To me, as a music critic, bands are like my very own babies — objects so personal and close to my heart, I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite, unless you paid me extra. But EW is taking on that maddeningly Sophie’s Choice decision in an upcoming print piece, and we want reader input! I realize that “indie” is a nebulous term these days, but let’s just say that Sonic Youth, whether or not they’re now on a big, corporate-teat-sucking major label, absolutely still count. They are freaks. Good freaks. As are Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips (pictured), Built to Spill, and a number of other truly fantastic bands that just happen to be on major labels now. And it also stands to reason that there are some amazing artists I’m not yet aware of who may still, at this moment, be selling homemade tapes from the back of a burned-out van.
Sorry, but they don’t count here because we are talking about 25 classics, straight up. Was it all downhill when the blistering punk power of acts like the Stooges, X, and Wire dissipated? Do you pine for the all-American glory days of ’80s all-stars Hüsker Dü, the Pixies, and the Replacements? Is it the ’90s boom — Sebadoh, Bonnie Prince Billy, Tortoise, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, etc. — that still makes your heart beat beneath your Captain Beefheart t-shirt? Or do you look to Cool Britannia, at names like the Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, PJ Harvey, the Stone Roses, The Cure, Joy Division? Do artists who’ve had major commercial success (R.E.M., Radiohead, Björk, Talking Heads, Nirvana, Pearl Jam) not belong here? We can’t keep the kiddies away either —t hose Shins and Strokes and Arcade Fires and other indie-come-latelies.
Already, my head is a too-full colander of personal favorites: The White Stripes! Dinosaur Jr! Fugazi! Pavement! Elliott Smith! Oh my God, I’m just going to have to shut up. And pass it on to you, readers. Who has the catalogue, the talent, the longevity to belong in a list of only 25 great indie bands?