Not since the decade that taste forgot has there been an era which will be as easy to satirise as the times we live in right now. The principal culprits of such style mistakes is the Americans, a culture that successfully exports youth trends in a way no other civilisation can match, hence why the current look of unisex hairstyles in which shaved back and sides while leaving a cowpat on top is the image of inspiration. Throw in some god-awful tattoos and soulless beards; what you have is a recipe for future opinions that will have us asking what an earth were we thinking?
The last time America had a credible youth culture was probably the slacker movement of the late 20th century. Slackers were largely educated but apathetic youngsters who took pride in disengaging from expected norms. They were aimless and unconcerned with status, avoiding all perceptions of selling out. At the time they were actually thought to stand for something, which resulted in popular slacker figures like acclaimed filmmaker Richard Linklater and incendiary playwright Eric Bogosian connecting widely with kids. The minimalist slacker movement was so successful that upstaged 1980s fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier jealously remarked in Vogue that the slacker look was “nothing more than the way we dress when we have no money”. The American slacker was an icon of its time, and its era was perhaps best illustrated by the music it made. Considering how introspective and cerebral the lyrics were, the songs sold globally and its impact can still be felt today.
Kim Deal’s Are you Mine
It’s weird to think that the Queen of Slackers, Kim Deal, is now in her fifties. Her iconoclastic status as member of The Breeders and Pixies pretty much cements her place as one of the most important female figures in music history. If America ever elects a female president then its possibilities can be traced to women like Kim who seriously changed the perceptions of how we think about the roles of girls in traditionally male arenas. Kim matches raw aggression with heightened tenderness, a balance that very few rock stars can pull off. The fact that she still makes interesting music is a testament of how meaningful the slacker movement is.
Kurt Vile’s KV Crimes
Kurt turned 34 this month, which means he was not yet a teenager when slackerism was at its apex of relevance. It must have made such an impact on him that Kurt still channels the spirit of early ‘90s American antipathy like it’s something we can’t do without. Echoing a video that gently mocks Alanis Morissette’s Hand in my Pocket (Alanis was quintessentially a manufactured music industry figure that co-opted the success of slackerism to sell records to mainstream listeners), KV Crimes is a song that sounds every bit as disgruntled as something the other Kurt may have made back in the day.
Courtney Barnett History Eraser
Last year, Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett’s deadpan singing style and straggling lyrics caught the attention of music journalists, especially in America where Rolling Stone and New York Times singled her out as a young musician that made them feel like they were back in their mum’s living room watching MTV’s 120 Minutes again. Though the extreme widescreen aspect ratio isn’t very keeping in vintage slacker 4:3 standard music video style of those times, the song’s conversational rambling qualities will probably massively please slackers of old and new.