Indie pop

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Indie pop (or indiepop) is a music subculture[2] and counterpart of indie rock[3] that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and subsequently generated a thriving fanzine, label, and club and gig circuit. The style, inspired by punk's DIY ethic and related ideologies,[3] defines itself against charting pop music.[4] It differs from indie rock to the extent that it is more melodic, less abrasive, and relatively angst-free.[3] Indie pop subgenres include chamber pop and twee pop.

Development and characteristics[edit]

Origins and etymology[edit]

Indie pop is not just "indie" that is "pop." Not too many people realize this, or really care either way. But you can be sure indie pop's fans know it. They have their own names for themselves ... the music they listen to ... their own canon of legendary bands ... and legendary labels ... their own pop stars ... their own zines ... websites ... mailing lists ... aesthetics ... festivals ... iconography ... fashion accessories ... and in-jokes ... in short, their own culture.

—Nitsuh Abebe, Pitchfork[2]

Within indie genres, issues of authenticity are especially prominent: indie was born in a Utopian attempt to stop the inevitable cycle of bands being co-opted - and, it is assumed, corrupted - by the mainstream.

—Emily I. Dolan, Popular Music[1]

The term indie had been used for some time[vague] to describe artists on independent labels (and the labels themselves).[5][better source needed] Both indie and indie pop had originally referred to the same thing during the late 1970s. Inspired more by punk rock'a DIY ethos than its style, guitar bands were formed on the then-novel premise that one could record and release their own music instead of having to procure a record contract from a major label.[2] According to Emily Dolan, indie is predicated on the distorted music of the Velvet Underground, the "rebellious screaming" of early punk, and "some of rock's more quirky and eccentric figures", such as Jonathon Richman.[1] Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe identifies the "bulk" of indie as "all about that 60s-styled guitar jangle".[2]

Indie pop was an unprecedented contrast from the gritty and serious tones of previous underground rock styles, as well as being a departure from the glamour of contemporary pop music.[2] Distinguished from the angst and abrasiveness of its indie rock counterpart,[3] the majority of indie pop borrows not only the stripped-down quality of punk, but also "the sweetness and catchiness of mainstream pop".[1] Music critic Simon Reynolds says that indie pop defines itself against "charting pop".[4] Abebe explains: "One of those things was the idea that rock music was supposed to be cool-- 'cool' meaning sexy, tough, arty, fiery, or fantastical. ... The charts had 'cool' covered-- these kids, in their basements and bedrooms, were trying to hand-craft a mirror-image of it, a pop world where they were the stars. ... and a little bit of a raspberry blown at the larger musical world, which (sensibly) went right on preferring something more interesting than average white kids playing simple pop songs"[2]

The concept of indie music did not crystallise until the late 1980s and early 1990s.[1] American indie pop band Beat Happening's 1985 eponymous debut albumalso influential in the development of the indie pop sound, particularly in North America.[6] In the early 1990s, English indie pop influenced and branched off to a variety of styles. The US, which did not have as much of a scene in the 1980s, had many indie pop enthusiasts by the mid 1990s.[2] Most of the modern notion of indie music stems from NME's 1986 compilation C86, which collects many guitar bands who were inspired by the early psychedelic sounds of 1960s garage rock.[7]

Names that indie pop fans use for themselves are popkids and popgeeks, and for the music they listen to, p!o!p, twee, anorak and C86. Abebe says that the Scottish group the Pastels typified the "hip end of 'anorak': Their lazy melodies, lackadaisical strum, and naive attitude transformed the idea of the rock band into something casual, intimate, and free from the pretense of cool".[2]

Disputed significance of C86[edit]

Everett True, a writer for NME in the 1980s, believes that C86 wasn't the main factor behind indie pop, arguing that Sarah Records was more responsible for sticking to a particular sound, and that: "C86 didn't actually exist as a sound, or style. ... I find it weird, bordering on surreal, that people are starting to use it as a description again".[8] Geoff Taylor, a member of the band Age of Chance, added: "We never considered ourselves part of any scene. I’m not sure that the public at large did either, to be honest. We were just an independent band around at that same time as the others."[9][better source needed]

Bob Stanley, a Melody Maker journalist in the late 1980s and founding member of pop band Saint Etienne, acknowledges that participants at the time reacted against lazy labelling, but insists they shared an approach:[improper synthesis?] "Of course the 'scene', like any scene, barely existed. Like squabbling Marxist factions, groups who had much in common built up petty rivalries. The June Brides and the Jasmine Minks were the biggest names at Alan McGee's Living Room Club and couldn't stand the sight of each other. Only when the Jesus and Mary Chain exploded and stole their two-headed crown did they realise they were basically soulmates.[10][verification needed] Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire remembers that it was the bands' very independence that gave the scene coherence: "People were doing everything themselves - making their own records, doing the artwork, gluing the sleeves together, releasing them and sending them out, writing fanzines because the music press lost interest really quickly."[11]

Many of the actual C86 bands distanced themselves from the scene cultivated around them by the UK music press - in its time, C86 became a pejorative term for its associations with so-called "shambling" (a John Peel-coined description celebrating the self-conscious primitive approach of some of the music) and underachievement.[12][verification needed]


In 2013, Cherry Red Records released 5-CD retrospective Scared to Get Happy: A Story of Indie-Pop 1980-1989, an attempt to represent the genre's first decade.[13][14] A 3-CD expanded rerelease of C86, compiled by Neil Taylor, followed in 2014[15][16] and a sequel box set, C87, in 2016.[17]

Related genres[edit]

Twee pop[edit]

Main article: Twee pop

Chamber pop[edit]

Main article: Chamber pop

Chamber pop is a subgenre of indie pop that features lush orchestrations. Heavily influenced by Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach,[3] the majority of Louis Phillipe's productions for él Records embodied the sophisticated use of orchestras and voices that typified the style.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Dolan, Emily. "…This little ukulele tells the truth': indie pop and kitsch authenticity.". Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2017-02-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Abebe, Nitsuh (24 October 2005), "Twee as Fuck: The Story of Indie Pop", Pitchfork Media 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Indie Pop". AllMusic. 
  4. ^ a b Frith & Horne 2016, p. 139.
  5. ^ "A definition of indie music". Retrieved 2016-03-16. [self-published source]
  6. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh. "Beat Happening - Beat Happening". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Martin, Ian (July 10, 2013). "C86 sound jangles on in the Japanese indie scene". The Japan Times. 
  8. ^ True, Everett (22 July 2005), Plan B Magazine Blog, archived from the original on 1 May 2007, retrieved 12 January 2016 
  9. ^ Taylor, Geoff, Interview, ireallylovemusic vs Age of Chance [self-published source]
  10. ^ Bob Stanley, sleevenotes to CD86[full citation needed]
  11. ^ Wire, Nicky (25 October 2006), "The Birth of Uncool", The Guardian 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Simon (23 October 2006). "The C86 indie scene is back!". Time Out!. 
  13. ^ Petridis, Alexis (13 June 2013). "Various: Scared to Get Happy – review". The Guardian. 
  14. ^ Uncut (4 September 2013). "Scared To Get Happy: A Story Of Indie Pop 1980 - 89". Uncut. 
  15. ^ Uncut (24 June 2014). "Various Artists - C86". Uncut. 
  16. ^ Beth, Jody (15 July 2014). "Various Artists - C86 (Reissue)". The Quietus. 
  17. ^ Deaux, John (25 May 2016). "C87 – VARIOUS ARTISTS – 3CD Album Review". All About the Rock. 
  18. ^ Marmoro, Gianfranco (January 12, 2010). "The Ocean Tango". Ondarock (in Italian). 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]