm Kings sticker stuck on the corner. If you manage to get a hot chick into your room and she’s down to get it on, have you ever slipped in the new Broken Social Scene album or tried to get the beast with two backs kicking up with Kids At Risk, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Death Cab For Cutie? If you did then later on that night the same girl is with another guy that’s kicking Thin Lizzy out of his speakers at top volume.
I hate to break it to all the indie rockers out there who think they bring the pain, but your music doesn’t rock, at all, on any level. Rock comes from the soul and your music has no soul, in fact it’s built on not having soul. It has humor, irony, ability to play and at times fair songwriting skills but there’s no soul. The lengths to which you go to show your other indie buds that you’re clever, that you can out reference them within the walls of pop culture is bleeding into your music. Nothing you play has any passion; it’s all so clever that it forgot to be alive. I also must add, is it me or do two thirds of the indie rock bands create music that seems like opening credits, closing credits, or driving scene music for some “indie” film composed of the same affected, ironic and overly pretentious content?
You can also spare me the jive about not everything is AC/DC or Motorhead. That’s not what I’m saying. Joy Division, The Smiths, both melancholy and both rock. Rush and Yes, both complex and layered and both rock. Your music is robot music; it’s a theme song to the kids who protect themselves by acting like nothing matters. If nothing matters, then how the hell could your music possibly matter?
So there you have it, five reasons why Indie Rock doesn’t rock. To be honest this boring and dry scene isn’t really indie rock, not the way it was originally meant. Before the uniform, the superiority, the big party that nobody was invited to, indie rock just meant rock distributed on independent labels. I don’t know when the change hit; I don’t know when the chunky black glasses became so fogged up that the music became secondary to the scene. Whatever happened, indie rock just doesn’t rock anymore. It struts, it mocks, it laughs at us and it stands in the corner staring at its shoes and sighing heavily. With all that effort it still doesn’t make any magic happen. If you’re ever get the feeling that the record you’re listening to or the band you’re seeing isn’t what you thought rock was about, just keep my little list handy and you might save yourself a lot of wasted time.