August 26, 2002

Ignite the Seven Cannons

I've just stumbled upon a Truckload of Trouble.

I'm sure the title of this site is a sly acknowledgement of the debate-sparking nature of their project (subtitled "an incomplete indie-pop encyclopedia"), given the editors' introductory note that pops up upon entry. Which is more than fair -- debates are an excellent way to learn more, subjecting each person's musical knowledge, preferences, band advocacy and pet hates to a critical dissection by others where you can learn things like... one of your favorite bands has been ripping their schtick from some obscure predecessor, Person X is so attached to the sound of feedback that he will never, ever be able to get beyond that to listen to the actual songs, and, yes-they-were-fucking-geniuses, but the recorded output of Band Y will never find a place in your record collection because you will never, ever be able to get past the nails-on-chalkboard sound of the lead singer's voice.

Which makes me wish all the more that the debatable points this site raises were only subjective issues of taste rather than flaws in methodology or approach that make it difficult to see each band in the most appropriate context. Because it's more fun to wrestle over the relative goodness or badness of your favorite bands when the necessary framework is in place to do so. Equal footing for all parties, so to speak.

So what do I do straight away? After clicking on the first link ("On to the Chart..."), I jump right to part of the drop-down menu at the top of the page listing the genre categories, to which I'm irresistibly drawn. Within are a number of somewhat mystifying entries, and clicking on each reveals a list of bands meant to fit within the chosen category, the contents of which provoke an immediate, visceral reaction --

The Verlaines are "Shoegazer"? Girls At Our Best "Twee"? Young Marble Giants "Folk"? And WTF is "New Optimism" doing in there anyway? Might as well add "Romo" if the idea is to use silly terms fabricated by British music rags. (Though I do think tagging apparent New Optimists Josef K as "Joy Division on Prozac" is Kinda Funny.)

Switching from the subjective to the more objective for the moment... The primary complaint I have with these categories is that they're not taxonomically consistent. Each is used for slightly different purposes, either to describe a common sound (Jangle, Folk, Synth), or to define a musical scene from a certain time/place (C86) or to group influential, yet musically-dissimilar artists (Roots).

Secondary complaint: each band is only assigned one category -- so The Go-Betweens end up in Jangle, instead of perhaps Jangle/Roots, and Beat Happening are Love, instead of Love/Roots... and so on. So the sole category assignment ends up subjectively reducing a band's historial importance (filing a seminal band under anything but Roots), omitting them from a scene (putting The Wedding Present in Jangle not C86, even though they appeared on the NME C86 compilation after which the scene is named), or losing the historical thread that ties together old and new within a musical sound (omitting The Fall from Lo-fi, then -- adding insult to injury -- listing Pavement, but NOT The Fall, as an influence on Lo-fi. Ye gads...).

Finally, there are the quite simple and simply bizarre miscategorizations as noted briefly above. Punk classic "Getting Nowhere Fast" immediately disqualifies Girls At Our Best from ever being called Twee, someone is confusing minimalism (bass, synth, click track) with Folk in the case of Young Marble Giants, and, as a fan of the Verlaines for the past 12 years and owner of every one of their records, I'd have to say that whoever is attempting to call them Shoegazer is seriously misguided. (Okay, I might have switched back to "subjective" there for a just a tiny moment...)

Before you call me a complete curmudgeon, I should say that the site offers quite a useful overview of indiepop bands via the descriptions, country of origin notations, and even the album/recording recommendation for each. It's especially useful for the smaller or more recent indie bands that aren't included or described in any way on the TweeNet site. So as an overview, general guide, personally idiosyncratic take on indiepop... yes, it succeeds on that level. But to call it an encyclopedia, a reference... no.

(Truckload of Trouble link via monosyllabic)

Posted by nstop at August 26, 2002 11:24 PM


how funny one of my favorite bands turns out to be shoegazer. and here I thought my bloody valentine and slowdive were the only real shoegazer bands I ever really listen to.

the verlaines later stuff I guess starts to get a little bit washy, but it would be pushing it to call it shoegazer. and the only way you can get an album like -some disenchanted evening- to sound even vaguely shoegazer would be to play the whole record through a flanger with a hint of analog reverb or something. and how the hell do you call that record "arty noise pop?" there's no noise in it.

what I want to know is how the hell jangle/power pop is one category. the darling buds never jangle... they only pop. the smiths haven't a power pop bone in their collective bodies.

the C86 thing is just throwing it all out of whack too. cause the whole talulah gosh family ends up not appearing in twee. and talulah gosh is not just an influence... they are also a member.

my single most hated thing... we (the supposed newcomer to this whole thing making use of this reference) are instructed to "avoid the technoy later stuff" of pop will eat itself. as the history of indie goes, pwei is a document of some of the earliest sampling and punk/dance hybrid stuff. for cryin out loud, -this is the day- includes samples of james brown which today would be illegal. there's as much ex post facto legal sampling on their records to give even -paul's boutique- a run for it's money.

you tell 'em, jen.

I'm gonna fire up the other seven, and I'll flank the other side.

Posted by: martin on August 27, 2002 12:16 AM

Ah Girls At Our Best.... one of Leeds' great forgotton exports. I find it amusing how influential some Leeds' bands have been and yet rarely crop up in conversation; Gang of Four, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry ...

ok i am reachin'...

Posted by: Andy on August 27, 2002 10:26 AM

the other thing that struck me about this site is that, apart from the obviously subjective and inconsistent (and maddening) nature of some of its categorisation choices, there are things in that are just plain wrong.

such as Hi-Posi's term of existence? they've been around a LOT longer than just since 2000...PLUS, they're now really a one-woman band. 4n5 is just the only thing released outside of Japan, to my knowledge. this automatically makes it the best? hardly, although i'll concede that this part of my argument is entirely subjective.

and there are obvious glaring omissions, too...and things that haven't been cross-referenced properly. it's of course a good idea to connect the dots between one band and what other bands may have come up out of its ashes, but one must be CONSISTENT about doing so, and this site really isn't.

the Posies were right. everyone is a fucking liar. ;)

Posted by: janaki on August 27, 2002 01:47 PM

heheh, the posies were right about a lot of things. and red lorry yellow lorry never pops up in conversation cause their name is so hard to say quickly.

at least this person didn't even try to name a best release for pizzicato five. and to make them sound even more impressive they are described simply as "60s disco meets 90s electro." yeh, that pretty much sums them up...

and, ack, they left the halo benders out of the list of beat happening relations.

sigh. the design of the site is sorta cool in a scenester kinda way.

Posted by: martin on August 27, 2002 07:42 PM

Guess I wasn't the only one incited by that site. Aside from everyone's excellent, detailed contributions here, it looks like more discussion has been sparked at I Love Music, where someone started a new thread about that link. More interesting comments, though the "oh, I'm so embarrassed to own these wimpy indiepop records" attitude among some of the posters I find quite hilarious.

Also, not only are the Halo Benders missing from the Beat Happening entry, but what is up with the attached date range (1980-1984)? Their last album came out in 1992.

Posted by: nstop on August 28, 2002 03:17 AM

Oops, sorry, should have credited this site when starting the thread - I found the link here.

Posted by: Tom on August 28, 2002 06:57 AM

No problem -- as I noted at the bottom, I myself found it on someone else's blog.

Also, thanks for the link and kind words on NYLPM!

Posted by: nstop on August 28, 2002 12:51 PM

grrrr... early r.e.m. is listed like it's a different band from r.e.m. now, and I think that's valid in indie circles, but... I started thinking about it... where are all the athens, irs records & related bands? there's no fetchin bones, no don dixon, no christmas, NO GUADALCANAL DIARY??. I've met very few indie rockers who didn't have "always saturday" on at least one mix tape back before we made playlists and mix cds.

why aren't the go-gos an influence anywhere? why aren't the b-52s?


Posted by: martin on August 29, 2002 12:57 AM

Buy this it is a wonderful addition to anyones home entertainment system.

Posted by: click here on May 28, 2004 12:43 AM

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