Monday, October 10, 2005

Oh, indie guilt, you cruel mistress.

Picture, if you will, a young music fan. Let’s call this fan Stu. Now, Stu tends to keep up with small-time bands and has recently been enjoying one in particular. Let’s call this band the Cumquats. After buying the first Cumquats album, (which was totally awesome, by the way) Stu has taken quite a liking to the band. However, much to his dismay, Stu discovers the single lamest girl he knows (let’s call her Tiffani) sporting a Cumquats t-shirt.
Stu is now faced with a conflict of interest. He loves the Cumquats and wishes them nothing but the greatest of fortunes. However, seeing Tiffani, the absolute epitome of uncool, sharing his interest breeds an amazing amount of anger in the young man. Stu is plagued by what I’ve come to call the Indie Guilt.
If you were an Interpol fan in 2003, a Shins fan in 2002 or even a Death Cab for Cutie fan before the OC, you probably know just how Stu feels. Every year, millions of innocent music fans are faced with this dilemma. Wishing that your favorite band would remain obscure (and therefore poor) is selfish and underhanded. However, there are few things more painful than seeing your taste shared by those without taste.
This has led many normally reasonable people to miserly horde their favorite artists, hoping that they won’t be forced to hear them on the radio, followed by a slacker-stereotype deejay talking about farts. Many have been known to take the term “cult following” to the extent of forming actual cults (this means you, Wilco fans).
Music snobs have been fighting this for years. It’s the very reason the bad-skinned guy at your local record store balks at your Postal Service purchase but swears by Serge Gainsbourg. He has a vested interest in maintaining exclusivity, lest he be faced with oceans of people sporting uncreative haircuts and singing his favorite Devendra Banhart tunes.
But snobbery is not the answer. In fact, I’m afraid there’s no solution outside of musical fascism. Instead, cheer as your favorite little band jumps from Made in Some Guy’s Bedroom Records to Hulking Conglomerate. Some bands get better with a little money hanging around (Jawbox, anyone?), and many of them have earned a groupie or two after slogging it out in a smelly van while holding some depressing job (except for the Strokes).
As for the whiny bandwagon-riding quasi-fans, let them misinterpret your favorite songs all they want. You still remember the first time you heard “Date with the Night,” and it was yours. Sure, they got Modest Mouse, but you know it’ll be another year before they’re up on Joanna Newsom. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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