Oh, what a great album this is. Like the debut Cars release back in 1978, the Strokes have completely rediscovered and repositioned good old-fashioned '60s rock and roll into a modern context that even "the kids" can dig! The beats are mostly uptempo and tons of fun, there are two guitarists playing jangly, chimey-type clean repetitive chord sequences with notes atop in a style SLIGHTLY reminiscent of early Stereolab, and the singer sings actual vocal melodies atop the slop of cleanliness, with a slacker "don't give a frig about the world, as long as girls and gay people think I'm cool" style that reminds me of that Pavement guy but with an actual solid effort to hit the notes.
The main reason that I get such a major kick in the panty hose from this LP every time I put it on is because nearly all of the songs are as great as those Nuggets rarities from the mid-60s. And one thing you should know about those Nuggets rarities from the '60s is that most of those bands (Electric Prunes, Chocolate Watchband, Seeds, Count Five) really only had two or three great songs. This Strokes album alone has like TEN great songs. And none of them sound like retro-Beatles/Stones ripoffs.
It's just a style of songwriting that is dreadfully missing from today's radio scene. The FAST song that isn't punk rock. The POP song that isn't drenched in synths. The ROCK song that isn't slow, heavy and filled with rapping and modern production tricks. This CD is a collection of eleven good- to jawdroppingly perfect fast guitar pop rock songs for both young and old to enjoy (I bet my 57-year-old dad would love the hell out of this - it sounds like The Choir or The Five Americans or The Turtles or something! The greatness of the `60s brought back to life and home to roost - It's FUCKIN' GREAT!!!!!!!!!!).
The hit single is "Last Night" with its jumpy "Lust For Life" guitar rhythm, and if you like that one mister, you'd be Grimly Fiendish not to steal an old woman's cane, beat her over the head with it, then sell the cane on ebay as "Norman Rockwell's Official Cane" and use the money you receive from the sale to purchase Is This It by The Strokes.
And with this review, I become part of the hype that has been following this band since day one. Are they breaking any new ground? HELL NO! But I don't. I just think of it as rock and roll. `Cause that's what it is. They're just like reviving old rock and roll. (what do you like about it?) Wull. fuck. I like that it's rock and it's for real. There's no bullshit - there's no rock stars anymore.
I swear to God, I hate cops to the max.
If you catch what I'm referencing here, please send in your favorite quote from it! Because that's the kind of appreciation that The Strokes deserve - a bunch of reader comments that have nothing at all to do with them.
Speaking of old Malky, I just saw him last night and he was fuckin' awesome. Me and my(I and my...whatever) friends were the only teenagers at the place. The place was filled with yuppies growing old and wanting some last chances to see their old hero before they lapse into their eventual midlife crisis or just some people wanting to see good music. He made amusing jokes about making out with Martha Stewart and having an anal baby with a male audience member. He seemed more giddy and joyous about life than that one Pavement show that was on HBO's reverb. He was jumping around making jokes breaking strings and smacking his guitar with such rock and rolly revelry. He was far from the laconic and sleepy sounding. My friends though he was a teenager and he's what...thirty-four?! All in all an excellent show.
You will be hearing from me further. I have been silent long enough.
maybe there's a reason so many people are up in arms about the strokes - could it be that they're actually worth the attention for once?!? maybe it's not the band not being worth the hype as much as the hype has become such an ugly norm to us kiddies - every time there's someone out there with a record that isn't britney spears or moby (and remember, even he was THE NEXT BIG THING for a little while), some critic or label head gets so excited about it that they stumble all over themselves to praise it before they've even learned the names of all the songs. and because we're a gullable species, we go out and buy the thing, whether it's good or not and most of the time, we're disappointed that we could've bought a dimebag and a fifth o' beam with that nineteen dollars we wasted on such rock and roll crap! (ahem, at the drive in)
but, beyond the hype issue, there's a few good reasons to like this band. one, the songs. two, the sound. three, the fun. and, yeah, they wear their influences on their leather sleeves, but so what!?! i can't think of the last time a young band rose from the ashes of the nineties and sucessfully incorporated all that's good about television, the stooges, VU, new york dolls and that great bounty that is sixties psychedelic pop. i wouldn't be so quick to get rid of these guys just because they aren't perfect yet. they're a new band for the love of DOG!!! and i think dogs would like the strokes, if they could hear them for all those dog whistles. boo.
i've got to say that i'm glad not every song sounds like 'last nite'. easily the best single besides 'the modern age', but still - the one flaw in iggy's "lust for life" album was that every song sounded like it was done on the same day, with the same swagger whether it needed it or not. even with their limitations (or just their intentionally conservative playing), they give every song it's own unique push.
the first song is the most unusual one on the whole record. i can't tell if it's a drum machine or just the most satisfyingly crappy recording of a trap kit ever conceived, but there's such character in the opening instruments (nikolai's beautiful bass line for this song rivals anything john cale or sterling morrison played for VU) that by the time julian drops the first sentence, it's hard not to fall in love. i for one like the distorted vocals. for the same reason i like bob pollard better through a memory man (echo pedal) - it makes the experience that much more personal and memorable. 'the modern age' is just an excellent song that is made even more excellent by julian's most passionate vocals on the whole album. 'soma' and 'barely legal' are good sister songs (same key, almost same speed), leading into the first of the two sassier tracks: 'someday' is the smartest song here and feels so good from top to bottom that it makes my white ass shake to the rhythm. 'last nite' (also sassy) is such a great time and (here's the proof that i'm an MTV kid) i am thrilled as i can be that such a classy video was made for the song. i think they let julian do his vocals live on the thing, because i hear some subtle differences in the mix and the sound of his mic hitting the floor a couple of times. it's just a nice to thing to see on the boob tube in the 21st century. 'alone, together' (the one between the sassy tracks) is pure talking heads goodness and makes me smile a big rock and roll smile. 'hard to explain' sounds like jeff buckley fronting guided by voices and i couldn't be happier about it. the final three wrap up the record quite nicely, with 'take it or leave it' being one of the more musically adventurous cuts on "is this it". i'm curious as hell about album two already, and if the world will give 'em a chance, it should be a great one too.
maybe because of it's limited goals, this band hits the nail on the head every time. i'll be seeing these guys live in about four days, so it remains to be seen if they're as charming in person as they are on record. i've got high hopes for 'em though! long live the strokes!
The guitars sound utterly flat. Which is appropriate, because they aren't doing anything interesting, anyway. The singer's vocal range is extremely limited. His voice has no color whatsoever and the heavy processing can't hide that. The drummer seems completely incapable of a fill or even a bloody change. A fucking drum machine could have more character than this guy. Of course, the drum sound is so weak, like everything else on the album, that he was fighting an uphill battle. Problem is, he forgot to fight.
The lead guitarist pulls off a very fine guitar solo in "The Modern Age." The record's one high point. The Strokes are nothing special at all. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of struggling young bands across this country who are vastly superior to these guys. The british press is out to lunch, as usual. Their hyperventilating press clips should have been another clue to stay clear of this one.
Once I got through this record, I thought the title was very apt. They just forgot the question mark. Gimme some Weezer.
Whenever a major record company starts hyping a totally unknown band out of the blue is always a bad sign, and very rarely does the band in question fill the promised potential. I can think of hundreds of bands that blow these guys away, and none of them get any publicity. When something is handed to me ready for consumption on a platter I immediately get suspicious. Remember that the major labels don't care if the music is any good. All they care about is finding what they think is the right sound to get the wallets open of the demographic they're marketing towards, and in this case it's a band that they think will remind the baby boomers, or more so the generation after them, of that "old tyme" rock sound, hoping to trigger their nostalgia, when the band actually seems to be nothing but a pale imitation.
Have you seen the video? It's so obvious that that's what they're after...filmed in cheap looking camcorder quality like old shows such as Ed Sullivan, it's a bunch of guys in 70's haircuts wearing lots of denim playing their guitar rock on what looks like the stage of The Price Is Right.
People are a bunch of suckers!
I love nearly every track as described by others in greater detail. NYC cops is really a standout, should not have been left off American release, as it has nothing to do with Sept.11 or even cops for that matter. However it could be a sign of good things to come, remember when every damn Lennon song was banned for words like "knickers," "high," and "turn you on?" Sure you do! Although funny how none of the Lennon songs about beating and killing and spying of women were ever banned, and there were a lot of those too. Those cooky English censors, YEEhaw the Strokes, 9/10!!!!!
Oh, if you're thinking of getting this album, make sure to get an import version. I'd give the American version an 8, because they got rid of the great "NYC Cops" song and replaced it with the weaker Last Nite B-side "When It Started". The import version might get a 9 in my book, though. Plus, while the American version's cover is cool, the import version has the uncensored cover, and is therefore cooler.
If you get the import version and you're a completist, you should pick up the Last Nite single. It has "When It Started", plus slightly rawer live versions of "Last Nite" and "Take It or Leave It". And if you made the mistake of getting the Bushified American version, you can get "NYC Cops" on one of the other singles.
And since they're ready to bow down and worship anything championed by Spin, Rolling Stone, or their holy grail, CMJ, that's even remotely "indie," I knew they would like the Strokes.
Here's how my first encounter with the Strokes went. "Hey, you like the New York Dolls and other punk bands, right? You'll love these guys."
Naturally, I hated it. And I still do. What did Wire, Television and the New York Dolls ever do to deserve a comparison to this incredibly overrated bunch of wannabe Velvet Underground groupies?
You'd think during the course of a 39 minute album, these guys would stumble across a somewhat catchy riff, but no, they don't. And "New York City Cops" is one of the most boring songs I've ever heard, right alongside "Last Nite," "This Modern Age" and the rest of the shitty album. (Call me a wanker for only listing the singles, but those are the ones my friends listen to the most. I don't exactly say "Hey, what was that shitty song on the first side? You know, the one with the boring guitar parts, a solo just like the other songs and... shit, now I don't even know what song I'm referring to.")
I do like some of the pro-Strokes arguments I've heard, though. "But they write catchy songs!" So do the Swedish guys who write for Britney Spears.
I'm awfully tired of being such a dick on this site, though, so I will say something nice about the Strokes. They are much, much less evil than Staind, Linkin Park, Blink-182 and 99% of the shit clogging the airwaves.
They still suck, though, and so do the White Stripes.
I heard "Last Nite" on the radio and figured, "hey, wow, these guys are good." I read some reviews (including Mr. Prindle's) and thought, "they're into the Velvet Underground and Television, they must be at least pretty cool". Um, wake me up when the album's done, please? I don't believe I paid $12 for this! There's not a single damn riff on here that I can even recall, WBinder007 said it best above. I can just go put on Marquee Moon or The Velvet Underground (3rd LP) or Wire's On Returning and get basically the same stuff, done better. Why these guys have been anointed saviors of rock and roll is totally beyond me, they're just another trendy group who we'll all forget in a few months. 4/10
So, as the last person to buy this album ever, who actually ended up waiting past the strokes backlash period and a little bit into the "who the hell were the strokes again?" period for some reason, I kinda like it. At first it all sounded like the same garage rock song, but eventually it revealed itself to be a bunch of different garage rock songs with perhaps a few too many common elements. The lo-fi production thing seems pretty contrived (especially that bit in "someday" where someone's talking in the background that seems a little too well timed), but there's something strangely admirable about a band that could very easily use their major label money for big bloated nu metal guitars and state of the art linkin park style programming but decide to spend it on making the drums sound like they're recorded from the next room, giving the guitars a scuzzy sound to them, and distorting every single vocal track. I enjoy it on late night car trips, but otherwise I listen to it for maybe the first 8 songs or so and get bored.
i bought the cd and at once knew i had heard this 15 years earlier
Also: I poked at it with a stick.
Since then, I've bought every CD I could get my hands on and saw them in DC. They'd actually played 5 new songs at the set which simply kicked ass. Perhaps all their songs sound the same to some degree but don't be hypocritical when you make that call. What's the difference between Blitzkrieg Bop and Cretin Hop? Debaser and Bone Machine? In the Name of Love and A Sort of Homecoming? Walk on the Wild Side and Satellite of Love? Yellow Submarine and All You Need Is Love? Would it be cool if they all of a sudden sounded like Limp Bizkit? Besides, what does anyone know about new sounds when no one's making any? What is everyone expecting out of new bands? Should fireworks or blood pop out of your car speakers when you pop in their latest CD?
The Stokes have a unique sound. You can call it 'garage' but any band without technical ability is in that category. These guys can hit their notes and have great timing. When Julian's voice rises to make a point, it's not depressed self-pity. It has a quality that feels like a teen who gets passed over by girls because he doesn't live on the football field. It sort of asks 'Why?'. The title track, Is This It captures that feeling of being out all night, getting drunk and trying to find a good place to crash. It drags like drunken feet and it repeats it riff like a hangover. It ends like a warm bed. What really amazes me it that most people mistake Julian's vocals as purely something from the early 70's. I think he does pull from the 70's but also from the 30's. Listen to Modern Age without the instrumentation and you might think you're at a party with the Great Gatsby. The rushed notes from Albert give it this feel of riding in the back seat of a convertible with the wind going through your hair. There's a sort of dementedness when Julian sings, 'my vision's clearer now, but I'm unafraid' that reminds me of Joy Division's 'Digital'. You wonder if he's going to crack up and fall into an epileptic seizure. Soma is like a drug induced night out in NYC. It has this stop and start feeling like a Saturday night. It moves between different scenes, friends, places, people and then the night ends with the singer's friends doing their thing and him doing his. Barely Legal is that feeling of being 18. Nothing makes sense, you don't know why the hell you do things or what your relationships mean. You're just kind of there. I think the EP version really brings more light to the song and has a little more humor and absurdity. '$25 dollars won't get me far, the last resort is to steal your car'. Someday really could be Van Morrison's Brown Eye'd Girl. Trying your luck isn't particularly my favorite, but the end really kicks in thanks to Nick's guitar and Fab's cymbals. Last Night has had too much written about it, but it's obviously an incredible song and I think this is mostly Julian's credit. His voice is so Van Morrison and that's a sound that hasn't been heard on the radio in new songs for a long time. It's such an odd choice and perhaps that's why it stands out so strongly. The theme is classic like Coke. Boy goes to see girl, girl's a bitch, guy leaves and can't figure out what her problem is. Who can? Alien's, they won't understand. But she shouldn't forget, 'You ain't never had nothing I wanted, but, I want it all and just can't figure out. . .Nothin'". The rest is simple, easy rock. Fun chords, fun percussion, fun beat. It's almost weird to set a break up to this upbeat, fun music but on the other hand it's genius. It's such a plain, basic and done to death (not the exact same way) theme that to make it light is this sort of musical admittance that everything's already been done, so have fun with it. There's a love of rock music by the band here that the cynics really don't get. Nick's stuff is so Chuck Berry. Hard to explain has this driving beat and rhythm that just gives that riding in a car feeling again, but Nick's choice of chords and Nikolai's bass lines gives it a sadly disappointed feeling. The chorus is an anthem to youth as good as any other. When It Started really highlights Nikolai's bass. It bounces, it saddens, it repeats but it's usually very interesting (and unnoticed). Trying Your Luck is the last song I've really tried to 'get into'. I've read some reviews that think this is their best writing. I don't know about that, but I love the lyrics. 'When I find out, I hope it's you who set this trap'. Could anything be sweeter? You can sense Julian's vulnerability as he tries this relationship knowing it could turn out badly. 'I know, this is the world but I'll try my luck, with you'. And Nick's solo highlight's the tragedy of sorts the song sings about. To finish (and could there be a better finish) Take it or Leave it says it best. It sums everything up about young relationships. Too much acting, too much trying, too much backstabbing and someone always gets hurt. This is the dating situation in America and it hangs over you everytime. Why? Why play in the game? Why can't people make up their mind? The song asks the band aid to be ripped off already. If you think it's a bad song, get your heart ripped out and try a sing (or scream) along in your car. You'll be an instant fan. They played this last at the D.C. concert and it was an anthem. Julian walked down into the audience, got back on stage, then pulled about half of the audience on stage to scream along. No set trashing, no fans ripping his clothes off, just a kind of bonding. Isn't that what rock music should be?
I don't think this album was marketed for the same crowd, and they probably don't have 1/10 of such fanbase. So anyway, being better than the chart-toppers of the day isn't really impressive, the Strokes were doing nothing new, this was released in 2001 and the retro scene had existed for quite a few years...It only took this long before bands like Strokes and White Stripes started to get some attention in mainstream media, they're just a few years behind.
I'm not into rock media and all that, so I was told to check this band through word-of-mouth...It was the end of August, and the week after or whatever, I listened to it at the record store, I thought it was really catchy and enjoyable. Could as well have bought it, but I guess I was too busy.
A couple of months later I happened to have access to it and for some reason it wasn't as appealing anymore. This is merely a decent pop record, nothing more. The vocalist blows, he couldn't be any more predictable...Wow, a guy is totally apathetic singing through distortion. Whatever. Much of the rest ends up at the wrong part of the line that seperates Cute from Boring.
If the verse riff of "Last Nite" kinda sounds like "Lust For Life", then I have to mention that the intro sounds a lot like the one for "American Girl" by Tom Petty.
There are a few songs at the start that are pretty good, I sometimes mix them up but, yeah, the Strokes are a bunch of losers and they haven't contributed shit to the scene. It's often implied that the overload of low-key, garage/retro bands today is a result of the success with Strokes and that is bullshit...Even someone like me who didn't exactly TRY to keep updated with that stuff, knows that it was already on...And these guys happened to be at the right place when the mainstream was about to give it a chance.
While we're here I'll just add that on another occasion (after a brief clarification of terms) that flat-faced troll from Sum 41 was most unimpressed upon being quizzed as to whether he had ever had his shit pushed in! Still great band though eh? Finger on the pulse of a generation... Yup same generation that keeps lapping up all the shite America cares to fling our way, cheers!
My response to this record keeps changing. On my first day at the university 3,5 years ago a guy I knew told me he had to get some money to go buy the debut album of the Strokes, which was just going to be released then. A few days later I listened to it at the record store, and I thought it was one of the catchiest things I'd ever heard. I thouht about buying it, but I never did. But it turned out that my sister did, so I gave it a listen, and I didn't get excited about it at all. The other few times that I've heard it over the years it's been even less interesting.
Then a couple of weeks ago I heard it again and now I gotta admit it's got some good songs on it, "Someday", which at least in Europe was their third single from this album, and the only one with a "real" video, is GREAT. I always thought it was just a stupid boring indie rock song that doesn't go anywhere. Still some parts was stuck in my head... BUT the thing I noticed now is that there's this second guitar playing this kinda funky thing in the background, constantly, which makes all the difference...
"The Modern Age" is the other good one, the opener is not bad either... Then there are some songs that are really good but they are RUINED by some really lousy parts, I forget the titles, but I'm talking about track #4 and #8... The latter one kinda sounds like Weezer too, with that opening melody that comes back a few times. Unfortunately the 2nd half of the album is overall pretty weak... Good, not great... 7/10.
'Ey! Catchy songs, here. Lots of catchy, very very similar songs that all strike the same mood, last the same, and are similarly catchy. Beatles could get away with monotony; Strokes can't. I like it up to track 8, then just start hating every critic in the world as the last brief, up-tempo, sarcastically happy chord ends the album. THIS relentlessly fast, light, cute stuff is supposed to save popular music or some SHIT? Pul-lease.
That said, it's consistent, fun, and nice. And probably that Casablancas dude is great in the sack--at least that's what a few girls at Rice say.
Good for what it is. Now are people going to admit Wilco is better than this band could ever hope to be, or do I have to bust a New Yawk minute over their noggin??
"but it doesn't really mean, like, I'm sure I'm gonna kill a jew.....maybe a hippy though"
It's 2009 and this record still sounds great, fun, and entirely lacking in innovation or excitement. I guess that's the two opinions most people have of this band; derivative and shitty, or forgivably derivative and shitty. I guess a lot of the songs are catchy, mr singer has a cute sounding stoned voice, but that distorted effect gets pretty wearying. And the tempos aren't really fast enough to push what are really very ordinairy, normal songs, into exciting territory. A lot of them are very "ploddy." Also it can be really hard to feel this stuff as anything other than a bunch of very trendy 20 somethings who collect records, and almost plan how to sound hip in the early 00's. There is absolutely nothing intriguing, different or alluring about this band. It's amazing that this stuff sounded almost dangerous in 2001. It did, however, manage to change the direction of highschool fashion; skinny jeans and pointy shoes have made a revolutionary move from university student to highschool kids. That may be the most revolutionary thing about this album. I suppose if there were many many more innovative bands, perhaps painfully innovative and self consciously different, as many were in the late 70's and early 80's, and if we couldn't target the strokes and other bands for stalling this supposedly inevitable rock revolution, (ha!) then these guys might have been praised as quirky romantics, like the only ones, or the modern lovers. As long as they didn't get too famous of course. Hearing this song at every drunk highschool party, dancing to it amongst the killers, britney spears, and the black eyed peas, kind of destroyed the perfect credebility this band seemed to have cultured. Oh and I know it's been said a trillion painful times, but WHY couldn't my generation have it's own youth music, movement? I SUCK. But surely some people with talent could have done something other than regugitate the trendy moments of the past with an incredibly thick layer of irony, and an utter lack of sincerity? I mean at least radio friendly grunge in the 90's was DIFFEREnt, if entirely crap anyway. The breakaway artists in each decade up until I got interested in music were mindblowingly revolutionary, (relative to the strokes anyway).
1. I mean the beatles, the stones, the who, the kinks , bob dylan ..................... the monks, captain beefheart, can, velvet underground.
2, the stooges, the new york dolls, the modern lovers, the saints, radio birdman
3. the ramones, hard core punk, the smiths, the fall, butthole surfers, meat puppets, minutemen, flipper, birthday party, THE CELIBATE RIFLES
4, jesus lizard, big black, the cows,
6. and today we have; the strokes, the white stripes, lo fi indie revivalists, hard core punk revival, post punk revival, garage rock revival, beach boy rip offs, (fleeet foxes), complete shit, (vampire weekend), and bands desperately trying to break out of this mould of genericism by plundering diverse and obscure artists and mixing them all together into a big pile of shit, (the horrors, some other bands).
7. "innovative" movements such as the unforseen blending of rap, and rock, and the backstreet boys and slayer.
I guess it's all too ridiculous to blame the strokes for a musical travesty like this, but against this backdrop they lose whatever sense of fun they might of conveyed in better times, (not really).
Room On Fire - RCA 2003
UPDATE 2007: PROVING THAT YOU CAN CONVINCE YOURSELF TO LIKE ANYTHING IF YOU TRY HARD ENOUGH, I ORIGINALLY GAVE THIS ALBUM A 9 OUT OF 10. NO, NO, NO, NO. FOUR YEARS LATER, IT'S PAINFULLY OBVIOUS THAT THIS IS NOTHING BUT SIMPLISTIC, MIDTEMPO, OCCASIONALLY CATCHY BUT NEVER OVERWHELMING GUITAR POP/ROCK. BELOW IS MY ORIGINAL REVIEW. BUT FOR THE AGES, IT APPEARS THAT - JUST LIKE NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN - ONCE THE STROKES LOST THEIR ENERGY, THEY ALSO LOST MY INTEREST.
It can't be easy to follow up a debut album as massively popular as Is This It?. Can you imagine the stress that Julian Casablancas must have felt while developing this follow-up, knowing that thousands of anti-hypists were ROOTING for his failure - just so they could congratulate themselves on not falling for the propaganda the first time around? As much as I love the first album, even I couldn't see a way for them to follow up such a simple expression of catchy rock and roll. I figured that the style was perfect - if they altered it, it would no longer be perfect, but if they repeated it, it would be boring the second time. So what was the solution?
Proving himself much smarter than me personally, Julian figured out the ideal way to ensure that Room On Fire would neither disappoint fans nor inspire nogoodnicks to quip, "Is this still it?" What he's done, see, is he's brought back just enough of the Is This It? formula to make the music instantly recognizable as the Strokes (distorted hipster vocals, beautiful guitar tones, hypnotic repetition) while widening his musical universe to encompass interesting new songwriting approaches (a beat-heavy dance song! a pretty ballad!), influences (The Cars! Booker T and the MGs!) and guitar tones/playing styles (including several appearances of a guitar that somehow sounds exactly like a new wave synthesizer). And most importantly - he's written eleven more great little hooks!
I admit that I had a hard time adjusting to the slower tempos at first. After the speedy pop-o-thon of the first album, I suspect a lot of people might encounter the same problem. This is not a nonstop energy rush like Is This It?. It's a collection of inspired and inspiring `60s-flavored guitar songs (of various tempos) with an inordinate amount of truly wonderful "celebration of life" melodies. So you may be thrown for a loopity at first. But give yourself three solid listens to get used to their slightly revised technique and you'll be whistling "Meet Me In The Bathroom" til the day is nigh.
No no, that's a song title.
But if you DO want to meet me in the bathroom, I suppose we could work something out. I've been out of work for quite some time now.
Isn't it interesting how similar unemployment and gayness are?
Ooo! I thought of another way they're similar! When you're unemployed, you often end up doing volunteer work for children, for example PACKING FUDGE. And when you're GAY, heh heh, here comes the really funny part -
If the Strokes have ever been considered followers, this tirade may give them some leverage as being leaders amongst their peers. In 2001, I read more about the Strokes in NME, Melody Maker, The Big Takeover, etc than I ever thought I'd see for a band that, having never heard them play, only existed as a concept for me. Then I bought "Is This It" and played it thirty-three times in five days before I made up my mind that they could count me as a fan. I was able to see them play live within a week of my first listen, and it only added to the joy of the Stroke experience. Now, since I'd nearly burned myself out on the record, I put it away for the most part for a few months. But I still return to it on a regular basis.
In 2002, I started reading about a band called Interpol, who are also from New York City and who also got more press than God before anyone Stateside had access to their actual music. I bought that album and spun it multiple times within the first week of purchase, and knew that I could count myself a fan. And for all the comparisons I heard mentioned between Interpol and their predecessors (Joy Division, The Smiths, early R.E.M., Siouxsie), I found it funny that no one mentioned the similarities they shared with the Strokes. Maybe I'm one of a few who noticed, and maybe the typical fan of one band is not the fan of the other in this case, but a certain sound, specific to the time and geography of these two bands seemed to be emerging.
And, just this summer, I came across a group that goes by the name Longwave, who are admitted friends of the Strokes and have toured together, as well as sharing the RCA imprint on their debut albums. I bought it, spun it many times and found........you've heard this before. And, although the parallels between U2, Radiohead and The Smiths were evident, there was still a Strokesque quality about most of the material on the album. Blatantly so.
Now, in fairness, I haven't seen Interpol or Longwave in a concert setting, so the comparisons may not hold a lot of water on stage for these bands. And the inspiration behind Julian's songs seem to stem from something besides Longwave's rampant desire not to be misunderstood and Interpol's quest for the shadows.
But the fact that "Is This It", "Turn On The Bright Lights" and "The Strangest Things", all made by three totally different sets of musicians, all recorded with different producers in different studios, months apart, could have so many similarities made me realise that there is indeed a new trend developing in the studios. Distorted and/or washed-out lead vocals, dry and/or distorted drums, no fade-outs (a la Wire).
Just like Phil Spector's wall of sound and it's affect on the songs of Motown (and later the Ramones, oddly enough); George Martin's affect on.........well, the Beatles, which affected nearly everyone in the sixties, apparently, and beyond; Tony Visconti and David Bowie's idea for the "gated" snare drum sound that invented so many sub-genres of dance and rock that it's impossible to decipher modern music without that sonic option; Pro-Tools; turntables; all these devices that give the impression of evolution in the world of recorded sound that the songs themselves often fail to offer, on their own mean absolutely nothing. And it seems that many people, including myself sometimes, judge the music more on these things than the actual songs, or the performance.
This, rock and roll, might very well be a celebrity-driven medium at this point, and nothing sells celebrity like a cute face (or ass, in some cases), but I beg all detractors of the Strokes and the other bands mentioned to approach them from a purely musical standpoint. In a way, to look beyond the artifice for the actual art. When I hear the Strokes that way, they give me the impression that while they're aware of their capacities as writers and players, they have a very, very specific goal in mind when it comes time to make an album - to keep it as simple and rewarding as possible.
Like "Is This It", "Room On Fire" adheres to that ethos. There are decorations here and there, but nothing that ever threatens to clutter the songs, which are the most valuable aspect of the rock album, the only aspect that lasts more than the moment. And that's why I like them. The distorted, hand-cupped-around-the-mike vocal, the meticulously treated drums - these are devices, to be sure, and on a couple of ocassions, these devices don't serve some songs ("Under Control", "The Way It Is") as well as others ("You Talk Way Too Much", "Reptilia", "The End Has No End"), but the individual songs themselves, and the overall effect of the album as a whole are undeniable. Theirs is a restrained passion, but it's hard to fuck up a good melody, no matter what the delivery.
I feel that this band has delivered all that one should expect from them as a band - and that is all they are. No saviours of rock, no penultimate teenyboppers, no fabricated "hot new thing". Let the magazines decide that - they don't really understand music anyway, otherwise why would they obsess so much about everything besides the music and the effect that it (without the photographs, the hype, the backlash, the girlfriends, the bullshit) has on the human soul. My soul feels like a million bucks after a Stroke experience.
A slight return to the mention of Interpol and Longwave - while it would be easy for some to lump them together with the Strokes, and any other band that comes from New York with guitars in hand over the next five years, you'd be missing out on a lot of new music with all the passion and ingenuity that's been lacking from modern culture for a few years now. Don't pass it up without giving it a spin.
About the album, the band sounds a little more aware of itself and of the expectations that some might have of them, mostly to fail at repeating whatever was so admirable and charming about their first effort. It bogs them down here and there, but then, it's to be expected - unless they never read/overheard any of their press (which I find unlikely in the age of information), how could they not react to that? So they're not the most confident band in the world. And not the most versatile either - I do wonder what might have come of this record if they'd stuck to their sessions with Nigel Godrich, if they might have branched about more with their arrangements or vocal approaches. Or maybe it would just sound like "Is This It" being played through an Echoplex! But, all the same, the songs have branched out considerably, and the topical matter (the yin-yang of sexual relationships, narcissism, regret) is as believable as the almost Chuck Berry-simple approach to the playing of the songs. And, again, after the haircuts, the camera angles, the hard-ons and the status have all run their course, the songs are the only thing that last.
Here's to rock and roll.............songs
So the only opened copy of "Room On Fire" remains in my wife's CRV for weeks on end and I'm forced to spin the single a few times, enjoying that neat little Cars vibe. But I finally do snag the disc for a few spins and I'll admit that the cynic inside prevented me from lighting a fire under my ass to simply ask the old lady "Can I listen to that new Strokes cd when you're done?"
First impression is that the suits at RCA probably HATED the final product. If the original idea of pairing them with Nigel Godrich (an admirable producer in my mind) had prompted the check writers to ponder The Strokes in a new soundscape, imagine their disappointment in hearing a very UN-major label production that practically mirrors the debut. I'm thankful that it does while at the same time expanding the band's arrangements, albeit at a molecular rate. Word has it that RCA even scoffed at the cover art, which is a nice visual of how the album comes across: dirty retro urban rock straight from the basement of the most influential city on the planet.
Backlash? Fuck you. The reality is that if this was a band from your own backyard, you'd be dying to share them with the rest of us. I could give a shit about the backstage socialites and, if what I've heard is true, even the Velvet Underground were quite the NYC scenesters back in the day. With all the attention thrown at them, I think that a few of the bands mentioned previously (Interpol & Longwave) are pretty fucking appreciative that A&R finally came back to NYC with the intention of examining the local rock scene. And if The Strokes' obvious debt to V.U., Television, etc. turns out to be one of the reasons why you're not buying, then consider the ten thousand other bands aping influences from all the wrong places. The Cars come to mind when I think of The Strokes' success. The Cars used a similar blueprint for their sound and it was met with commercial success. Without them, I'd probably not sought out The Modern Lovers debut and then (in turn) The Velvet Underground. So if The Strokes can manage to turn a few more brave souls onto the Velvet Underground catalog, what's the problem? At least you won't have to wade through The Cars "Shake It Up" to get there.
"Room On Fire" has some obvious standouts and it's no surprise that programmers have latched on to the tunes that strongly resemble ones from the debut. Others do require a few repeated listens and taken as a whole, the sophomore effort does not jump out of the speakers as easily as "Is This It." "Under Control" is a nice example of this: The first few listens had me mocking Julian's "I don't want to waste your time" whines, but after listen number three, it dawned on me that his voice acts as a third rhythm guitar, and rhythm guitars are the beer that made Milwaukee famous. Yes, aspiring rhythm aces, "Rooms On Fire" is a nice album to strum to, so put down your Blues Saraceno training videos and play along to this release.
It's a gut-check album from a band who is level headed enough to understand that rock ain't rocket science. Just finger out a few chords, work on at least a half-hours worth of new material, and let the RCA dog red rocket the shit on the adoring Brit-press (Fuck me, Mojo had the dudes on the cover two month's prior to the taste of "12:51!" No fucking wonder people hate 'em!). It's not their fault that "Random Notes" wasn't around to give us pix of Nico blowing The Lizard King and shame on us all for letting the media mindfuck us all into paying more attention to the band's extracurricular activities than to what they were doing in a NYC rehearsal space. What they emerged with is a nice follow-up without the pretensions everybody seemed to think it would have to navigate through.
A few comments I found particularily laughable, and I'm going to make fun of them now: Someone said that their sound was weak, and they'd rather listen to Weezer.. WEEZER? How are The Strokes weaker than Weezer? C'mon now.. that Buddy Holly song, wtf is weaker than that, I'd like to know. Certainly not The Strokes. I like Weezer, but they aren't exactly the poster band for strong music. Someone else commented on how "they were trying so hard to look cool", how is this? They don't put much emphasis into videos, etc., for one main reason, they obviously don't care about image! So many explained that they didn't like the band because they were popular, or because everyone else liked them. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. One last thought... if so many posted how much they depised The Strokes, why were they on a website pertaining to the band? Is it possible they are just that retarded? I think yes.
For all that enjoy The Strokes' music for what it is, and realize that all the media hype, and comparisons don't matter, give yourselves a pat on the back for not being totally narrow-minded, wannabe rebellious, "lets rage against the corporate manufactured world though we don't know what it is" fuck heads.
Unfortunately, we live in the age of "Studio Bands" and "Pop Punk". It's so fucking annoying. Every new rock band sounds the same and they only sound decent in the studio. When The Strokes came along, I believe that they did start something new in this generation. Of course they sound like bands of the past, who doesn't? There is nothing new under the sun. I would never call them the saviours of rock but, I think that they helped open up alot of people to old school rock n roll. I have found myself delving into Rolling Stones and The Cars, why?, because a little band called the strokes that decided to do something different. Personally, I think they wipe their asses with the songs pumped out by all these other bands like Jet and The Whitestripes. I dont know if you would compare the Vines or the Hives, but all of them came out at the same time to me. I like the latter 2.
As for the hype, fuck hype! Hype means nothing. Look at Britney Spears, all she is is hype, but she is doing her job, being an entertainer. She is no artist. These guys are artists to me. It is so simple yet so complex. I think that people that are anti-hype are pretty fucking stupid. If I were in a band I would want millions of people listening to my music. Why not? That's the fuckin point! That's why people tour and have toured for thousands of years. Whether it was to spread a story or play or music. I mean, why dream forever of sending a message across the world? Why be mad at someone who has accomplished that feat? if it were not for hype I probably would not have really known who they were, and frankly wouldnt have cared. Everyone who is anti-hye is just a cliche. It's so cliche to be anti. They are just mad because they aint shit and they cant get a record deal.
Big ups to the Strokes and everything they are doing for music right now. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They are making awesome records in their genre, they aint Madonna, I don't wanna hear them singing techno on their next album. I don't need extreme versatility from them. If I wanted to hear something different, I'd listen to another fuckin band. I listen to them for their sound and Reptilia is a genius of a song. They also put on a bad ass show and actually sound like the record, wait, I'll correct myself, better than the record. They just have fun and make music. MUSIC!!!!! That's whats important. I cant' wait till we get pass comparisons and just listen to a band for what they are. If they are shit, they are shit. If they rock, then they rock. Music is subjective anyway, it's art. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
First Impressions Of Earth - RCA 2005
Have you ever heard the expression, "This album stinks"? If so, it's quite possible that you've overheard somebody discussing the third Strokes album, First Impressions Of Earth. But don't let that person bring you down; the funny thing about this new record is that - if my tiny but influential peer review committee is any indication - Strokes haters fuckin' love it every bit as much as Strokes lovers fuckin' hate it. So if the band's goal was not to increase their audience but rather to outright replace it with a new one, they may have quite a successful succeed on their hands!
My deal is this: the appeal of The Strokes for me has always been their unforgettable, singalongable, wonderfully melodic musical and vocal hooks. You'll have to ask former Strokes haters what the strengths of this CD are supposed to be, but 'hookiness' sure as hell isn't one of them. How do I even describe this thing? The songs aren't CATCHY! The guitars are playing fast flickity things or slower minor chords, the drummer's trying to impress you with his busy thump-a-dump lines and everything, and Julian is singing free as a bird without a distortion effect for the first time, but basic midtempo youth guitar song after basic midtempo youth guitar song after basic midtempo youth guitar song goes by and I'm constantly left thinking, "Fuck, this album only has 3 good songs on it!"
Beyond the lack of memorable melody, a lot of the songs simply sound UGLY. The further you get into the disc, the more it sounds like (a) it was recorded directly into a computer and mixed down by a person with no understanding of the terms 'separation' and 'dynamics,' (b) none of the instrumental tones go together at all and the bassist forgot to show up that day, (c) the lead guitar is actually a Casio keyboard with only its highest, most ear-piercing notes being played, and (d) the lead guitarist and drummer really, really want to impress you with how much better they've gotten on their instruments. I'm generally a fan of making music more complicated for the sake of challenging the mind and ear, but The Strokes (like most young bands) aren't technially proficient enough to challenge either of these body parts. Therefore, when the drummer herky-jerks some pointlessly weird drum combination instead of just playing a straight 4/4 beat, or when the guitarist ruins potentially poppy moments by picking away at nerve-rackingly high-pitched and uncatchy triplet note runs (as he does in nearly EVERY FUCKING SONG ON HERE), it doesn't HELP anything. It just makes the uncatchy songs that much more unpleasant to listen to.
Another problem is that all of the songs drag on for about five thousand years after the Birth of Christ. 14 songs in 53 minutes!? That averages out to 742 minutes per song! Do you really have the time to sit through TEN different CDs just to hear the new Strokes album? Most people don't, and the rest are in nursing homes and don't want to hear youth music all day anyway!
Having said that, I love "You Only Live Once," "Heart In A Cage" and "Ask Me Anything," despise "On The Other Side" and "Killing Lies," and find the remaining nine tracks to be a mixture of elements both good (awesome guitar interplay in "Red Light"!) and bad (sickeningly cutesy guitar line in "Razorblade"! Are they trying to make my CD player PUKE!?), resulting in a 14-track CD that is, taken as a whole, simply 'okay.' And for a band as melodically brilliant as The Strokes once were, the term 'okay' is a rather damning appraisal.
And by 'rather damning,' I'm of course referring to Dan Rather burning in Hell for his near-constant sin of on-air goatse.x
Speaking of which, I'd like to share with you an actual true-life conversation that took place on 92nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues today between the hours of 4:00 and 5:00 PM.
Father (to his young daughter): "Honey, what kind of bees give milk?"
Young daughter: "BOO-bees!"
Father: "Ha ha ha!"
Me: (*makes horrified expression*)
My Wife: "Well, she's growing up to be a stripper."
I'll come back in ten years and see if they've made any progress.
the strokes rock man.
Angles – RCA/Rough Trade 2011
The Strokes are back… TO THE FUTURE!!!
In other words, this is a retro ‘80s album, filled with the slick, soulless sounds of The Cars, Men at Work, The Police, Duran Duran, U2, Gary Numan, The Human League and Blah Blah Blah-era Iggy Pop. The guitars are high-pitched and stereophonic, occasionally tangling together into a weird Minus The Bear-style duple-riff, but mostly just playing a couple of simple Television-style things next to each other. Only two songs try to emulate the classic Strokes sound, and neither is particularly good. At this point, the band seems much more comfortable just digging through their record collections and ripping stuff off.
Stuff ripped off (and built upon!) (or, alternately, ruined) includes Men at Work’s “Down Under” (“Machu Picchu”), The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” (“Two Kinds of Happiness”), any old bombastic U2 chorus (also “Two Kinds of Happiness,” hence the title) and, most obviously of all, Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes” (“Gratisfaction”). And by “most obviously of all,” I of course mean, “I knew it reminded me of something but all I could come up with was Steely Dan’s ‘Reeling in the Years’ until I read the All-Music review, which accurately pointed out that it sounds just like Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’.” (No such luck with the Pitchfork review, which compared it to Thin Lizzy -- presumably based on the “Boys are Back in Town”-esque drumbeat?)
However, the ‘80s nostalgia isn’t the real problem; the robotic new wave “You’re So Right” and New Romantic “Games” are in fact among the record’s most interesting compositions. The real issue is that, like with the last record, there is very little middle ground in terms of quality: every passage is either blissfully compelling or vomit-inducingly repellent. For example, “Macchu Picchu” would be a perfectly tuneful little reggae-pop number, but it’s ruined by pointlessly obnoxious pinched-nose vocals. “Two Kinds of Happiness” slams together two solid pieces of music (Buddy Holly-via-The Cars verse; over-the-top U2 fervor) in such a jarring and unnatural way that it nearly ruins both. Is This It throwback “Under Cover of Darkness” has a catchy chorus, but a verse so cutesy you’ll want to punch it in the face (it sounds like a CKY novelty song!). And the slow drumless “Call Me Back” sounds like the demo for an awkward drug-muddled Bowie/Pop collaboration.
After all this ear trauma, the best songs on the record are probably its last two. The odd chord changes and constant mood shifts of “Metabolism” make it feel like a soul-shattering struggle between light and dark, and the melancholy “Life is Simple in the Moonlight” ends the erratic disc on a gentle and tuneful note. Honestly it’s unfortunate that they didn’t record an additional 40 songs at the end there, because if these songs are any indication they would’ve ruled.
That review wasn’t funny at all, so here are some sexy euphemisms I just made up for ‘penis.’
- Skin Fretless Bass
- Ol’ Impotenty
- Barrel of Urine with a Hole in it
- Microscopic Washington Monument
- Tube of Salt-Flavored Toothpaste
- Gavel That Hurts Really Bad If You Actually Use It As A Gavel
- Virile God-Snake Tower of Masculinity, Wearing a Turtleneck Sweater
Angles is sort of an improvement since there aren't any awful songs on it, but there aren't any great ones either. And even when the band is experimenting, they don't sound inspired at all. And this bugs the crap out of me more than usual because they made this right after Julian Casablancas put out Phrazes For the Young which I love the heck out of to death. You should review it! It was totally under appreciated when it came out, probably due to the fact that it's sort of a dense listen. But underneath the weird production that sounds nostalgic for a time that never existed, you get one of the most engaging and personal pop albums of recent memory. Go listen to it and then knock another point off the score for Angles out of sheer missed potential.
Back to Mark Prindle's Rolling Stone-style payola racket