Cheat Sheet: Hipster Metal
by Chuck Eddy | October 18, 2011
"Hipster metal" is not so much a style of music as a state of mind. And we're not necessarily talking about the minds of the musicians themselves, who in most cases will deny the classification entirely. The phrase has probably been around for only a few years, and like similar accusations in other genres ("hipster rap," for instance), it's at least partially a pejorative implying, as it does, that these aren't Real Metal Bands Listened to by Genuine Honest-to-Satan Metalheads, but rather acts marketed to (and, in some cases, at least tentatively embraced by) theoretically gullible indie rock twerps. Who'll fall for anything, after all, right? And even if they don't, taking an end-run shortcut around metal's troo fan base seems rather unseemly. Or at least, that's what some metal magazines would say though, to be honest, if those mags weren't at least a wee bit hip themselves, they might not know of such bands at all.
So how do you figure out which bands qualify as hipster metal, anyway? Well, there's an awful lot of guesswork involved, but some reliable telltale signs might include: (1) putting out albums on Matador or Jagjaguwar; (2) having parody song titles; (3) regularly getting booked as the token metal band at festivals conspicuously lacking in metal; (4) sporting ironic-seeming '70s-porn mustaches; (5) having no members who aren't underweight; (6) having members who used to be in Dinosaur Jr.; (7) coming from Brooklyn or Austin; (8) stringing riffs reminiscent of classic metal bands end to end but opting not to have a singer; (9) regularly getting hyped as "psychedelic" or "eclectic"; and/or (10) getting called "metal" by people who don't know any better, despite sounding more like the White Stripes or the Flaming Lips.
Not all of the 25 bands below score high points on that checklist in fact, a couple might even be considered hipster metal just because they're too rock 'n' roll not to be (plus, there's definite overlap with "stoner rock" and "doom" in certain cases). In fact, a few might even stretch the definition outright. But which ones? You tell us.