"You wouldn't believe this conversation I had with this dude tonight. He was trying to convince me that the Kooks were more indie than the Arctic Monkeys." As soon as he said it, I couldn't help but pull an expression of bemused disgust. It was a baffling thing to consider, the prospect of an actual scale of indieness where some artists rank higher than others. The worst part of it was that I felt compelled to construct a counter-argument, citing the significance of dancingmonkey.com in the early promotion of the Arctic Monkeys. It was a site with white background and black text, featuring a list of links to MP3 demos. It appealed to the idea that the music could speak for itself and the incredible interest generated was achieved independently of record company interference. The Kooks would later post their demos onto Megaupload in early 2006, yet irrespective of the charm of Lonely Cat, the distribution of their demos could hardly be described as a significant landmark in the history of indie music.
When I regained my composure, I asked him how the actual argument unfolded. What became apparent was this person had a completely different idea of what indie meant. Once, the term indie was short for independent, encompassing groups without an affiliation with a record company (or else, groups with an affiliation with an independent record company). However, for this person, the term indie simply meant better. For me, it seemed wildly inaccurate to associate such a loaded term with a single word (and a superlative at that). But then again, I had to consider that for many, the term indie is synonymous with credibility. It is suggestive of being a lone independent artist, creating in retaliation of commercial appeal. The discernible fan, too, is required to maintain a certain degree of credibility. Cultural commentators such as Pitchfork and Flavorwire establish their own credibility by dissecting the term ruthlessly and bemoaning the idea that fashion, cynicism and laziness are killing indie music in 2011.
There are times when a faithful adherence to indie culture can go terribly wrong. The infamous viral video of "I'm Amy and I'm an Indie", from BBC Switch's Are You One of Them? is cringeworthy, to say the least. She comes across as suffering a complete lack of discernment: although she would obsessively adhere to every code associated with indie culture, she would do so without any real understanding of its significance. She would still manage to make some blunders, indulging in music in direct conflict with the indie credos, namely Razorlight and ahem, Ronan Keating. Although she is a rather innocuous 17 year old girl, it is embarrassing to watch her identifying the silly customs of a highly pretentious and highly protective subculture. It is embarrassing to watch her, because her heightened awareness of every nuance of the subculture reveals how indie kids assimilate, silently and without question.
From time to time, I arrest my desire to examine the meaning and currency of this feckless term. I occasionally give up the inclination to argue about it with friends and strangers alike. I even block out the aggressive posturings of the knowledgeable cultural guardsmen. I let all notions of competition and credibility melt away: I listen, smile and dance alone, taking in every moment of breathtaking pop.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Indiepop Podcast #35
Summer Camp - Better Off WIthout You
Serenades - Birds
Andy Bull - Dog (feat. Lisa Mitchell)
General Electriks - Raid the Radio
Asobi Seksu - Thursday
CSS - Hits Me Like a Rock
Body Language - Social Studies (Plastic Plates Remix)
The Mynabirds - Let the Record Go
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