Indie pop

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This article is about the alternative rock genre. For the Indian music genre, see Indian pop.

Indie pop is a subgenre and subculture[2] of alternative/indie rock[1] that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The style is inspired by punk's DIY ethic and related ideologies, and it generated a thriving fanzine, label, and club and gig circuit. Indie pop differs from indie rock to the extent that it is more melodic, less abrasive, and relatively angst-free. Its substyles include chamber pop and twee pop.[1]


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[3]

The term "indie" had been used for some time[vague] to describe artists on independent labels (and the labels themselves).[4] Both "indie" and "indie pop" had originally referred to the same thing during the late 1970s.[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. Indie pop is distinguished from indie rock; the majority of indie pop borrows not only the "rawness" of punk, but also "the sweetness and catchiness of mainstream pop".[3]

The concept of "indie music" did not crystalize until the late 1980s and early 1990s.[3] 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.[5] American indie pop band Beat Happening's 1985 eponymous debut album was also influential in the development of the indie pop sound, particularly in North America.[6]

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".[7] 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."[8]

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.[9][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."[10]

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.[11][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.[12][13] A 3-CD expanded rerelease of C86, compiled by Neil Taylor, followed in 2014[14][15] and a sequel box set, C87, in 2016.[16]

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.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Indie Pop". AllMusic. 
  2. ^ a b c d Abebe, Nitsuh (24 October 2005), "Twee as Fuck: The Story of Indie Pop", Pitchfork Media 
  3. ^ a b c Dolan, Emily. "…This little ukulele tells the truth': indie pop and kitsch authenticity.". Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2017-02-06. 
  4. ^ "A definition of indie music". Retrieved 2016-03-16. 
  5. ^ Martin, Ian (July 10, 2013). "C86 sound jangles on in the Japanese indie scene". 
  6. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh. "Beat Happening - Beat Happening". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  7. ^ True, Everett (22 July 2005), Plan B Magazine Blog, archived from the original on 1 May 2007, retrieved 12 January 2016 
  8. ^ Taylor, Geoff, Interview, ireallylovemusic vs Age of Chance 
  9. ^ Bob Stanley, sleevenotes to CD86
  10. ^ Wire, Nicky (25 October 2006), "The Birth of Uncool", The Guardian, London 
  11. ^ Simon Reynolds, Time Out, 23 October 2006
  12. ^ Petridis, Alexis (13 June 2013). "Various: Scared to Get Happy – review" – via The Guardian. 
  13. ^ "Scared To Get Happy: A Story Of Indie Pop 1980 - 89 - Uncut". 
  14. ^ "Various Artists - C86 - Uncut". 
  15. ^ "The Quietus - Reviews - Various Artists". 
  16. ^ "C87 – VARIOUS ARTISTS – 3CD Album Review". 25 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]