Friday, April 18, 2008

track of the week: "ambiguity song," by camper van beethoven

I've never really loved the use of "Indie" as a genre designator: I do use it, in my obsessively-maintained iTunes taxonomy, but its connection to the commercial dimension of the music world has always made it function a bit uncomfortably for me. The R.E.M. that produced Document (for independent label I.R.S.) sounds pretty much the same as the R.E.M. that produced Green (for major label Warner Brothers), so are some of those tracks "indie" and not others? What about the fact that I.R.S. itself was bought by EMI in 1994? And today's climate, teeming with subsidiary labels and imprints, makes it even harder to keep score, and if you were attempting to be rigorous in your use of the designator you'd drive apart bands who were making essentially the same style of music.

The option iTunes suggests, "Alternative & Punk," is another genre designator I've never loved, for reasons that don't require further explanation here. If I had my way, I'd go back to a label that seems to have fallen into disuse: "college rock," which I mainly remember from my own pre-college days, looking over the "Charts" page in issues of Rolling Stone, back in the late 80s.

That brings us to today's track, by quintessential college rock band Camper Van Beethoven: "Ambiguity Song." I'm feeling myself to be in a pretty ambiguous space lately, and so this song nicely captures my head-space some days. Unlike the concepts of "college rock" or "indie rock," the concept of ambiguity is one that does not quickly grow dated.

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