As a birthday gift for a friend, I recently bought A Scene in Between, a great little book featuring old photos from the British indie scene in the 80s. Flicking through it got me thinking about who I’d put on a list of the most stylish bands; artists with looks that haven’t been eroded by the tides of fashion. You’ll notice a bias in favour of 60s-influenced indie rock, but hey – I’m being subjective here. Who else should be on the list? Let me know…
The Jesus and Mary Chain (Bobby Gillespie era)
As a pre-teen kid I never saw JAMC as particularly cool, with their frizzy hair, acne and winkle-picking chelsea boots. They were no Simple Minds, that’s for sure. In retrospect, I totally get it. Their image was set up to be as uncompromising as their early music. You can imagine the Reid brothers staying up one night drinking White Lightning and listening to Bo Diddley, declaring “We’re gonna make the most ear-splitting racket imaginable, and we’re gonna dress exclusively in black leather. Black leather and shades. And if you don’t like it you can fuck off.”
Although they make a serviceable enough noise, I’ve always considered The Horrors a case of style over substance. But style is what we’re talking about here, so that’s ok. I once walked past them in the street and it was quite an experience. They came at me like a murder of crows on stilts, designed by Noel Fielding for a Mighty Boosh cheese-dream sequence. “Now that’s what a band should look like,” I thought, feeling very boring under their crepuscular shadow.
Years ago I was watching an edition of Sounds of the Sixties on BBC2. It was all clean-cut pop: Herman’s Hermits prancing about in suits; inane grins exposing shiny teeth, that kind of stuff. I’m not sure whether the show’s editors did it deliberately, but right at the end The Byrds came on. Here were four individuals, whose hip West Coast threads made every other band on the bill look so safe and lame. The Stones achieved the same feat on another episode.
The Velvet Underground
Well, if you include The Mary Chain (or any other 80s indie band), you have to have the VU, don’t you. That classic combo of stripy Breton top, leather jacket and sunglasses has never gone stale. And hopefully it never will, or I’m in trouble.
There’s a lot of hype about Sleater Kinney’s renaissance right now. I thought their music was ok, but I really liked the way they dressed. Leading the pack here is, of course, Carrie Brownstein: she’s talented, stylish, attractive AND funny. Bit sickening really.
The post punk/angular funk revival in the early 2000s was much needed if you ask me. “Alternative” rock had just become so utterly Coldplay. Suddenly you could get sharp, fitted jackets and skinny ties in Top Man and everyone was pretending they loved Unknown Pleasures. At the vanguard were Interpol, whose debut LP is still a favourite of mine, even though I didn’t like any of their subsequent stuff. Like The Specials/Tom Waits/Scott Walker, they rocked a suit without looking stiff.
Image-wise, some bands are more than the sum of their parts. Tame Impala are a bit like that. Look at them individually and you’ll see a hippie, a dandy, a crusty scruff in dodgy-coloured jeans. Half of them don’t even bother to wear shoes. But collectively they’re a symbiotic kaleidoscope of denim, fur and fuzz. Which is also what they’re like live.
Pioneers of the anorak, duffle coat and army surplus satchel, The Pastels are officially (well, according to me anyway) the most indie band in the cosmos. Some might call their playground-nostalgia look “twee” (a grave insult in my book), but I think they’ve always looked pretty cool. Ok, maybe I’m talking about Stephen Pastel here, rather than the other dudes.
Erm, sorry. I just put this in for a laugh.