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But youth, like cultural history, rarely signals when it is about to disappear.For a series of reasons that would have been hard to discern at the time, 1997 stands as both Peak Indie and the beginning of the end for the style’s heyday. (And the term, new to most Americans back then, is still more commonly used in the UK, where it is more explicitly tied to independent record labels.) But indie does have a real, verifiable history.The best work of that indie heyday — and 1997 alone offered Elliott Smith’s — compares well to any year.And while every band was different, the world that had been opened up by Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and the Smiths meant an ocean of succinct, structured songs complicated by feedback, overdrive, odd guitar tunings, feminism, Gen X irony, and intense emotion that would never have suited the macho “classic rock” paradigm of Album Oriented Radio.Elliott Smith would move from Kill Rock Stars to Dream Works.
“We won,” West Coast rock critic Gina Arnold wrote when off the top of Billboard’s album chart: A scrappy, neurotic punk band from Nowheresville (the indie ethos often pits isolated American college towns or British industrial cities against huge finance-driven capitals) had toppled a corporate-rock warhorse considered to be way past his prime. What followed was a bidding frenzy in which big corporations began courting cult bands on tiny labels in increasingly remote music scenes. A scruffy member of the anti-folk crowd who called himself Beck went from playing country-folk tunes on LA buses and busking on New York’s Lower East Side to recording for the David Geffen Company (known in its day as DGC) and Interscope, and subsequently into Wal-Marts across America; around the time of Liz Phair’s , boutique indie Matador — who would release work by Pavement, Guided by Voices, and Cat Power — began a distribution deal with the mighty Atlantic Records.Listen to these artists, and if you like them, support them.Watch their videos, buy their albums, follow them for tour updates.We listen to each song and write a short note — general thoughts, what we like, what we don’t like.Then, and then, are we allowed to reveal the other’s original comments.