He writes about his bafflement at the reputation of the Strokes who are constantly lauded as being the key band of our times. It’s not even fair on the band who are an ok indie band but hardly ground changing.
I don’t care that the Strokes were rich New York kids, those sort of things don’t concern me, I don’t even care if guitarist Albert Hammond’s dad was the Albert Hammond from the seventies and apparently helped write some of the band’s hits. If that’s even true it’s not part of the argument here.
I’m more surprised by the way the band is endlessly quoted as being this mass influence and of always being told that they got the ‘kids’ to rock again. Oddly it’s Green Day in the last ten years who seemed to get more people back into playing guitars from all the band’s I’ve met (and that’s an awful lot) and I hear bands talk about Minor Threat far more than the Strokes.
The Strokes occupy a strange place in the rickety and often reconstructed ladder of rock history. They were an indie band polished up a bit for mass consumption, a tidied up version of the post Nirvana American indiestream, indie music to make money out of. Indie music that you had to go to finishing school to learn how to make.
They were hardly a rock band, or, to be honest they were hardly even an indie band! Surely indie meant independent, you know, the workers taking back the means of production and creating music on their own terms, somehow this had been changed by the time the Strokes came along to boutique labels for major labels with band’s dressed in designer versions of thrift clothes shops playing designer versions of indie rock! Independent no longer meant being independent and it had been shortened down to the worst word for a musical style ever- indie.
It was hardly Crass Records!
I remember the first time the Strokes came to tour. The local music reviewer was breathless with excitement- this band was like a cross between the Stooges and The Ramones he gasped minutes before they came on.
I wasn’t sure how he knew this since the band had never even played the UK before and my suspicion was confirmed when they sauntered on stage like five expensively dressed students with curly mullets sat on their perfect cheek bones. They started playing and the huge wave of adrenalin failed to rush through the room. Far from being like the Stooges or the Ramones they were like a competent indie band who were too cool to give any energy to the world and their soon to come and rather aptly named debut album, Is This It, summed everything up.
Over the years the PR machine made sure that the Strokes were never short of good reviews as the continued their merry way of pretending to be some sort of underground band.
They released the odd toe tapping single and opened the indie floodgates to the likes of the Killers and other band’s who sound about as indie as Duran Duran. They released the odd catchy single but never got big enough to play the sort of arenas that Rammstein or System Of A Down or other bands the media totally ignores could sell out in 20 minutes. I remember at the height of their hipness when they played Reading Festival and Rancid had twice as many people watching them as the Strokes but this was reported as a Strokes triumph and how Rancid had emptied the place- oddly Rancid remain far more influential.
I don’t hate the Strokes, they are the chain store version of the indiestream, the polished up dressed down pretend take on alternative culture, they write the occasional engaging tune but drift out of the musical narrative all to easily…