Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Indie Snobbery: Turning It Up

contributed by Kyle Curran

“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

-Rob Gordon High Fidelity

Indie music snobs unite!...or don’t actually. Indie snobs are essentially so hip to particular music scenes that to see At the Drive-In back together and the second Mars Volta album erased from existence, Ted Leo play an acoustic session with a resurrected Elliott Smith (that’s two l’s and two t’s by the way, n00bs), Weezer rehire Matt Sharp and fire Rick Rubin as producer, or to have Ben Gibbard ditch Death Cab completely and switch to keyboard forever would blow their minds. But to the point: I was forced hired by my brother (the guy who let a stuffed bear run the website for a week) to write a bit on indie music snobbery. By all standards, I could (will) definitely lose all credibility in the indie world for even taking on such a project or even identifying certain artists as “indie” in the first place.

Let’s be honest though. We all have some idea of what indie is, and most people with half a brain (and maybe those on a decent drug regiment) can tell you it’s not a genre. The word indie implicitly means Artist X is on an independent label or at the very minimum, a subsidiary of a label on the verge of being major. However, this definition tends to also include artists who USED to be on an independent label (hence the reason we have what some people call “sell-outs”). So there you have it. Or do you? Of course not.

Rule #1 You’re never legit enough.

No matter what you know or think you know about listening to good music (yes, you have to know how to properly listen to music- see Rule #5 part ii.), you never know enough artists or enough about them (this includes origins, side projects of all- if any- members, career highs and lows, familiarity with all albums, or how to properly discuss an artist or particular album). For example, you can’t bring up Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots without first appreciating the older, rawly psychedelic Flaming Lips sound and eventually identifying The Soft Bulletin as their strongest release to date. (Note: FLips is NOT an appropriate way to abbreviate their name)

Rule #2 Objectivity before personal preference always

Unless you’re wasted- you could probably get away screaming “Sweet Jane” before admitting it represents The Velvet Underground’s degression into more pop-oriented music than their arguably unrivaled early experimental efforts (Beatles excluded, of course- we all know they’re brilliant). Granted, Lou Reed appropriately titled the album it appears on Loaded.

Rule #3 Always be critical, you’ll find better music this way and become more legit.

See www.pitchforkmedia.com

Rule #4 Test your peers’ music knowledge by playing them things they clearly won’t know.

This is easy for an indie snob. Play Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (The Unicorns…you knew that, right?) If your peers do, you just completely embarrassed yourself. Be careful.

Rule #5 Listen to the music properly

i. Make sure it’s loud enough, use headphones if you need to (some only use headphones).
ii. Make sure you can enjoy it- don’t be distracted and miss crucial subtleties in the music.
iii. Get in the habit of listening and evaluating whole albums, not songs UNLESS it’s a single released independently of or prior to the release of an album.

If you can get these 5 rules down, you’re well on your way to being an indie music snob- only that’s an oxymoron if you’ve learned anything from this. Lastly, if all else fails, remember to listen to what you like. Unless I say it sucks. OK, back to the new Belle and Sebastian.

**If you’re ever in a jam, Sonic Youth and anything on the Saddle Creek and Matador labels will make you sound legit**

Kyle is a guest writer to Caught on the Bound. The artists presented in this article were chosen as examples that most people could probably relate to. Otherwise, he would have made sure you'd never heard of them.