In my early twenties, I came to probably the most important realisation of my entire life. It went exactly like this:
“Oh my god, I’m not a poet.”
This head punch of sudden comprehension was my decade-late bat mitzvah. One particularly virulent strain of life’s nonsense was over and I could finally get on with being a woman.
In that moment of glacial clarity, I realised that indie music had lied to me. Wearing a cardigan and smoking rollies, I conceded, doesn’t mean everything you write is of unimaginable importance. Or of any importance whatsoever, for that matter.
“Oh and you know those three chords you can play on the mandolin?” said the disembodied ersatz bat mitzvah ghost voice thing. “They don’t make you deep.”
I went on a deleting spree. Teenage poetry containing the slightest trace of sexual frustration parading as awareness of “fascism” (I was basically Rick from The Young Ones) was hastily unwritten. I went full Stalin on my indie youth. I “didn’t”, for example, run to the toilet in a panic when a girl wearing an identical military jacket to mine yelled something flirty at me, at a house party, while some shit speakers squawked out Little Man Tate. Oh, and I “didn’t” pay actual money to listen to Kasabian.
This week, via tens of thousands of #indieamnesty tweets, the internet owned up to its excruciating indie past. So what was it about that extremely 2005 sound that brought out the worst in us all? Technically, of course, indie music has existed since the Eighties and birthed the likes of Belle and Sebastian, and Radiohead.
It wasn’t until around 2003 that things started to get ugly. An unholy trinity of angst, mockney and twee arrived on the scene, heralding several years of twattery and hair so stupid it belonged in a fish tank. Take “Seaside”, a song off The Kooks’ 2006 album Inside In/Inside Out. It’s so Brighton that – legend has it – if you listen to it fourteen times in a row, you sprout white guy dreadlocks. Lead singer Luke Pritchard’s accent is sad and baffling. All power to him though; sounding simultaneously Welsh, Mancunian and cockney is probably the UK’s answer to Mongolian throat singing.
As well as the “acoustic and adorable”, there were bands like Kasabian, who, as someone who clearly knows very little about subgenres, I’m going to categorise as “legal high psychedelia”. With lyrics like, “Come on it, electronic, a polyphonic prostitute, the motor’s, on fire, messiah for the animals”, they were probably the most asinine thing to happen to music since Babylon Zoo. It’s hard not to visualise the band doing a big, synchronised jizz when one of them thought of alliterating – for absolutely no reason – “polyphonic” and “prostitute”. Oh and fifteen-year-old me loved these guys. So much so that while reminding myself of the track in question, “L.S.F.” (which, I’m guessing, stands for “lemon Sartre fuck” – whoa random and edgy) I’ve caught myself red-handed, lightly tapping along on my keyboard.
But, with the exception of slightly more high end early 2000s bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, lyrics were consistently all too reminiscent of teenage verse like my very own, now deleted, anthology of angst. Terrifying things happen when an entire generation become convinced that their Converse are gifting them with the power of poetry.
The vast majority of circa 2003-2007 indie was earnest without any credentials to be earnest. As were its followers. And that is why we were intolerable. The genre had a particularly adverse effect on men, who – typically more self-assured than women without any cause to be – started wearing hats even more than usual. If you didn’t have to put up with at least one friend dating a guy who thought he was the reincarnation of Charles Bukowski, you weren’t there, man.
And, by the way, I “wasn’t” busy watching Kaiser Chiefs while Sonic Youth played another stage at V Festival in 2005. And the Kaiser Chiefs crowd “didn’t” try and stage the world’s most bored riot when the band played “I Predict A Riot”. And I “didn’t” get trampled by idiots when I could’ve been listening to Kim Gordon (one of about four women performing at the festival) and Thurston Moore play the sort of music that, you know, has never been used in a jaunty Vodafone ad.