Alternative Indie Rock. Imperial MK II or Allen?

SixStringAxis

Silver Supporting Member
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263
I know the question "best blackface clone" gets asked nearly everyday. I am looking though for a slightly more modern sound as well as vintage.

Alternative/indie rock bands like Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Pixies and Pavement really have great fender tones. A lot those bands do a lot of pedal distortion with like the blues driver but they do clean stuff as well. I feel like some might say any blackface amp will work, just with the treble up high to get the more modern tones, or am I way off base?

I also want to be able to play at low volumes. The features of the TK Imperial MK II seem to be better than almost any amp in the class but I feel like its more geared towards country players? Allen amps seem very versatile as well with mids, raw and most importantly for me a master volume. I love any clip I hear of vintage sound amps but they lack a master volume or attenuator.

Any opinions would greatly be appreciated. Or suggestions of other amps as well I might be forgetting, they don't even have to be specially blackface clones.
 
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fyler

Member
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1,428
most of those bands (on their best records, anyway) used cheap pawn shop gear. Silverface Fenders & Music Man amps were plentiful back then. also solid state amps. combine those with Rats & Big Muffs & that's pretty much the sound of 90's indie rock. using a Tone King seems like (really expensive) overkill to me.

That said, you might want to take a look at Benson amps. I've seen them popping up on quite a few stages with bands of that variety.
 

joshofsorts

Silver Supporting Member
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1,876
I don't have any direct experience with either amp, but I do own a Tone King Sky King, have mostly played through Blackface-style amps and pursued these kinds of tones in college (and am still very influenced by them to some extent). I think either amp will work fine for what you are aiming for, especially with a little tweaking with pedals. Although there are some similarities between these bands, the guitar sounds are different between them and so is the gear the different players used (Twins Reverbs, JCM-800s, Orange amps, Blackface Bassmans). The Imperial will have a little more of a modern feel I believe than the Allen, and having the Lead channel gives you some more versatility to get some Marshall-y leaning tones (more like Joey Santiago or Doug Martsch). When I was looking at Tone Kings I ran into the same thing in that there isn't much in the way of demos with players playing how I play, but I wouldn't take that as an indication that is is mostly for country players. The Raw control on the Allen amps will also get you some nice versatility and get you some more tweedy tones, but it won't be footswitchable like on the Tone King (although I have heard of Allen doing this for people on request). I would also suggest considering a Fender Twin Reverb (Silverface or Reissue) as this seems to be the most prevalent amp between these bands (maybe by virtue of being a common backline amp at clubs) & is a super versatile classic that can nail a lot of these tones with pedals. Don't discount guitars, pedals & playing style either, I think these were probably bigger factors than the amps in these band's sounds. fyler is right about most of these band's early sounds being partially an accident of having cheap pawnshop gear, also like he said get a vintage Rat and a Big Muff and you're a good amount there.
 
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joshofsorts

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,876
All of these bands had guitarists that carved out their own distinct sound, which is what drew me to each of them. 3 out of 4 of these bands also are pretty versatile as they are switching up their playing and effects usage a lot mid-song or between songs (maybe not early Modest Mouse as much). For that I think a clean pedal platform will give you the best setup to work with (or something with a footswitchable second channel). If you're looking at Allen Amps, the Old Flame might be a good one as it has enough headroom to be a good platform (full disclosure, Fender Super Reverbs are some of my favorite amps), or like I said, a Twin Reverb of some kind (or Fender Super Reverb).

It's hard not to get hung up on the gear, but a player like Stephen Malkmus really gets most of the sounds out of his unique brand of playing and his gear setup is relatively simple compared to many guitarists.

For me, what I realized over time was that I had to separate my influence's playing styles from the tone and pick and choose what I liked best to integrate into my own "sound". A lot of the early stuff from these bands don't have the greatest tone, but the playing is still great in its own (passionate but oft sloppy) right. On the other hand, mid-career albums like Built To Spill's "Keep It Like A Secret", Pavement's "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" and Flaming Lips "Clouds Taste Metallic" still inspire me both tone-wise and playing wise.
 
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