Thursday, October 18, 2007

Follow-up on Indie rock

In my view, most the response to Sasha Frere-Jones' provocative New Yorker piece on "how indie rock lost its soul" has been disappointing. I see people getting defensive, pointing out exceptions (TV on the Radio!!! Spare me.), nit-picking his omissions. I don't see much engagement with what I saw as valid criticisms, however sloppy I found the piece (obviously, the sloppiness has contributed to the nature of the response, which is a big reason why I found it frustrating in the first place). I posted a comment to this post by Brendan Wolfe at The Beiderbecke Affair, in which I expressed this disappointment and said this (which I only include here because I'd meant to say it in my own post):
I think the point about not wanting to look stupid (or be accused of racism) is a good one. But one point I made, which I think is important, is that indie rock comes out of punk/DIY (while also taking Beatles/Dylan as models--as he says), which is generally oppositional toward what was seen as commercial pop. With the rise of hip hop as the most visible popular black music, these two tendencies combine to give us a lineage of artists that basically don't engage with much contemporary black music. Thirty years of that [sic!] this, and here we are. Now that indie rock bands have lost some of their antipathy toward pop, it is still in the context of 30 years of avoiding it. Etc.
Well, today in Slate, Carl "Zoilus" Wilson has an excellent response to it, far and away the best I've seen, better even than the original article. Carl makes some of the same points I made, and a lot more. One area in particular he focuses on is class:
Ultimately, though, the "trouble with indie rock" may have far more to do with another post-Reagan social shift, one with even less upside than the black-white story, and that's the widening gap between rich and poor. There is no question on which side most indie rock falls. It's a cliche to picture indie musicians and fans as well-off "hipsters" busily gentrifying neighborhoods, but compared to previous post-punk generations, the particular kind of indie rock Frere-Jones complains about is more blatantly upper-middle class and liberal-arts-college-based, and less self-aware or politicized about it.
Read the whole thing.

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