Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sex and the indiepop scene

There was a very muddleheaded rant recently in which the author got his pants in a wad about Ariel Pink and then discards a lot of bands he doesn’t much care for in the catchall slight “twee”. What the author has done here is sign up to the rockist criticism of indiepop “twee” so he can use shorthand to belittle some bands he’s heard of.

Let’s propose that he really does think that Ariel Pink, Le Tigre, Electrelane, Bis and CSS are indiepop, hence twee, and let his critique stand:
“If you spent any part of the last twenty years in indie clubs in British tweecore strongholds such as Norwich, Leeds or Sheffield, you may well be familiar with this pseudo-feminism. Remember all those guys who really loved Le Tigre or Electrelane or Bis or CSS, but ultimately might as well have been in the triples-for-singles meat market up the road when it came to putting their money where their emancipatory mouths were? I certainly knew a few. The sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way, is one of the (many) things to have consistently undermined twee's claims to political credibility.”
These observations quickly fall apart like a cheap toy. Let’s say some meathead had tried to pick up a Le Tigre fan, a woman familiar with their feminist songs. Wouldn’t get very far now, would he?

I’m pretty sure I would’ve found out sometime in the past 20+ years if Norwich, Leeds and Sheffield really were strongholds of indiepop. You mean the mainstream indie clubs, don’t you? Sure, I bet that happens. It’s incredibly unlikely to happen in an indiepop club because the scene is so small. Most people know each other for a start.

However, I did direct a group of lads into London’s Buffalo Bar after an indiepop gig a year or two ago. I’d escaped to the pub above the venue – they sell pints, rather than overpriced bottles – and outside a man asked me “what’s the fanny like down there?” I knew him and his mates would get nowhere.

I also knew that my mate had promoted the gig and needed some more paying punters through the door for the club night that followed the bands. I advised the young men that they should try their luck. They paid their money and were back out before I’d finished my drink. And I’m a quick drinker.

I know you’re trying to have a go at men by saying that “the sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way”. What you’re really doing, though, is insulting the women. You think that female indiepop fans fall for that kind of crap? They will assure you they don’t.

Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About lists bands because it’s a celebration of the indiepop scene. It attempts to do for indiepop what Arthur Conley did for soul in Sweet Soul Music.

I’m not having a personal go at you, mate, but I think you’re way of your depth when you talk about indiepop. I yield to no one in my love for soul music, but you having a dig at Tullycraft is about as helpful as me slagging off Kylie for Step Back In Time. I’m certain that Kylie doesn’t “remember The O’Jays” but her fans don’t need me pointing that out, just as indiepop fans don’t need you projecting that Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About is "all about making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism”. Not least because it isn’t. It’s a fun pop song.

OK, the pathos of Tullycraft’s scene celebration in the context of being dumped doesn’t work for you. How about the sadness of not being tall enough to get the girl of your dreams and your old car getting you laughed at by girls? That’s I Wish by Skee-Lo. It’s another fun pop song with a sad side. There are thousands of them.

Calling out indiepop’s male fans for being party to a sexual sham simply doesn’t follow in my experience. Perhaps some of what you describe happens, but nowhere near as much as you think and I bet nowhere near as much as in other genres.

What’s most naive of you, however, is your inability to recognise that all music genres are at some level about sex. Music is about sex; whatever the subculture it’s the same dance (sex), just to different music.

I wonder if you’re falling into the trap of thinking indiepop fans are twee, therefore bloodless and sexless. You should have been at Bowlie in 1999. It was a festival that Belle and Sebastian – a band whose popular album If You’re Feeling Sinister is named after their song about wanking – fans met up to drink and see some bands, but many to have sex.

There were a lot of relationships cemented that weekend, ones that had formed on message boards. None of those many liaisons I knew about could be described in the terms you ascribe to indiepop men.

I know that was 13 years ago, but I still see some of the same faces – and the same bands – at gigs. Yet indiepop is a fluid scene – people drop in for a while or love one band and stick around a while for some others. It would be foolish to say that everyone in the scene at any time likes the same things or has the same beliefs; it would be fair to say, though, that those long-term fans don't match the criticisms you level at them.

You should go to an indiepop club. A word of advice, though: don’t try to pick up anyone with the line “would you like to come back to mine to see my Baby Lemonade flexidisc?” It’s as unlikely to work as it would be to see a male indiepop fan “making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism, which is in this case also a debate about taste in which the girlfriend is invited to act as adjudicator”.

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