Second only to The Onion, Chunklet Magazine has for the past two decades been the source for scathing comedy, laughing in the face of a music subculture, which more often than not takes itself much too serious. From naming Steve Albini “the biggest asshole in rock” to publishing a book full of lists of bands and albums they find wholly overrated, nothing is sacred. In the pages of Chunklet, everyone and everything you love is skewered, so it’s best not to hold a grudge because at some point even the most holy of hipster icons get a jab. The beauty of Chunklet’s latest tome, The Indie Cred Test, is that now the tables are turned, as the reader (and those who choose to actually take the “test”) is the one being mocked, in exhaustive soul-searching, life-questioning detail. Over the course of 200 pages, The Indie Cred Test is “actually” a lengthy and intrusive (should you take it serious) application for a “cred card” from the Bank of Indie Cred, which throughout the book is advertised with testimonials from Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Elijah Wood—careers salvaged with the card’s help.
The “application” is filled with questions split into chapters measuring the aging hipsters’ credibility according to how they answer metrics ranging from General Lifestyle to Music Fandom, rating your record collection, what you eat, drink and where. It’s creepy at times reading through The Indie Cred Test, as the staff at Chunklet seem to know you and your habits as an indie obsessive better than your know them yourself. In the section on DJ Culture it asks, “Have you ever played Another Bad Creation?” (yes) and “Do you justify the obscene amount of money you spend on records with the free drinks you get at your DJ night?” (yes). When it comes down to it, Chunklet is best when they’re slicing through your personal record collection. There’s an entire page devoted just to how you organize said records (“alphabetized, by genre, by producer, or by the color of the spine?”) and reasons to justify selling every one of them (“Because last night’s episode of Hoarders hit a little too close to home.”). This is merely the tip of the iceberg, as every time you flip through the book you’ll find some new piece of minutiae that will have you laughing out loud. The staff’s attention to detail is intense, from charts and graphs, to calculating percentages of drugs consumed at live festivals and essay questions on why your beard is longer than your hair. I’m almost tempted to whip out a number 2 pencil and scour through the entire thing, as to not miss a thing.
Of course, print has a time-stamp—The Indie Credit Test was years in the making—so the book has some glaring omissions, most noticeably the easily assailable acts of the last five years (Wavves, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells) who would make for good fodder for anyone under the age of 30. Honestly, a reference to Lookout Records no longer elicits laughter these days and is probably lost on readers of Hipster Runoff. But that is not the point here. Henry Owings, CEO of Chunklet Industries, is the emblem of the aging hipster, and this is his self-help guide for everyone who feels like they’re out of touch with the prolonged adolescence afforded from an indie lifestyle. The Indie Cred Test is for anyone who scoffs at digital downloads, ’90s reunion tours, and bars that exclusively sell Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yes you are old, but do you still have cred?
Kevin J. Elliott