Poor Andrew Earles. In, Gimme Indie Rock, his impressive new reference guide to Indie Rock, he managed to target a book squarely at the same crowd that will devour it in one reading, then spend endless hours online bitching about the records that were and were not deemed “essential.”
In laying out the parameters for the mammoth list in the book’s introduction (American albums, released between 1981 – 1996) Earles credits ’81 with being a watershed year for Indie Rock, with landmark albums by groups like X, The Replacements, Black Flag and many others all hitting record store shelves in the span of 12 months (and yeah, you used to be able to go into stores dedicated entirely to records! Look it up). As for the end date, 1996, that’s about the time backlash against “alternative music” was the strongest. So no complaining that Bauhaus or Jesus and Mary Chain aren’t listed here (British and Scottish, respectively) and neither are The Ramone’s Rocket to Russia and Arcade Fire’s Funeral (pre-1981 and post 1996).
What is on the list – in alphabetical order to save some arguments up front – is a well-thought out collection of everything from metal and punk to prog and power pop, all falling under the admittedly broad umbrella of Indie (and yes, many of these albums were released on major labels, so the definition of indie isn’t literal). The write-ups manage to be both knowledgeable and entertaining without coming off as condescending or pretentious.
Along with having a wildly diverse appreciation for some of the best in under the radar music, Earles reasonings for each albums inclusions here are generally well-thought out and well argued.
All that being said… there was not room for one Jellyfish album here?
Gimme Indie Rock: 500 essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981 – 1996 by Andrew Earles/Paperback; 400 pages/Voyageur Press/2014