Indie rock

From Academic Kids

Indie rock is a term used to refer to rock music that falls within the indie music movement. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with indie music as a whole, though more specifically implies that the music meets the criteria of being rock, as opposed to indie pop, indie dance or other possible matchups. These criteria vary from an emphasis on rock instrumentation (electric guitars, bass guitar and live drums) to more abstract (and debatable) rockist constructions of authenticity.

What is commonly known as indie rock is descended from what was known as alternative rock during the 1980s; this name refers to the fact that it was an alternative to mainstream rock. Alternative bands of the time, in turn, were influenced by the punk rock and New Wave movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. During the first half of the 1990s, alternative music, led by grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, broke into the mainstream, achieving commercial chart success; the alternative genre became commercialised, as mainstream success attracted major-label investment and commercially-oriented or manufactured acts with a formulaic, conservative approach. With this, the meaning of the label "alternative" changed away from its original, more countercultural, meaning, and the term "indie rock" fell into greater use.

"Indie rock" is not strictly a genre of music (given that musical style and independence are not always correlated), but is often used as an umbrella term covering a wide range of artists and styles, connected by some degree of allegiance to the values of underground culture and (usually) describable as rock and roll. Genres or subgenres often associated with indie rock include emo, lo-fi, post-rock, garage punk and folk-punk, to list but a few; other related (and sometimes overlapping) categories include alternative rock and indie pop.

Typically, indie artists place a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, often releasing albums on their own independent record labels and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, and airplay on independent or college radio stations for promotion. Some artists end up signing to major labels, though often on favourable terms won by their prior independent success.

Contents

Indie: status or genre?

In the UK, indie music charts have been compiled since at least the 1980s. These charts initially featured independent bands that emerged from punk and post punk, as well as indie pop artists such as Aztec Camera and Orange Juice, the C86 jangle-pop movement and the twee pop of Sarah Records artists. The 1980s indie scene directly influenced 1990s Britpop artists such as Blur and Suede (though many of these were technically not indie artists, being signed to major labels).

In reality, the term "indie rock" is so incredibly broad that almost anything from post punk to alt-country to synth-pop to afrobeat to ambient to noise pop to IDM to psychadelic folk to hundreds of other genres can fall under its umbrella.

Currently, the term "indie rock" is sometimes used to refer to the current wave of New Wave-influenced alternative art rock such as Franz Ferdinand popularised by the media on the music channel MTV2 and in the rock music tabloid NME. The core of this movement has mostly been the resurgence of spiky 80's post punk rhythms and riffs akin to those played by Gang of Four, Television and Wire. Current bands in this movement include Franz Ferdinand, along with Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Razorlight, !!! and Moving Units. Often this style has been blended with other even more alternative genres such as garage rock (Death From Above 1979), synth rock (The Killers), Dance (Bloc Party), and Post-Punk (Interpol). Some would also classify the Scissor Sisters as fellow travellers within this movement.

Whether this movement embodies the indie ethos is debatable. Many of these bands are signed to independent labels, and express a disdain of the major-label marketing apparatus. (In the 8th January 2005 issue of NME, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand authored an article championing the genre, saying independent labels 'have character', how they are 'run by people who are passionate about music' and stressing 'why independent record labels are so important' as the saviour of good music.) Critics point out that, while many of the bands are signed to labels technically independent of the Big Four, the movement is highly commercial, image-oriented and market-driven, with millions of dollars spent on marketing and the investment of corporate promoters such as MTV, Clear Channel and Carling; a far cry from the traditional indie world of labels run out of bedrooms by friends of the bands and unconcerned with commercial success. Furthermore, much of this movement has been said to be rigidly formulaic, with a set of aesthetic stances (i.e., the severe black suits and thin ties of bands such as Interpol and Kaiser Chiefs) and sounds imitating a small number of 1970s/1980s post punk and new wave bands, and thus not particularly independent in spirit. While some artists in this movement may embody the DIY aesthetic and unconcerned attitude of indie more than others, it cannot be said to infuse the entire movement.

Further muddying the waters of the technical definition of "indie" is the fact that independence from major labels and independence from market-driven commercialism are not always correlated. For a time in the late 1990s, three of the most successful artists in the UK indie charts were NSync, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. All three were signed to Zomba, which was technically an independent label at the time. (Zomba has since become part of major label Sony BMG). In contrast, there has been a small number of notable artists (such as Radiohead, Pulp and The Flaming Lips) who have maintained considerable creative independence and won critical acclaim whilst signed to major labels.

Recent trends in the United States

In the last few years Omaha, Nebraska has been noted by various observers and fans as the unofficial capital of indie rock in the United States; some comparisons have been made with Seattle's role in the grunge scene of the early 1990s. This is largely due to the Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records, which is home to several highly regarded indie rock acts, most notably Bright Eyes and The Faint. Bright Eyes singer/songwriter and Omaha native Conor Oberst, who started the label, has been called the "King of Indie Rock" by Rolling Stone magazine, although his "indie cred" is often less than high. Some publications such as Spin magazine are now claiming Montreal as North America's indie rock capital, due to bands such as The Arcade Fire, The Unicorns, and Broken Social Scene. New York City (notably the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn) has also been cited as a major scene for recent indie rock music with such bands as The Walkmen, TV on the Radio, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Washington, DC area has also re-emerged as a hotbed of indie music. The area gained notoriety in the 1980s when it became one of the flagship cities of the American hardcore punk movement, with bands such as Minor Threat, Government Issue and Rites of Spring. All of these bands were on Minor Threat frontman Ian Mackaye's own record label, Dischord Records. Now the city is re-emerging as a hotbed of indie rock acts, namely Mackaye's own Fugazi, as well as Q and Not U, Dead Meadow, Decahedron, and The Evens.

See also

References

  • Mathieson, Craig (2000), The Sell-In: How the Music Business Seduced Alternative Rock, Sydney, Allen and Unwin
Alternative rock
Britpop - College rock - Dream pop - Gothic rock - Grunge - Indie - Jam band - Madchester - New Wave - Twee
Bands - History

de:Indie-Rock pt:Música indie

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