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May 25, 2001

Indie pedant

The first "Indie Pedant" appeared in the Maroon on January 7, 2000 and I wrote it more or less out of guilt. This, the last one, will appear on May 25, 2001, and I am writing it for no other reason than that I am a windbag and -- some would say -- a pedant, and I can't leave here without getting the last 1,000 words I can in edgewise. As any faithful reader of this space knows, I am not one to stint on sharing my opinions. As such, I thought I would get all meta on that ass for a second and share my thoughts about criticism.

When I say I wrote this column out of guilt, what I mean is that I stepped down as Voices Editor and saddled poor Karen Lee with the duty. In recompense, I offered to write at least one article, guaranteed, a week. Of course, such humble beginnings don't mean I didn't start eking a little meaning out of the thing after a while, and certainly won't keep me from extracting a moral from the thing here at the end. The only way I knew how to manage a regular, self-identified spot without getting completely bored was to find myself a little room in which to stretch out. And stretch out I did. Hence meaning. Hence paltry moral.

As I look back on this column -- with equal mixtures of whist and relief -- I'm frankly amazed at the kind of nattering I was allowed to do. My page-long encomium to Ajax Records; my lengthy tirade about a Peter Searcy solo record that devolved into a tirade about advertising and Squirrel Bait, a band about whom nobody cares but me; and, perhaps worst of all, my nasty habit of moralizing endlessly about pop records 99 percent of the population hasn't even heard of.

Reading a column brazen enough to call itself "Indie Pedant" -- with all the resultant evocations of snobbery, hipsterness and Cobb-standing-in-front-of -- is already a lot to ask of an audience. Further, to select an audience that is already incredibly minute and ask them to endure endless harangues about the amorality and hypocrisy of their behavior is, quite frankly, mammothly presumptuous.

And yet, harangue them (or, rather, you) I did. Check the Maroon archives for proof: fully one half of my columns were in some way dedicated to denouncing scenesterism, bourgeois posturing and obscurantism. As you're no doubt thinking right now, I was guilty of all three practices. In a way, every weak assault I launched against my imagined legion of faithful readers was a way of beating up on the same snotty hipsterism I indulged in myself.

If you want to know the exact moment in which I found my quote-unquote reviewer's voice, I'll cheat for you. The issue of the Maroon dated August 14, 2000 features my writing about the band Couch. Almost entirely unrelated to the band and/or record in question, I lit into the following tirade near the end of the article:

The point, however, is not that post-rock is dead or, as has been harped upon before, here and elsewhere, that Genre Is Myth, but instead to suggest that the Indie-Rock Diaspora of the early '90s (which leads me to another interesting but probably-way-too-big-for-a-parenthetical-remark digression: all you current-issue collegiate hipsters have to stop shouting out all your old-school faves all the damn time. You have not been following underground hip-hop, death metal, free jazz, mid-'60s psych-rock and madrigals since you were 14. You were listening to knock-kneed pop-punk like the rest of us back then, the stuff got cool in the last couple of years and you paid too much for the old source material at the record stores just like the rest of us down here at the Army/Navy. So. Quit. Fronting. It's got to stop. Thank you) is finally registering some influence.

There. Ground zero. From whence every other stream of verbiage ever came. This is where I found my mission: taunting hipsters within inches of their lives. It gave me great joy and pleasure throughout my year-and-a-half writing this goddamn column. One could argue such pleasures are fleeting and vindictive and mean, which they are, but that misses the point.

My great axe to grind throughout this writing was that independent music, at its best, offers oddball options for people who (a) find popular song typically pretty boring and/or (b) are put off by the option of having people with zillion-dollar promotion budgets deciding what you should buy for you. However, the big problem with the whole fandango is that, human nature being what it is, the whole "scene" becomes so preoccupied with out-obscuring itself that, in not-so-isolated instances (like, look around you), the whole goddamn effort vanishes up its own navel. Anyone who argues against an indie-rock tendency towards backlash against artists that actually start selling reasonably well is either a liar, a fool or sort of a dingbat, and this policy about eating our young (I'm using "our" here for the first and last time, of course) results in a fear of communication. Why risk getting tarred and feathered by the same people who you want to like your craft in the first place. Better to stay small, uncommunicative and weird, and never try to, like, reach anyone other than the already-excessively-preached-to choir.

I don't have a moral, exactly, here. What I do have is the feeling that rock music of every stratum and type is collapsing under our feet, and the endless obsessing about what's cooler or hipper or less well-known is a bore. If we don't knock it off quick-like, we're all in bad straits.

All that said, I should say that plenty of things made it on my good list throughout my writing here. Some were people, some were bands, some were labels. And the more visible profusion of local bands can only augur well for my departure. Anyway, it's nice to go out with a bang. Let's get the party under way. The Indie Pedant, in the end, pops corks for: Karen Lee; Barrett and Geatty; Anand; Josh Morgenstern, who is right now anxiously eyeing me so he can give me a ride home and he can go to sleep; DPK; Mopey; Joiner; Hannah; Eugene; the angry guy who wrote me to say Sonic Youth's performance at Summer Breeze was the single thing that made his college career worthwhile; Christine Back; the Dutch Courage camp for the comp stuff; whoever was behind that Vulture T-shirt stunt; the several people who have recognized me by name at 57th Street Books (had I known, I would have bought something more interesting); and anyone else who deserves a flippant joke in these pages whom I have forgotten. Last one out, please get the lights.