Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 42

MTL04 A Post-Mortem of Montreal’s Indie Rock Boom By Adam Kovac By Adam Kovac If 1991 was the year punk broke, 2004 was the year indie shattered. That year saw the release of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Death From Above 1979’s You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, and Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire. A year later, bands like Bell Orchestre and Wolf Parade would add their own latest releases to the mix. Indie, that lo-fi, art-school, cool-kid-at- the-bar hipster aesthetic once defined by Pavement, wasn’t just breaking; it was breaking out, redefining what pop and rock could be just as the last vestiges of grunge and ‘90s alt-rock took their final breaths in the form of shamelessly mainstream acts like Nickelback and Creed. The music industry, eternally on the lookout for the next Seattle, had found it. The windy, rain-swept northwest sound, defined by anguished vocals and sludgy guitars, was out; in was snow, warehouse concerts, and rock music that owed more to Dylan and 42 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N Bowie than Black Sabbath. Tastemakers declared Montreal the new capital of what the cool kids liked, the place where tastes would be made. And for a while, they were right. Great albums were released. Bands toured the world. And then, just as quickly as it popped up, the hype was over. Arcade Fire, who will headline Coachella until the sun implodes, aside, the scene did not produce any other constant arena headliners. Most of the survivors carry on the great tradition made possible by Can- ada’s system of grants and CanCon laws: the middle-class Canadian rock band. Now, a decade-and-a-half later, with the magazine profiles past and the bands that are still together older, wiser, and more grizzled by the music industry, it’s time for a post-mortem of the Montreal scene. Izzy Stradlin, original rhythm guitarist for the decidedly non-indie Guns N’ Roses, once described Los Angeles as a city you didn’t go to, but a city where you ended up. In the early 2000s, Montreal was the same kind of town – a major metropolitan area with a surplus of cheap apartments, a steady supply of students coming from the rest of Canada and the States to experience that legendary French Canadian joie-de-vivre at Concordia and McGill, a romantic bohemian oasis that owed much of its reputation to the sultry baritone of Leonard Cohen. For people looking to make a career out of music, recording and label hubs like Toronto or New York would’ve looked like the smarter bet. But for people looking to play more and worry about money less, Montreal became a logical destination. It didn’t hurt that the city was also within driving distance of those major