In this season of giving we, as
Americans, have gotten completely out
*of control. We flock to the malls in a
mad frenzy of buying, always looking
for the gifts which will impress and
amaze our friends and loved ones.
We stumble around in a daze look-
ing at sweaters and sniffing cologne.
We buy cheese gift packs from the
Hickory Farms store which appears at
the mall only at holiday time. We worry
about picking out the perfect gift for
*hat significant other which will send
precisely the right message.
Carols blare from every speaker in
the area as if the twangs of musaked
versions of "Silent Night" will inspire
s to let go of our cash. We wait in line
with children to get a moment with
some guy who is pretending to be the
original Santa. (And we know that this
man is only a cheap imposter because
the real man is safe at the North Pole.)
Holiday shopping ends up being
nothing more than an over-commer-
cialized excuse to go out and spend a
lot of money. Usually this is money
, hat we don'thave to spend. And it is all
one in the name of goodwill and holi-
Well, this to me seems very out of
wack. It seems to me that we are miss-
ing the boat. And don't get me wrong,
I'm as guilty as the next person.
When I was a little girl we always
used to make gifts for our parents in art
class. Once I made this paperweight by
forming plaster into the shape of my
"upped hands and then spraypainting it
gold. It is so ugly I'm embarrassed by
it now. But to this day my mother has it
and loves it.
Funny how now I worry about what
I should buy for my mother when I
know she was happy with that paper-
weight. When I remember that butt-
ugly paperweight, I'm reminded what
the spirit of giving should really be.
It's definitely not what you give but
We spirit in which it is given. I've
received wonderful gifts in the past
which don't have any significant mean-
ing to me and I know they were expen-
sive. But, they were obviously bought
Some of my most special gifts were
the most basic, simple things I could
have everreceived, some were as simple
as a card. It was gifts that I knew I had
*een given out of nothing more than a
spirit of love.
Every year I make it a point to send
out Christmas cards. This for me is a
way in which I can tell people how
much they mean to me. It's a way of
permanently documenting my feelings
for certain individuals. ILlove Christ-
mas cards because they circumvent the
entire gift buying nightmare. And they
gre a lot more meaningful.
I wish that the holidays could get
back to the simplistic way of gift giv-
ing. I wish that Christmas morning
would roll around and kids wouldn't
run downstairs to tear open hundreds
of packages only to complain about the
one gift that was missing.
Instead I wish these same kids would
take the time to tell their family mem-
bers how much they mean to them.
Wnd even more importantly, those of
us who are fortunate to have presents or
loving families at all would remember
that many people don't have a place to
sleep or food to eat.
Now, this is not meant to be de-
pressing. Gifts have become an impor.
tant part of the season and that's fine as
long as we can keep it all in perspec-
Gift giving should come from the
eart not the wallet. And a kind word
should be even more valued by the
giver and the receiver as anew watch or
an expensive sweater.
We need to get our priorities in
order and stop thinking about the mate-
riaI actred ofthk tie.n ronf er AP nPprI
Well, we're finally here /
and shit, yeah it's cool /
or something like that,"
sing Guided By Voices.
The lyric echoes the sentiments of
many alternative rock bands who fi-
nally pass through the golden gates
into major labeldom. Once inside.
however, life sometimes isn't what
they'd expected. Once full of fierce
integrity, some popular major-label
bands now field accusations of sell-
ing out while struggling for control
over their projects, from production
to CD cover artwork. Case in point:
Nirvana's pre-release hassle over the
production of "In Utero."
"I do heat grumblings by bands at
major (labels) about" losing some de-
gree of control over their work, re-
marked Stacy Conde, publicist for
Touch and Go records. Agrees Kristin
Thompson, co-owner of Simple Ma-
chines Records, "Bands I know have
run into trouble ... calling the label that
they're on, and the person they talk to
doesn't know who they are. And then
(major labels) are pushing you to make
videos, giant posters, do big photo
shoots and tours. It can become a com-
What Guided By Voices aid .
plenty of their peers have /
found, however, is a way to
sell without selling out -/
to maintain complete con-
trol over their work and a
record deal at the same
time. They prefer to -
seek their fortunes
labels, or indies, if
Touch and Go,
ger Matador and
Sub Pop have led the
rise of the indies. No more
toiling away in obscurity with little
recognition and less money just to
maintain honesty. Indie rock has
carved out a place for itself in critics'
hearts and music buyers' wallets.
And the indie world certainly is no
longer populated by a bunch of local
bands who can't get, or don't deserve,
a "real" record deal. Truly excellent
bands like Come, Pavement, the Jon
Spencer Blues Explosion, Helium, Liz
Phair and brand-new signees Guided
By Voices all choose to reside at Mata-
dor. Sub Pop arguably spawned the
grunge nation by fostering the growth
of such bands as Nirvana, L7, Afghan
Whigs, Mudhoney, Soundgarden and
the entire "Singles" soundtrack.
Remaining at an indie has become
a legitimate choice for many bands
sickened by the idea of catering to a
mass public which swallows rocks stars
whole and then spits them up the Bill-
board charts. "Indie" no longer trans-
lates into second-rate. In fact, it usually
means better. Pretentiously purist and
elitist, perhaps, but indie rock is now
And hey, it's a good place for a
band to start. Explained Sup Pop pub-
licist Dan Traeger, "For up and coming
bands, major labels don't have a very
good track record in breaking new art-
ists, selling the first 50,000 copies and
creating afan base upon which to build."
Agreed Matador's Deborah Orr, "We
see majorlabels signing mediocre bands
or bands who shouldn't have made that
jump yet. For every Green Day, there
are 15 other bands who shouldn't have
signed to a major that soon."
Several indies have also earned the
Bin, not to mention the airwaves of
modern rock radio. Veruca Salt found
themselves the objects of a major label
bidding war eventually won by DGC,
led by that walking conglomerate David
Geffen, after the release of their LP
"American Thighs" on Chicago's tiny
Minty Fresh label spawned the ubiq-
uitous pop hit "Seether."
It looks like a trend. "The glass
ceiling has always been around
50,000 records" for bands on an
indie, explained Traeger. "But now
with indies like Epitaph with the
Offspring lately, that's kind of been
Now, it seems, indie rock is every-
where. That damned single "Come Out
and Play" sure is. Sub Pop especially
experienced a period of intense visibil-
ity and increased sales after the initial
success of Soundgarden, Alice in
Chains and Nirvana. The Seattle label,
which began in 1987 as a fanzine run
by Bruce Pavitt and later on partner
Jonathan Poneman, watched its popu-
larity shoot through the roof. The
"Grunge Years" they chronicle on CDs
available through the mail order com-
pany they still run changed the label
Remarked Traeger. "Since then?
It's like night and day. You're talking
about a label that was run by two
people who were bouncing
checks and just scrapiing
to make somethmg
ha vi n g contracts
with their bands. And now it's a profit-
able corporation in the millions of dol-
lars. I can't describe the difference
Does that mean they've sold out?
"Sub Pop hasn't been an indie for a
long time in some people's eyes." ad-
mitted Traeger. Still, the size of the
label hasn't corrupted its basic indie
"down-homeness," as Traeger put it.
Bands at Sub Pop (including brilliant
artists like Sebadoh. Red Red Meat.
Eric's Trip, Velocity Girl, the Spinanes
and Codeine) still have "immense con-
trol" over their projects, he said.
It's the same goal which Gerard
Cosloy and Chris Lombardi hoped to
attain in starting rival indie Matador in
the first place.
"At majors, people aren't
used to the bands being actively
involved," said Orr. At Matador.
she continued, "Artists are in the
office quite often. They're involved
in every step of the process."
Added Conde, "Bands have total
control over what they do at Touch and
Go, almost to the point that we cross
our fingers and hope they made
See INDIES, Page 7