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Indie rock is a genre of that originated in the in the 1970s. Originally used to describe, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with "alternative rock". As and bands in the US, and then bands in the UK, broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, it came to be used to identify those acts that retained an outsider and underground perspective. In the 2000s, as a result of changes in the music industry and the growing importance of the Internet, some indie rock acts began to enjoy commercial success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.

Sometimes used interchangeably with "", in the mid-1980s, the term "" (or "") began to be used to describe the music produced on and labels. Some prominent indie rock record labels were founded during the 1980s. During the 1990s, Grunge bands broke into the mainstream, and the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning. The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. By the end of the 1990s indie rock developed subgenres and related styles including,,,, and. In the 2000s, changes in the music industry and in music technology enabled a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success.

In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down and back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands:,, and. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s. By the end of the 2000s the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill".

Contents

Characteristics[]

The term indie rock, which comes from "independent," describes the small and relatively low-budget on which it is released and the attitude of the bands and artists involved. Although distribution deals are often struck with major corporate companies, these labels and the bands they host have attempted to retain their autonomy, leaving them free to explore sounds, emotions and subjects of limited appeal to large, mainstream audiences. The influences and styles of the artists have been extremely diverse, including,, and. The terms "" and "indie rock" were used interchangeably in the 1980s, but after many alternative bands followed into the mainstream in the early 1990s, "indie rock" began to be used to describe those bands, working in a variety of styles, that did not pursue or achieve commercial success. Aesthetically speaking, indie rock is characterized as having a careful balance of pop accessibility with noise, experimentation with pop music formulae, sensitive lyrics masked by ironic posturing, a concern with "authenticity," and the depiction of a simple guy or girl.

Allmusic identifies indie rock as including a number of "varying musical approaches [not] compatible with mainstream tastes". Linked by an ethos more than a musical approach, the indie rock movement encompassed a wide range of styles, from hard-edged, grunge-influenced bands, through do-it-yourself experimental bands like, to punk-folk singers such as. In fact, there is an everlasting list of genres and subgenres of indie rock. Many countries have developed an extensive local scene, flourishing with bands with enough popularity to survive inside the respective country, but virtually unknown elsewhere. However, there are still indie bands that start off locally, but eventually attract an international audience.

Indie rock is noted for having a relatively high proportion of female artists compared with preceding rock genres, a tendency exemplified by the development of the feminist-informed music of acts like,,, and. However, Cortney Harding pointed out that this sense of equality is not reflected in the number of women running indie labels.

History[]

Origins: Late 1970s and 1980s[]

Post-punk and indie pop[]

Main articles: and

See also: and

The BBC documentary Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie pinpoints the birth of indie as the 1977 self-publication of the by Manchester band. Although Buzzcocks are often classified as a punk band, it has been argued by the BBC and others that the publication of Spiral Scratch independently of a major label led to the coining of the name "indie" ("indie" being the shortened form of "independent").

"" and "indie" were originally synonymous. In the mid-1980s, "indie" began to be used to describe the music produced on labels rather than the labels themselves. The indie rock scene in the US was prefigured by the that dominated playlists, which included key bands like from the US and from the UK. These two bands rejected the dominant of the early 1980s, and helped inspire guitar-based ; other important bands in the genre included and from the US, and and from the UK. In the United States, the term was particularly associated with the abrasive, distortion-heavy sounds of the,,,,, and.

In the United Kingdom the cassette, a 1986 compilation featuring,, and other bands, was a document of the UK indie scene at the start of 1986. It gave its name to the indie pop scene that followed, which was a major influence on the development of the British as a whole.[23] Major precursors of included bands and, and significant labels included, and.'s sound combined the 's "melancholy noise" with pop melodies and 's "" production,[] while emerged from the demise of post-punk band and experimented with and.[]

Noise rock and shoegazing[]

Main articles: and

The most abrasive and discordant outgrowth of punk was, which emphasised loud distorted electric guitars and powerful drums, and was pioneered by bands including, and.

SWANS, an influential band from New York can easily, but mistakenly, be categorised as noise rock, but are more correctly identified as part of the scene which included Lydia Lunch, and James Chance & The Contortions. These bands were documented by on the seminal compilation album. A number of prominent were founded during the 1980s. These include 's in 1980, 's in 1986 and 's and, North Carolina's in 1989. 's was founded as a in 1979 and began to release records during the 1980s.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, along with Dinosaur Jr, indie pop and the of, were the formative influences for the movement of the late 1980s. Named for the band members' tendency to stare at their feet and guitar onstage rather than interact with the audience, acts like, and later and created a loud "wash of sound" that obscured vocals and melodies with long, droning riffs, distortion, and feedback. The other major movement at the end of the 1980s was the drug-fuelled scene. Based around, a nightclub in Manchester owned by New Order and, Madchester bands such as and mixed dance rhythms, and with melodic guitar pop.

Development: 1990s[]

Alternative enters the mainstream[]

Main article:

The 1990s brought major changes to the alternative rock scene. bands such as,,, and broke into the mainstream, achieving commercial chart success and widespread exposure. bands like and also became popular and were grouped under the "alternative" umbrella. Similarly, in the United Kingdom saw bands like and emerge into the mainstream, abandoning the regional, small-scale and political elements of the 1980s scene. Bands like Hüsker Dü and Violent Femmes were just as prominent during this time period, yet they have remained iconoclastic, and are not the bands that are frequently cited as inspirations to the current generation of indie rockers.

As a result of alternative rock bands moving into the mainstream, the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning and began to refer to the new, commercially lighter form of music that was now achieving mainstream success. It has been argued that even the term "sellout" lost its meaning as grunge made it possible for a niche movement, no matter how radical, to be co-opted by the mainstream, cementing the formation of an individualist, fragmented culture. This theory hypothesizes staying independent became a career choice for bands privy to industry functions rather than an ideal, as the principle of resistance to the market evaporated in favor of a more synergistic culture.

The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. Even grunge bands, following their break with success, began to create more independent sounding music, further blurring the lines. Ryan Moore has argued that in the wake of the appropriation of alternative rock by the corporate music industry that what became known as indie rock increasingly turned to the past to produce forms of "retro" rock that drew on,,, and.

Indie electronic[]

"Indietronica" redirects here. For a more comprehensive overview of electronic/rock fusion styles, see.

Indie electronic covers rock-based artists who share an affinity for electronic music, using samplers, synthesizers, drum machines, and computer programs. Less a style and more a categorization, it describes an early 1990s trend of acts who followed in the traditions of early electronic music (composers of the ), and. Progenitors of the genre were English bands and. Most musicians in the genre can be found on independent labels like,, or.

Diversification[]

By the end of the 1990s indie rock developed a number of subgenres and related styles. Following these included lo-fi, noise pop, sadcore, post-rock, space rock and math rock. eschewed polished recording techniques for a D.I.Y. ethos and was spearheaded by, and, who were joined by eclectic folk and rock acts of the collective, including, and. The work of and helped inspire (an experimental style influenced by and, pioneered by and taken up by acts such as,, and ), as well as leading to more dense and complex, guitar-based, developed by acts like and.

looked back to progressive roots, with drone-heavy and minimalist acts like in the 1980s, and, and later groups including, and. In contrast, emphasized pain and suffering through melodic use of acoustic and electronic instrumentation in the music of bands like and, while the revival of reacted against lo-fi and experimental music by placing an emphasis on melody and classical instrumentation, with artists like, and. 's (1996) introduced the Emo genre to a wider and more mainstream audience.

Proliferation: 2000s[]

Signs of commercial interest[]

In the 2000s, the changing music industry, the decline in record sales, the growth of new digital technology and increased use of the Internet as a tool for music promotion, allowed a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success. Existing indie bands that were now able to enter the mainstream included more musically and emotionally complex bands including (whose 2004 album reached the US top 40 and was nominated for a Award), (who in 2004 had two singles at the top of the Billboard magazine ) and (whose 2005 album debuted at number four in the US, remaining on the Billboard charts for nearly one year and achieving platinum status and a Grammy nomination). This new commercial breakthrough and the widespread use of the term indie to other forms of popular culture, led a number of commentators to suggest that indie rock had ceased to be a meaningful term.

Post-punk revival[]

Main article:

In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down and back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. They were variously characterised as part of a, or revival. Because the bands came from across the globe, cited diverse influences (from traditional blues, through new wave to grunge), and adopted differing styles of dress, their unity as a genre has been disputed. There had been attempts to revive garage rock and elements of punk in the 1980s and 1990s and by 2000 scenes had grown up in several countries. The Detroit rock scene included,, and and that of New York,,, and. Elsewhere, the from Memphis, and The Buff Medways from Britain, from Sweden, and from Japan, enjoyed underground, regional or national success.

The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands:, who emerged from the New York club scene with their début album (2001);, from Detroit, with their third album (2001); from Sweden, after their compilation album (2001); and from Australia with (2002). They were christened the "The" bands by the media, and dubbed "The saviours of rock 'n' roll", leading to accusations of hype. A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included,,,, and from the US.

From the UK were,,,,,, and. British band were the most prominent act to owe their initial commercial success to the use of, topping the charts with their debut single "". Also successful were from Australia, and and from New Zealand. Many of the British bands listed above, with the exception of Arctic Monkeys, experienced a sharp decline in commercial fortunes owing to what has called the "slow and painful death" of indie rock.

Emo[]

Main article:

During the 1990s a number of indie rock groups, such as and, diversified the emo genre from its roots. A number of groups started to form during the mid-late 1990s including,, and. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s, with the platinum-selling success of 's (2001) and 's (2001). The new emo had a more refined sound than in the 1990s and a far greater appeal amongst adolescents than its earlier incarnations. At the same time, use of the term "emo" expanded beyond the musical genre, becoming associated with fashion, a hairstyle and any music that expressed emotion. During the mid-to-late 2000s, emo was played by multi-platinum acts such as,,, and.

Landfill Indie[]

By the end of the 2000s the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill", a description coined by Andrew Harrison of magazine, and the dominance of pop and other forms of music over guitar-based indie was leading to predictions of the end of indie rock. However, there continued to be commercial successes like 's (2009), which reached number one in the UK. In 2010, Canadian band 's album reached number one on the Billboard charts in the United States and the official chart in the United Kingdom, winning a Grammy for Album of The Year.

See also[]

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