This one goes out to Marc M.
Magenta sun here, air humid, copper-purple sky at sunrise, dark coming early, the city and its many arteries feeling frail until the subtle steady pressure of the fires global warming has set. After a day-long freeway trip back home to Seattle, I had to then catch a bus in the 7 p.m. twilight to pick up a friend’s car. Walking in the dark. Everything in Madison Valley felt drugged, cruelly neat, Stepford Wives-y: I felt around in my pockets for my headphones: this song was the only living thing in 20 blocks.
One of the untold stories of indie rock is its intersection with class. Punk’s chief myth about itself is that it is an organic, realist, proletarian artform, the musical equivalent of a spontaneous revolutionary uprising. But many of the early New York punks were actually suburban kids (Ramones from Queens, New York Dolls from Staten Island) hungry for the dilapidated mystique of an downtown culture they then helped advance: middle-class dreamers chasing a glamorous myth of urban poverty. (Twelve years later, Sonic Youth would then shift post-punk culture into something solidly middle-class-bohemian: a myth of the art-school genius replacing a myth of the junkie poet.)
But, outside of New York, in the netherworlds of tape-loop noise, hardcore, and basement roar, many more of the early indie rockers were actually poor and small-town, part of what SST Records guru Joe Carducci proudly called “new redneck.” Pere Ubu, Cleveland artistes from public housing (the buildings echoing in identical blocks like dub reggae), made music whose scorched buzzy busted rattle reflected an urban decay they’d experienced firsthand, in a city no one mythologized. It could be clownish and violent; it could be pretentious and odd; it could be desperate. It’s a thread not many later bands have picked up. Could class have something to do with it?