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When the absurd series of horrors arising daily in modern life become too much to bear, it’s a nice escape to reflect back on what I like to call “Obama-era Problems.” These are the faux-calamities that seem totally ridiculous and inconsequential now but, for a time, inspired actual debate and even anger not that long ago.
One of my favorite OeP’s was a musical scourge known as “hipster metal,” which referred to a class of hard-riffing bands that were embraced by the music press and a small cadre of indie rock fans in the ’00s and early ’10s, naturally attracting the ire of skeptical metal purists. “When it came to the term ‘hipster metal,’ ‘hipster’ basically translated to ‘dilettante,'” Stereogum’s Phil Freeman observed earlier this year. The idea was that these bands — including The Sword, Deafheaven, Liturgy, and postLeviathan -Mastodon — attracted listeners only pretending to like metal for the sake of… irony, I guess?
Much like that era’s overall preoccupation with calling out hipsterism in all of its many forms, the “hipster metal” charge didn’t really stand up to scrutiny. What incentive would a person have to fake an interest in a form of music to the point of starting a band, playing shows, getting a record deal, and making an album? Especially when the genre in question hardly ever leads to a lucrative career? That’s a big commitment for a jokey pose. Wouldn’t it just be easier to wear an Iron Maiden shirt at a Yeasayer show?