Musings::Blender Magazine’s 100 Greatest Indie Records with a little added reality

As a Christmas treat, Blender magazine’s editors in the December issue have decided to help us with our shopping by laying out the “The 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever,” The list is naturally already coming under some questioning and I can’t help, but offer my own thoughts.

There is so much to say and where to start is difficult to decide on, but let me first state that I adore Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. I saw them during that tour at the old Cat’s Cradle when it was actually in Chapel Hill, and they were great, even with drummer Gary Young being so drunk he fell over backwards from his drum chair. That album just has a feel that Pavement unfortunately never reached again for me, and furthermore I love how the drums sound like boxes. Still, considering some of the artists on the list, it is baffling how “Slanted and Enchanted” became the top “indie” record, except for the fact most music journalists have that same corrosive sheep mentality which sucks the soul out of everything in life. Wow, is The Fall’s 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong really ranked at #74? Speaking of The Fall, where the hell is This Nation’s Saving Grace? I guess it just doesn’t have the clout of some of these records on the list, which came out in the last few years.

Having said all that, what does “indie” mean? Isn’t the term quickly passing away to obsolescence like “progressive”(and I don’t mean prog rock) and “alternative” did before? Nowadays, half the stuff you see is either an imprint of some major label, distributed by a major label, or the independent is so large it has every avenue available and plenty of cash just like majors. Didn’t the internet kill “indie” or was it Nirvana or ipods for that matter? This is a discussion for another time so I will move on.

The article comes with this caveat:
Mumbled lyrics, couldn’t-care-less strumming, white dudes in sweaters—what’s not to love about indie rock? Born 25-odd years ago in suburban garages and spread via college radio, it has made distortion into something hummable, boredom into something thrilling and aimlessness into a raison d’être—and these days, thanks to blogs and the fine people at Grey’s Anatomy, it’s more popular than ever.
In response to this little intro by Blender I have to say that this characterization really doesn’t sum it up at all. Their own terms are conflicting if you consider they place the birth of indie rock around 1982, and at the same time have 13th Floor Elevators, the Velvets, and others on the list who by far predate their “birth of indie.” Second of all, several of these albums are not on indies, and even though I love the Velvets, they weren’t on a real indie and I don’t think Nick Drake (and Island records even back then) counts as an indie either, and many others fail the criteria as well. Well what do you know, there sits The Strokes’ “Is This It” at #38. Nothing against The Strokes, but RCA is a major in my mind, and it incenses me that a fucking band who were plastered all over MTV when they came out, are passed off as belonging to the “indie” lineage. Finally, some of the lyrics were mumbled if you’re thinking every band sounded like R.E.M. As for couldn’t care less strumming, that was the case for some bands(mostly I remember a lot of crap twee bands in the nineties who couldn’t play), but i’m not sure that Bob Mould, Peter Buck, Karl Precoda, or J. Mascis strummed with any such lack of intent.

Of course, these days we live in a world where people constantly redefine things so they easily fit into whatever “box” they are assembling. The end result is that everything is even more meaningless than it was already. There is no way that The Velvet Underground should be on this list anyway, but since they are do they really belong at #7 stuck behind the extremely trendy Arcade Fire; and of course it is so typical for the Pixies to be thrown in there high atop the list. Forget all the albums that belong on this list that are not represented, except to say to only have one Smiths’ album is heresy if you’re gonna have any at all. There are also a couple of comps on this list which are good, but there are more than enough choices from legitimate albums which actually fit the criteria. I could go on forever, but what is the point of self imposed frustration. I do think a lot of these records from our present decade are far below par as well, considering many of the albums they rank above. Finally, I just feel sorry for my poor 13th Floor Elevators who come in at #78, and should have just been left off the list if this was as little respect as they were going to get. Look who the Elevators rank behind and tell me that isn’t a fucking slap in the royal face, and moreover De La Soul doesn’t belong on this list at all.

The Infamous List:
100 The Shaggs – Philosophy Of The World
99 Dream Syndicate – The Days Of Wine And Roses
98 Palace Music – Viva Last Blues
97 The Mekons – Rock ‘N’ Roll
96 TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain
95 The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I
94 Half Japanese – Greatest Hits
93 Big Black – Atomizer
92 Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
91 The Chills – Kaleidoscope World
90 Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
89 Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll
88 Daniel Johnston – Yip/Jump Music
87 Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary
86 Flipper – Album – Generic Flipper
85 The Clean – Anthology
84 Beat Happening – You Turn Me On
83 The Misfits – Walk Among Us
82 The Embarrassment – Heyday 1979-83
81 The Vaselines – The Way Of The Vaselines
80 Feist – The Reminder
79 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
78 The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators
77 Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
76 Le Tigre – Le Tigre
75 Galaxie 500 – Today
74 The Fall – 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong
73 Meat Puppets – Up On The Sun
72 The Mountain Goats – We Shall All Be Healed
71 Stereolab – Refried Ectoplasm
70 Mudhoney – Superfruzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles
69 Nick Drake – Pink Moon
68 Descendents – Milo Goes To College
67 Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising
66 Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
65 Various Artists – No New York
64 Cat Power – The Greatest
63 Nirvana – Bleach
62 The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms
61 LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
60 Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
59 Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
58 Built To Spill – There’s Nothing Wrong With Love
57 Bikini Kill – Pussy Whipped
56 Archers Of Loaf – Icky Mettle
55 Bad Brains – Bad Brains
54 Unrest – Imperial F.F.R.R.
53 Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
52 Bright Eyes – Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground
51 Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
50 Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous
49 Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
48 Mission Of Burma – Vs.
47 Green Day – Kerplunk
46 Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
45 Fugazi – Repeater
44 Various Artists – Wanna Buy A Bridge?
43 Black Flag – Damaged
42 Brian Eno – Another Green World
41 Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
40 New Order – Power Corruption & Lies
39 Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
38 The Strokes – Is This It
37 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
36 Elliott Smith – Either/Or
35 Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville
34 Superchunk – On The Mouth
33 The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
32 Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
31 Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand
30 Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
29 Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
28 The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs
27 M.I.A. – Arular
26 Belle And Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
25 Sebadoh – III
24 The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
23 Yo La Tengo – Painful
22 Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II
21 The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
20 The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
19 Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
18 Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
17 The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
16 Slint – Spiderland
15 X – Wild Gift
14 De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising
13 Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade
12 Dinosaur Jr – You’re Living All Over Me
11 Minutemen – Double Nickels On The Dime
10 The Smiths – The Smiths
09 Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers
08 My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
07 The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
06 Arcade Fire – Funeral
05 Pixies – Surfer Rosa
04 R.E.M. – Murmur
03 The Replacements – Let It Be
02 Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
01 Pavement – Slanted And Enchanted

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