Our Coolest Song in the World comes generally from two categories: contemporary garage rock (traditional rock'n'roll) and songs that transcend all categories and exist under the fringe of our as-incluOur Coolest Song in the World comes generally from two categories: contemporary garage rock (traditional rock'n'roll) and songs that transcend all categories and exist under the fringe of our as-inclusive-as-possible big wide circus tent in the category of simply "very cool."
It is to the latter category that we welcome Arcade Fire's "Intervention," most likely the only Coolest Song there will ever be that waits a minute and a half for the drums to enter. The band is part of the new indie mainstream that has been getting popular in spite of probably not wanting to as well as being uncategorizable. Oh, what the hell, let's try a category anyway: It's sort of, give or take, more or less, neo-noir romantique/goth-psyche/folk-rock. Intellectually sophisticated yet somehow young and innocent. Emotionally inarticulate, yet deeply emotional. Hookless, with occasional unforgettable melody. Musically dense but rarely linear. In a word, subtly, but unmistakably, doomed.
It's Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, the Shins, Of Montreal, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses, Broken Social Scene, Deerhoof, Tapes 'N Tapes, Peter Bjorn & John, Bright Eyes, etc. There are lots. It's a sensibility that is specifically modern. It introduces a new level of isolation hiding a helpless, sexless desperation. A stoic acceptance by an overinformed youth who know there is no future. A college kid version of punk. Perhaps it's an earlier stage of discovering one's fate, before the anger. Perhaps it's less violent because it's less working-class.
The general language and attitude of the communication extends even to the less folksy, more poppy stuff like Radiohead and Coldplay, across to Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party. You can hear it in the Libertines, or Pete Doherty's and Carl Barat's solo stuff, all the way to the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, the Killers and My Chemical Romance. It all came from that late-'70s/early-'80s break with tradition from which was born rock's first rootless mutant offspring—Television, then the Cure, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, Joy Division, the Jesus and Mary Chain, et al. All absorbed and summed up, but not necessarily exemplified, by U2 and R.E.M. and worshipping Lou Reed as its pagan spiritual doomfather with a witch or two like David Bowie and Patti Smith stirring the brew that must be drunk to erase all traces of one's ancestors.
What can I tell you? It ain't rock'n'roll, but I occasionally like it. And by the way, it's big. Indie rock is about to take its place alongside pop, hip-hop and hard rock/neo-punk as the fourth commercial genre.
Longevity? Only if doom turns to discipline. We will see. Of course, even in indieville we're still the 2 year old with too much energy trying to climb out of the playpen. We're the black sheep of our own genre. It's OK. Eventually this generation will use up its angst, experience enough catharsis and tire of appropriately mourning the state of our horrifying world and need an energy infusion to party again. And we'll be right here waiting. See you on the radio.