Between the recent glut of abominable beardo folk and the triumph of by-the-numbers hipster disco, it's easy to forget that there was a time when the indie rock establishment actively championed bands that weren't only aggressive, but passionately and evocatively dark.
I'm certainly not the first to cite the following bands as fascinating and rewarding mid-points between the lumbering, schizophrenically-scarfed monster that is indie rock and darker genres like noise and goth, but given that all three have atomized and reformed in various guises countless times, giving their family trees confoundedly fractal structures, I felt it was worth pointing to three touchstones from the past.
Hailing from Colorado, these guys would record one LP and a smattering of singles before spinning off into Slaves, the thoroughly excellent Pleasure Forever, and even the now sadly defunct Gold Standard Labs label, amongst other projects. That one LP, "Nervous Circuits", would prove to be a landmark of post-hardcore wipeouts thundering through a death-pocked synthesizer vacuum. The riffs snap bones, the synths make your teeth hum in their sockets.
Out of print for most of the ten years since its release, "Nervous Circuits" is finally getting the deluxe reissue treatment it so rightly deserves this May.
The VSS - "Death Scene"
The VSS - "Lunar Weight"
No, not those fey Scottish pea-coat wearers. A San Diego-based quartet that fused a hardcore template with the dirges and plateaus of shoegaze. One LP ("To Change The Shape Of An Envelope") and one single's all we got. Last I heard, various members are now performing as Champagne Kiss, about whom I know absolutely bupkis.
Camera Obscura - "Cinematheque"
Camera Obscura - "Twenty Five Diamonds"
After dissolving the ridiculous yet compelling Jaks (spazzy howling with fake blood), Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis spent two albums ("The Rose He Lied By", "Here Is Night, Brothers, Here The Birds Burn") grinding glass into concrete with big black boots as Love Life. As slow and devoid of light as early Swans, as bleak and desperate as Birthday Party records slowed to 22RPM. Throughout it all, Katrina's vocals reach gutteral basements Danzig didn't know existed. Seriously, kids, don't listen to too much of this in one sitting. Katrina and Sean now kick it much more uptempo and high-profile in the 4AD vetted, Creatures influenced, TV On The Radio produced Celebration.
Love Life - "Joy"
Love Life - "Good For Nothing"