Getting older can be trippy and awesome when you get to see certain lame ass cultural trends just wear themselves into obsolescence like you vociferously hoped they would back in the day. There’s always a long way to go and it can certainly seem bleak as fuck at times, but there are small victories in life. There really are. I’ll be honest, in my mind the early ‘aughts were about as dark a time in popular music culture as I can remember. It’s not like there wasn’t a bunch of cool underground stuff going down, there always is, but we were right on the heels of the nu metal wave of crap like Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Kid Rock blowing up the charts. The top hard rock bands in the world were shit like Creed and Linkin Park. No really, that happened. Then the supposed art scene became a burgeoning crapfest of twee indie rock, which was hailed as the hot trend for the next decade at least. Please die already.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The term indie has been beaten well past the point of having any significance at these days. It’s now far more meaningless than “alternative” became in the 90’s. There are a lot of supposed “indie rock” bands like Guided By Voices, Built To Spill, Deerhunter, Liars, etc, who I hold in the highest of regards. The word can mean a lot of things. Here’s how I’ve always defined it: Bands that can’t play their instruments very well with vocalists who sort of do that off key warbly thing they do, usually with the emover haircuts. Those were sort of creepy conformist for a while there in the early 2000’s. The thing about this scene is that I hung out with lo-fi indie rock bands when I lived in Columbus, Ohio. That’s sort of what was going on there. One of the odd things I noticed in doing so is that cocaine was considered the hip drug in those circles for some reason, which I didn’t honestly understand. What’s wrong with these people?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had fun doing cocaine and I suppose I feel lucky. Drugs really do affect people differently. I’ve never fully understood why after a night of doing blow I didn’t want it again for six months, whereas other people I knew couldn’t stop for three straight weeks. Shit just doesn’t intrigue me. It’s not like I’d say “never do it!” The feeling of that first rail to your head is worth experiencing at least once in your life. It’s the most egomaniacal high imaginable. Pure narcissism. Which is exactly why it appeals to so many indie rockers I suppose. The people I’ve known who couldn’t get enough of the powder experience were mostly lacking in either self confidence and/or personality by my own estimation. “I’m always so quiet, and on coke I talk all night.” My one ex-girlfriend once told me. See why it went hand in hand with indie rock? That was the whole aesthetic. Drowning your lack of self esteem with booze and endless lines. What’s hilarious and what I’ve had to explain to people who have tried to get me to do any variety of speed with them is this, listen, do you really want to hang out with me when I’m talking even faster and louder than I already do? Seriously, it must be the most annoying shit imaginable.
So after moving to Seattle in 2001, I was sort of shocked to see that the exact same battered introvert wussy rock and blow culture was going on here, just on a scale about a thousand times magnified. Coke was fucking everywhere and it’s not like I didn’t partake. I think my breaking point with cocaine was when I had a hot girl completely ready to go, and you know, it does make you incredibly horny, but before we even got there I went to the bathroom and realized, wait, this…is…not…happening. Yep, totally lifeless down there. I’ve had good sex on cocaine before but the impotence thing only had to happen once before I was like, I officially call bullshit on this drug. Something about paying good money to be sexually humiliated didn’t appeal to me much, big surprise. Especially when I’d once fucked the same girl 7 times in one night on acid. The funny thing about the coke dick night is that she was going on a cruise with her family the next day, and I was supposed to drive her to the airport. I ended up getting her a cab. See the amazing decisions that coke leads to. Unreal.
It was because of experiences such as this that I got pretty fed up with Seattle scenester culture fairly quickly. Every time I went out on Capitol Hill I’d end up at some crappy coke party. All the trendy bars were basically coke dens. You’d have to wait forever for the bathroom while enduring multiple “we’re doing coke in there, get it” jokes. Hilarious. I eventually just started avoiding that scene like the plague. Not that getting super drunk and high at metal shows was the greatest alternative, but I identified more with that crowd, and well, I started singing in a metal band so that’s just what you do. Eventually psych rock started becoming more en vogue and I started to love the Hill anew, but it took a while.
Don’t believe me about the coke explosion thing? Well, here’s what Jennifer Maerz who was one of the primary music writers for The Stranger in Seattle had to say about it in her final piece before moving to the SF Weekly in 2006:
“People here are regularly coming up with ideas on how to catalyze the music landscape into interesting new directions. My one complaint? Cocaine has ruined many great minds in the music community. That drug has turned too many talented folks paranoid and self-centered, tuned into only their own “drama” at the expense of their friendships. Coke is nicknamed “dummy dust” for a good reason.”
As mentioned, it was retarded. Now, here’s where I say something I’ve never heard anyone mention. Right after George W. Bush came into office, the exact crappy drugs that were pushed down the throats of the youth during the Reagan administration oh so conveniently came back into fashion. There was even an “indie” 80’s nu wave revival thing going on, which predictably sucked. Hipster bars were having irony hair metal nights ad nauseum. So, right when we have a new Republican trickle down minded regime with ties to the narco trade, an incredibly similar cocaine culture just happens to materialize out of nowhere. Coincidence? I know places like Vice magazine were pushing the stuff pretty hot and heavy back then (not that I don’t love me some Vice). Funny how they’ve changed their tune over the years on that front.
God are people conformist, but you know what’s hilarious? As time wore on, all these hipsters weren’t even doing cocaine anymore as it ended up containing an increasing amount of fucking cattle dewormer. No seriously, these scenester kids were getting high on cattle dewormer. That’s kind of why it went out of style to a large extent, at least around here. Unbelievable. Everyone really should have seen this coming from a billion miles away. I did. It’s not rocket science, cocaine is a shitty drug which funnels money to evil war lords. Didn’t we learn that in the 80’s? Read a book for Christ’s sakes.
Another crappy and to my knowledge completely unexplored aspect of early ‘aughts music culture was that after September 11th, New York bands were suddenly just considered cooler. There was an obvious unspoken marketing push to rebrand the city as the pre-eminent cultural Mecca in America. Same crap that happened to Seattle in the 90’s I suppose, except with terrorism (or staged terrorism if you’re so inclined). Riding this perfect wave of blatant booze and coked out 80’s nostalgia lifestyle worship were NYC “indie” darlings The Strokes. The way I ended up first listening to The Strokes I think gets right at my point here so let’s have at it. These guys were getting an absolute crap ton of hype in the music press. It was unavoidable. After ignoring all the racket for quite a while I remember having to kill time at my brother’s apartment one day when we were just experimenting with file sharing sites (which were totally new back then) and I was like, let’s check out this band The Strokes I keep hearing about. We downloaded a few songs and I was genuinely perplexed. Ummm, this is so bland, what the hell is all the hype about here? I don’t get it at all.
A few months later I read an article somewhere that filled me in on the deets. They were all a bunch of trust fund brats. And not just normal trust fund brats either, the singer was the son of the head of one of the largest modeling agencies in the world. The lead guitar player is the son of an incredibly successful industry songwriter. There’s privilege and then there’s these kids. Now, it’d be easy to forgive them if they were somewhat humble about it. I mean, Daniel Pinchbeck fully admits that if his mom wasn’t fucking Jack Kerouac he wouldn’t have a publishing career. These dudes did the exact opposite. Nope, the fact that we’re from millionaire families and came pre-connected to the entertainment business has nothing to do with our success, we’re just that fucking good man. What a bunch of twats.
And the music press (which is bought and paid for I shouldn’t have to point out) didn’t even bother to call remote bullshit. In fact, they bent over backwards to declare their debut album an instant classic. We were sold on the idea that their total lack of stage presence WAS their stage presence, but you know what pissed me off most about those guys? The media somehow convinced women that their chinless lead singer, Julian Casablancas was some sort of super hunk. The guy is average at best on a good day. I’m not saying they were the worst band ever, but please, it was quite obviously fairly lackluster to anyone with ears. I love how when Pithforked jizzed on them with a 9.1 review they even had to throw in a winking:
“none of this changes the fact that Is This It lacks the creativity and unconventionality inherent in any of the all-time great rock bands they’re so impulsively compared to.”
Exactly. So is anyone surprised that their follow up albums have been getting increasingly beaten down in the press for sucking? You don’t get it man, their music captured a very specific time and vibe in New York City. Yeah, the time when the media sold you the idea that a bunch of super rich marginally talented fucks who made an album about being super rich marginally talented fucks who can’t take a shit without the music press licking their assholes clean related to you somehow…because money. Whatevs. Rolling Stone is now questioning why these dudes are even continuing to make albums because they sound so uninspired. They always did. When Rolling Stone, whose music coverage has been essentially trite industry bullshit forever is telling you to hang it up, crap must be pretty god awful. You see what I mean? Sometimes there is justice in the world. One time political strategy genius Karl Rove just got his ass handed to him in the 2012 election. Baby steps tripsters.