As we all know, nothing secures social and cultural dominance and unanimous respect like name-dropping an obscure band in conversation and expecting other people to know who they are. Nothing asserts your superiority over the mainstream plebeians like uttering “Oh, you’ve never heard of Hurdy-Gurdy Mcghee and the Flailing Jesus?*” with an inflection of mock surprise. We may make fun of the hipsters, but we also often humor them, faking knowledge because we’re afraid of their judgment; afraid of being made to seem like a culturally-deprived idiot. Just ask these idiots.
But hipsters aren’t all bad. Sometimes hipsters can be useful, like a bearded, fedora-wearing tool that can help you discover talented artists you never would have found otherwise. These are the Hipster Bands, musicians that exist in the ample space between the mainstream and anonymity. But Hipster Bands aren’t exclusive to hipsters; most people who have an interest in music listen to some bands who might be relatively obscure. Maybe they’re local groups, or maybe you found them at the bottom of an iTunes rabbit hole. Or maybe you’re a hipster and you just don’t realize it.
Today’s Topic: Who’s Your Hipster Band?
I don’t listen to much modern music, so in a truly hipster move, I’m going back to the late 60’s with a baroque pop group from Belgium, the one and only Wallace Collection. I discovered them in an admittedly non-hip fashion–after hearing I Monster’s “Daydream In Blue,” which samples a cover of Wallace Collection’s one hit, “Daydream.” After some research on “Daydream In Blue” eventually led me back to the band, I tried to find their music online (legally, and sometimes otherwise). It wasn’t an easy task–though they were somewhat popular in Europe, they have essentially nothing on iTunes or almost any music service, and they aren’t the easiest to Google, as they’re named after a (considerably more famous) art museum in London. My search soon turned into a quixotic obsession, and eventually I managed to acquire their first album, Laughing Cavalier.
The treasure was finally mine, and treasure it was. Laughing Cavalier was recorded at Abbey Road Studios at around the same time the Beatles were recording the White Album, and there is a noticeable Beatles influence throughout the album. But it’s no imitation: Wallace Collection definitely had their own sound, a seamless blend of pop and symphony that stays consistent even as they wander into strange territory, like ragtime and Russian folk music. Some favorites: “Get Back” (not related to the Beatles song) is a superb ballad that twists and turns. “Misery” predicts Rush so directly that it’s hard to imagine Neil Peart not being aware of the song. But the jewel of the album is undoubtably “Daydream,” a tragically hidden classic with a Hey Jude climax that should give chills to anyone with a pulse.
Your Turn: Who’s your Hipster Band? How did you discover them? Why do you suppose they aren’t more well-known?
*An actual band, probably