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Monday, July 23, 2007

Who started indie rock?

1) Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

2) Dinosaur Jr - You're Living All Over Me

3) Husker Du - Zen Arcade

4) The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy

5) Joy Division - Closer

6) Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime

7) Pixies - Surfer Rosa

8) R.E.M. - Murmur

9) Replacements - Let It Be

10) The Smiths - Meat Is Murder

Fellow alt-weekly the Phoenix just released its top 10 list of the albums that started indie rock. It’s not a bad list (you can’t really argue with Daydream Nation and Psychocandy), but I think there are a few missteps. First of all, Meat Is Murder? Everybody knows that The Queen Is Dead is the most influential Smiths’ album. Hell, NME even called it the second-greatest British album of all time (ahead of The Beatles and The Clash). I also question Murmur’s place on the list, although it’s nice to have Georgia represented.

The most glaring issue with the top 10 list and the honorable mentions is the omission of pivotal albums. The problem is rooted in a question: When exactly does pre-indie rock stop and indie rock begin? According to the Phoenix, the answer is 1988. That’s the year that the two most recent albums on the list (Daydream Nation and Surfer Rosa) were released. A 1980’s cutoff would explain the exclusion of key acts like Pavement and Guided by Voices.

Even if it is an ’80s list, there are still some questions that beg to be answered. Where the hell is Beat Happening? It’s impossible to imagine the Pitchfork-dominated, indie-saturated world we live in today without Beat Happening. Calvin Johnson, et al, embodied (hell, defined) the indie ethos throughout the 1980s. What about New Order, huh? New Order created the sound that indie dance acts like LCD Soundsystem and the Klaxons have been aping ever since. Where’s Black Flag? Where are the Violent Femmes? Where’s the Birthday Party? These bands weren’t even given an honorable mention (yet Soul Asylum was).

I guess that’s the problem with Spin-style, faux-monumental lists: They form a narrative, and then include whatever bands or albums fit into that preconceived narrative. “This is the story of indie rock, kids... .” All right, I’ll step down from the soapbox now.

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