Mother of all indie?

Pub date February 20, 2008
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER Is indie rock back? Did it ever go away? Is it to safe to wax naïf and twee once more? Is my shirt ill fitting yet modest? Will Converse ever go out of style? Do the Strokes suck? Wait, who are the Strokes?

Thoughts worth flexing one’s gray matter around on the verge of the indie-oriented Noise Pop music festival — though, well, the RCA-aligned Strokes ain’t indie, really. Nor can one imagine their jumpy once-new-rock appearing on the shock chart topper for the week of Jan. 27: the Juno soundtrack. The disc bounded bashfully up Billboard’s Top 200 over the course of a month till it reached the peak at a mere 65,000 copies, allegedly delivering a first-time number one to Warner Bros.–affiliated Rhino Records and inspiring many a question mark. Such as, isn’t 65,000 awfully low for the number one album in the country — surely those crack six digits?

Well, no more, apparently, in the many-niched, entertainment-rich marketplace (the sole exception: triple or quadruple threat Jack Johnson?). Sure, geeks are once again chic — as Superbad, Rocket Science, Eagle vs. Shark, and numerous other awkwardness-wracked cinematic offerings could tell you. And don’t forget, brainy indie rockers à la the Shins and Modest Mouse have been making inroads in chartland of late. Even the woman pegged by mainstream movie critics as the soundtrack’s breakout star, the Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson, has been around since the turn of the century, when she was banging her bleached ‘fro against Adam Green’s tennis headband onstage at the Fillmore. Please, indie, let’s not even go into how long Cat Power, Belle and Sebastian, and Sonic Youth have been doing the do — and how canonical the Kinks, Mott the Hoople, and Velvet Underground are. Has indie — and its primary sources — simply reached an apex of popularity by virtue of low overall CD sales?

Like its music, Juno the film doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel but instead delivers the hormonal, feminine flip side of Rushmore‘s protagonist, less an antihero than a talented misfit learning from a young person’s mistakes. Pregnant with meaning, Dawson’s frail, wobbly voice — buttressed by her verbose, brainy lyrics — embodies that character and aesthetic as much as her clear inspiration, the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker, who sings the ever-sweet-‘n’-lowly "I’m Sticking with You" on the soundtrack.

It’s not so much that everyone is discovering indie rock: instead, perhaps the soundtrack gets much of its shine from the fact that the music is such an intrinsic part of the film’s emotional power — it’s as memorable as Juno’s rapid-fire, perhaps overly arch one-liners. Playing the film’s title tyke, Ellen Page at times sounds like a 35-year-old woman in a 16-year-old’s body. And in its no-fail, crowd-pleasing selections, the soundtrack similarly plays like a cultured 35-year-old’s music collection in teen comedy maternity garb. Now how fair is that? I’m tempted to call foul for the outclassed Hannah Montana 2 soundtrack (Walt Disney/Hollywood). *


Thurs/21, 7 p.m., call for price

924 Gilman Street Project

924 Gilman, Berk.

(510) 525-9926


Six Organs of Admittance’s new CD, Shelter from the Ash (Drag City), rocks ‘n’ drones the most — but don’t expect the project’s winter tour–besieged Ben Chasny to scrape together too many thoughts on the making of the album: his "brain is on zombie mode," he concedes during a drive to Minnesota. Yet he does let on that the lovely Shelter was the result of simply bunking down, looking around his Mission District neighborhood for musical assistance (including from Comets on Fire kin Noel Harmonson and Fucking Champs chief Tim Green, who dwell nearby), and enlisting his live-in paramour, Magik Marker frontwoman Elisa Ambrogio, and Matt Sweeney, who happened to be in town for a wedding.

Too bad the Mars Volta had to swipe Chasny’s Ouija board rock ‘n’ roll thunder with their supposedly magic-derived new LP. "I was actually designing a Ouija board to sell during this tour — there are some really beautiful ones out there," he says. "And I ended up looking up Ouija on Wikipedia and found out about the Mars Volta, and I just gave up on the whole project." Of course, there are upsides to that downer. Chasny adds, "Elisa was, like, ‘It’s turning into a Six Organs tchotchke revue.’<0x2009>"


Sat/23, 10 p.m., $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF