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Don’t Be A Coconut

November 25, 2008


You have to feel a little sorry for The Strokes. I mean, they started this rebirth of cool shit/and this the motherfucking thanks they get? Does anyone remember what alternative music sounded like in 1999/2000? You had your new school punk, your sub-Beastie Boys dudes, your sub-Beck dudes, your big-beat tailgaters and of course your nu-metal/mook rock. To be a fucking Radiohead fan was unique and meaningful. Then the Strokes came along, a whole heap of frustrated rock critics got to go on about Television and the Velvets and everyone stopped wearing three quarter length shorts made from that weird, synthetic, future material. Amazing. Even if you think they are/were a bunch of rich kids, pretend-slumming it and ripping off cool bands you say you liked before you read about them in an article on The Strokes, you have to give them credit for this.

But then what happened? Their second album got a heap of press and a tonne of good reviews. I even remember reading the Spin one and it included a little sidebar of bands that had avoided the sophomore slump. But no one bought Room on Fire and when First Impressions Of Earth was coming out the story had changed: Room On Fire sucked, can they come back? Well, no. This time the record actually was pretty bad, uneven, overworked, overthought and not too cool. Casablancas has since put out a couple of collabo curios, both of them mercilessly panned. Hammond has put out two albums, by all accounts serviceable, inessential power pop, but did anyone bother to give it a listen? Bassist Nikolai Fraiture recently announced his own side-project, Nickel Eye, the woefulness of this pun better documented than the music he has produced. The project is already so far in the ground that no one turned up to his showcase at CMJ.

It is probably not the best resume to follow a zeitgeist changing debut album but still, why the complete and utter lack of goodwill? Most perplexing is this recasting of Room On Fire as a disappointment. The album is not as strong track for track as Is This It but is no disaster. Claims that it is too similar to the debut hold a bit of water. But it at least adds a bit more low end, squealing keyboardish guitars, a bit of play with song structure and finds them slowing down for the first time on “Under Control”. More progression than you’d expect from AC/DC anyway. The opposite argument is that it lacked the breeziness of Is This It, but both albums are full of angst, regret, frustration and exhaustion. So can it be this change of opinion is mostly because it sold poorly (just over half of its predecessor)? To me this is largely due to the fact that while “Last Nite” somehow found itself on bogan rock radio, by the time “Reptilia” came around there was The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines, all cast as part of the rock revival but more thick dude rock than tinny power pop. Plus that whole internet piracy thing gaining steam. Could it be that critics, in the face of public fatigue/disinterest/dislike for said tinny power pop, revised their opinions of the album and decided to recast the backlash that was waiting for the third album back on the second? Just for not becoming the biggest band in the world as naively predicted?

Recently, while working at my chump job, “Last Nite” played over the stereo. It had been so long since I had heard any Strokes song. It seemed redundant, embarrassing, dated, clever and unique at different points. Interestingly, for what is such an important song in a number of ways, it has gotten to the point where there are almost no direct descendants of it in today’s music climate. Interpol maybe do the whole down-strumming thing just as much but that’s a different story altogether and they are a lost cause anyhow (actually, pretty similar trajectories at this point wouldn’t you say?).

Which brings us to Little Joy. The album has a similar rating to Room on Fire over on Metacritic (albeit without quite the range of highs and lows to generate the average) and if they had postponed the release a few months they might have even been next year’s Vampire Weekend (who are oddly compared to The Strokes all the time). I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t get it. How does this guy get away with completely cribbing Casablancas’ drunk, stumbling crooner thing? How does all the bad energy generally thrown at The Strokes suddenly dissipate in the face of what sounds exactly like if they went all Jose Gonzales? How does adult-contemporary world-pop become hip, effortless cool simply with the presence of Fabrizio and that faded, low contrast, low light aesthetic from old Italian/French films? I mean, it’s hard to dislike these songs that much but how did all of this happen?

Korn Unplugged. Yes there is acoustic slap bass. Seriously, go revisit the artless, classless, terrible turn of the century.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sackinton permalink
    November 26, 2008 2:53 pm

    An absolute tour de force.

    You could be the leading cream poet of the isle.

    Fieldy needs to be killed.

  2. Berryman permalink
    December 8, 2008 8:00 pm

    I never liked the content of Room on Fire half as much as Is This It. Agreed it may have been up a notch musically (just) but for me, I never felt I could relate, it wasn’t as fun, nor as fresh…

    Is This It reigns supreme, and credit is duly given; it was, and is, fucking cool.

  3. a fork is not ironic permalink
    December 9, 2008 10:17 am

    I think people are tough on the strokes, they had a lot of expectation forced upon them as the supposed ‘saviours of rock’. It is inevatible that bands that get there material from personal experiences in a gritty enviroment like New York can’t keep producing in the same stuff once they become successful. Take Mike Skinner for example, now his life doesn’t revolve around pubs and scoring hash, he doesn’t have all that much to say.

    I think we should be thankful we got Is This It, and appreciate what have been some good songs on the albums since.

  4. slap dot permalink
    December 26, 2008 1:52 am

    Are you fucking kidding me? Len? Fuck, I’d forgotten. Excuse me while I go back to 1999 and relive the stupidly giddy delights of a life less considered

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