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 of alternative rock or indie rock[1] and a subculture[2] 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]



The term "indie" had been used for some time to describe artists on independent labels (and the labels themselves).[3] Both "indie" and "indie pop" had originally referred to the same thing during the late 1970s. According to Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe:

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.[2]

A key moment in the naming of "indie pop" as a genre was the release of NME's 1986 compilation C86, a followup to C81 (1981).[4] The UK music press was, in 1986, highly competitive, with four weekly papers documenting new bands and trends. The grouping of bands, often artificially, with an overarching label to heighten interest or sell copies, was commonplace.[citation needed] C86 featured key early bands of the genre such as Primal Scream and the Pastels, but also included tracks by several more-abrasive, "shambling" bands from the Ron Johnson label, who were atypical of the perceived C86 jangle pop aesthetic.[citation needed]

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".[5] 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."[6]

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.[7][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."[8]

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.[9][verification needed]


In 2004 the UK-focused Rough Trade Shops compilation Indiepop Vol. 1 effectively documented the history of the sound acknowledging that it pre- and post-dated 1986.[original research?] The movement continued to hold sway into the 1990s.[citation needed] American indie pop band Beat Happening's 1985 eponymous debut album was influential in the development of the indie pop sound, particularly in North America.[10] In the mid-2000s, British clubs such as How Does It Feel to Be Loved?,[11] Scared To Dance[12] and Moogie Wonderland[13] continue to air tracks from C86,[improper synthesis?] and Sweden has increased its export of indie pop through Labrador Records.[14]

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 Abebe, Nitsuh (24 October 2005), "Twee as Fuck: The Story of Indie Pop", Pitchfork Media 
  3. ^ "A definition of indie music". Retrieved 2016-03-16. 
  4. ^ "Twee; Paul Morley's Guide to Musical Genres", BBC Radio 2, 10 June 2008 
  5. ^ True, Everett (22 July 2005), Plan B Magazine Blog, archived from the original on May 1, 2007, retrieved 12 January 2016 
  6. ^ Taylor, Geoff, Interview, ireallylovemusic vs Age of Chance 
  7. ^ Bob Stanley, sleevenotes to CD86
  8. ^ Wire, Nicky (25 October 2006), "The Birth of Uncool", The Guardian, London 
  9. ^ Simon Reynolds, Time Out, 23 October 2006
  10. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh. "Beat Happening - Beat Happening". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Hann, Michael (13 October 2004), "Fey City Rollers", The Guardian, London, retrieved 5 May 2010 
  12. ^ Walsh, James (26 January 2012), "Mega-clubs are drowning out the indie scene", The Guardian, London, retrieved 5 October 2012 
  13. ^ "Boogie over to Moogie", Medway Messenger, Medway, 8 April 2011, retrieved 23 August 2013 
  14. ^ Rogers, Jude (15 September 2006), "Stockholm Syndrome", The Guardian, London, retrieved 5 May 2010 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]