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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 106 - 05/23/05

Built Like Alaska
Autumnland
Future Farmer

I was recommended this debut album on Soulseek by the DJ of French radioshow "Mon Cafe". He was raving! And he's not the only one! So I checked it out. Search for their band on Google and you get a general description (presumably written by the band) from their website: "Built Like Alaska is an indie rock band from the great central valley of California". Don't you think that term "indie rock" (along with its older counterparts: "college rock" and the dreaded "alternative rock") has become devastatingly not-prudent nowadays for an American band?

Why not just call it "rock", or its older, broader, and full name, "Rock 'n Roll"? I think the term's death was pretty much consumated with the death of Guided by Voices and the deserved success of bands like Modest Mouse (see below). While I don't know if I believe it, I could go along with "Rock 'n Roll will never die", but not many people ever said "indie rock will never die". Root words like "pop", "rock", and "country" are back in a big way for me. Of course, "Good music" surely will never die, and I'm sure it will keep being put out mostly by independent labels.

"Indie rock" was from the beginning a bit of a definer of style, just because the underground is always so tapestried. I'm sure there was a sweet sweet time when it really just mainly meant "rock music put out by independent labels". Not a hair-style or way to dress. That old definition is long gone now, though. As a definer of style the term "indie rock" is certainly limiting today. I mean, Modest Mouse and Pavement albums are sold at Target now. And I think they deserve every bit of the success they earned toiling in lower-middle to poverty income and obscurity for over a decade, and that their music is still great.

Good "Indie Rock" in America was a 90s thing. The "Indie" style is definitely "corporate" now, not "independent". And it's mainstream, not always bad but in this case yes, because, I have to face that the value of the aesthetic was always against that. I think "indie" is the new "emo"; it's a word that describes a style that ended up taking on the exact opposite meaning from the one it was good-heartedly and originally intended to have.

Such is the way with art and trends in consumerism. Now does it really make much sense to call yourself a brand new indie rock band this day in age? Especially toiling in obscurity in Modesto, California?

Post Script: click for more on terminolgy and etimology.

Copyright © 2005 Eugene Ward e-mail address

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