Friday, 16 May 2008

Was that it? Really?!

Remember that band back in 2001....the ones who saved rock'n'roll, made Converse and skinny jeans a part of every indie boy/girl's wardrobe, dated all the girls and made fucking cool music? I think they were called something like THE STROKES.... Whatever happened?

2001: I was 14 years old. Pretty much liked what everyone else was into - charts music and shit. Then, sometime after 9/11, a revelation came to me on the radio - it was a song called "Last nite". There was something special about this song, I don't know what, but it started something "new" (I later discovered they'd heavily borrowed from older heroes) both in music and in me (Ok, I know I'm being cheesy here, but it's the truth!). So I put "Is this it" on my wish list for Christmas that year, and my lovely younger sister delivered. I'd only heard "Last nite" a couple times on the radio, and although I loved that song, I did not expect to hear what came out of the speakers the next day when I put the record on. 36 minutes of perfect rock, a hybrid of amazing bands that I still didn't know, Julian Casablancas desperately dangerous voice, Nick Valensi's short and concise solos, rebellious lyrics, the sound of New York... I think I played the record 4 times that day, and the next day, and the next, and the next...

Music aside, of course it didn't hurt that the band looked like THAT. So I read interviews, watched videos, analysed everything they said. I bought my first pair of Converse and started looking for skinny jeans, which at that point were impossible to find (You can't imagine it? No?). Julian Casablancas and co. might not have said much interesting when being interviewed, but they kept mentioning all of these bands; Television, Velvet Underground, Magnetic fields, The Clash, Sonic Youth and Blondie. And 'cause I was sooo caught up in this Strokes-thing I checked it out. And liked it. And loved it. Soon my CD collection had gone from being a typical 14 year old girl collection to a collection consisting of 70's rock, old school punk, Jimi Hendrix and noisy indie.

There's only two bands that's had this major influence on me personally (the other one being Norwegian act Bigbang). I mean, I always discover new bands and get totally addicted to their music, but these days it doesn't change me as much as it naturally did as a teenager. The Strokes came back a few years later with the follow-up "Room on fire" and by this time I'd started playing the guitar and thought I was a hippy. I still thought this album was great, even if every critic was saying it wasn't. But come on, how can you top an album like "Is this it"?

Then the band disappeared for a bit, was it two years? Hundreds of "Strokes"-bands had by that time appeared, and disappeared. I ordered the new album online, "First impressions of earth", when it finally came out on my birthday, the 2nd of January 2006. But the thing about this album was that it seemed like the band had actually listened to the critics and tried to create a totally new sound. Instead they ended up sounding like Guns'n'Roses, and to be honest, commercial. There's a few good songs on there: "Juicebox" blew my mind the first time I heard it, and I remember thinking "They've done it again!" Well, no. Maybe the pressure was too hard, maybe Nick Valensi got a bit cocky, maybe Casablancas shouldn't have written all the songs. But even if they missed with this album, I still expected them to come back. They're a great band, and great bands do miss sometimes.

So what now? It's 2008 and we haven't heard anything from the band since 2006. There's no news on their website, the last few posts being "Happy Birthday Albert/Nick/Niko" etc. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture posted on the band's website that "we just need to work out a few technical kinks" and promised a fourth album, but it sounds less than definite. Albert Hammond Jr.'s out touring with his debutalbum. When I interviewed him back in 2006, he seemed pretty content with that and not that eager to get back with the band. He got annoyed when I asked about The Strokes, and even said he didn't see the guys anymore. Doesn't bode well, does it?

Well, maybe they were just one of those bands that make one-two great albums, change rock music and disappear into more or less successful sidebands. It's just a shame...and I never got to see them live!

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