There’s a corner of hipsterism that I disagree with most, and not just because I’m naturally disagreeable.
To qualify up front: I’m not talking about the hippies.
Hippies, as far as I can tell, are a harmless co-culture to hipsters, who are self-reliantly happy, and who listen to banjo music because they legitimately enjoy it. They have a dismissible definition of personal hygiene, and their personalities are kind of like an inappropriate, smelly hug – but how offended can you really be by people like that?
Annoyed, but not offended. Unless they’re flatmates, unless you’re regularly sharing a towel with one – each to their own.
I’m talking about the alternative-for-alternative’s sake, Delivering-Organic-Food-Symposiums-In-The-Queue-At-Woolies, debate team hipsters.
The ones who have one eye over their shoulder to make sure an audience is assembled before they start dancing to Two Door Cinema Club like they learned how to from watching The Jungle Book.
(The chief difference here is effort. Only one of these groups is hateful because, in a non-totalitarian society, no one roots for people who take themselves too seriously. And irony isn’t irony unless it plays itself out.)
Anyway – the thing I disagree with about the hipster ilk is that the identity is dependent. Everything about hipsters is contrary – which means something has to say something first, so they can reject it.
It waits for someone to get on the other end of the see saw before it gets on, so it knows how hard to lean. It doesn’t just fuck about on the swings like a free thinker.
An offshoot of this is abandoning bands you love as soon as they become popular, when other people start liking them too.
The most recent case of this is The Black Keys, who have had legions of fans struck by the hipster epidemic that decrees: Once people outside of Wolves get the reference, drop it, run away and pretend you never liked it to begin with.
It’s just a bit poignant in their case because, as a ballsy, two-man operation famous for sticking to their guns (namely, playing the sort of songs that people stopped making in the late 1970s), you can’t help but feel The Black Keys would be a bit bummed to know they’d attracted fans that fickle.
This is not the same as no longer liking your favourite band because they start making different music than they used to, eg. Kings of Leon.
After 2006, the Followills got tired of being ignored, said as much in interviews, and changed their game plan.
They stopped being the kind of band that’s beloved by a few hundred thousand grizzly misanthropists (myself included) and became another kind of band that’s beloved by millions of people who respond to a lowest common denominator.
Some fans made the transfer, some didn’t, but the numbers were hard to argue with. And street cred doesn’t pay nearly as well as losing it does.
But The Black Keys are still making the same sort of tunes they used to make. They’re just cleaner.
My feeling is this: Disliking a band because everyone else likes them is the same as liking a band because everyone else likes them. It’s still a conformity that’s dependent on the mainstream.
If you define yourself as someone who rejects the mainstream you aren’t outside of the discourse at all. You’re still in it, just on the opposite end.
And watching you try this hard is tiring the rest of us out.