Indie Stylings and Fugazi: A Lesson in Self-Sufficiency

Posted: September 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Never a bad way to begin the morning: Brazilian coffee, an Iron Maiden mug, and a book about indie music in the 1980s and early '90s.

Never a bad way to begin the morning: Brazilian coffee, an Iron Maiden mug, and a book about indie music in the 1980s and early ’90s.

Though you can’t see it on the table just below eye level in this photo, I was reading Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azzerad. He’s written extensively on the indie music scene in the US during various periods, and this one focuses on the 1981-91 timeframe, which was essentially alternative music’s incipient and purist shot-across-the-bow of the slowly sinking ship of American pop and rock music, grabbing the ears of kids and label executives alike and eventually catapulting a watered-down version of the indie style into arena-filling success in the American mainstream (think Nirvana et al).

There are sections on groups which may never have filled arenas, but definitively exerted oversized influence on the direction of indie and alternative music. The section on Washington, DC’s Fugazi is easily the best in the 400-page tome, and ought serve as a lesson in self-sufficiency to one and all. Not since North Korea’s “juche” ethos has an entity attempted to attain such no-strings-attached independence from a broader system, but the key difference is that Fugazi was successful and its members actually got to EAT. So if Fugazi’s dudes were skinny, it was good genetics, as opposed to forced starvation so Dear Leader could continue being the world’s largest private importer of Hennessy. Oh, and they also never got sent to re-education camp. Nor did they possess nukes, unless you count the 50 megaton wallop of songs like “Waiting Room”, positively “nuclear” in a prosaic sense. And now that I think of it, Fugazi also never fought with anyone, lest you count the skinheads they routinely beat up at their $5 all-ages shows; and they never struck up a sweetheart defense pact with China. Come to think of it, Fugazi was a force for good, whereas North Korea, maybe not so much…

But other than those broad-stroke contrasts, the similarities are striking. Recommended reading for any music fan interested in the early indie scene, before things got so glutted and MTV and Hot Topic force-fed cookie-cutter alternative stylings into living rooms across the land.

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