I remember where I was when I first heard The Strokes: in first-year English class, my redheaded half-Jewish crush beside me, splitting earbuds. So. Which is worse, for you to think I’m two years older than I am, or to think I heard it two years too late? Yeahhh, ’twas the latter.
Is This It blew open my mind. Til then, I’d been into R&B and emo. Good old rock and roll was not a thing I’d been raised on (try “church pop”), and wasn’t it dead anyway? It wasn’t. The Strokes were visceral, vital. When I moved to my city and went to a summer festival on our tiny island, they played and I almost fainted, the way girls did in the 60s. Fab smoked a single cigarette, no hands, the whole damn time he was drumming. So. Cool.
I’ve never stopped thinking they were cool. The Strokes went on to make mediocre albums, but they also kept on wearing leather jackets and sleeping with famous girls and having substance problems and not washing their hair. Even now that they’re “old,” they’re not lame. They just reek of rotted glory. Four to the floor and six sheets to the wind, always, they defy the widespread Brooklynization of indie rock. They are the last Manhattan assholes.
These days, they hate each other and they hate their new album, and I guess they’re just staying together for the kids. But damn! If they don’t make us all still feel like kids. I’ve never been at a bar when “Someday” came on and not found myself suddenly dancing with strangers.
The other night, where I live, a bunch of local musicians and enthusiasts got together for something called I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Strokes. They would play Is This It from beginning to end, with the same band and different singers for each song. We each paid five dollars. It was hard to explain (ha… okay, sorry) to most people why this would be something to see, but fuck you, it was.
Probably the best part of it was when the girl in charge (oh yeah, it was a girl) got up and talked about how “New York City Cops” wasn’t on the first record, because of 9/11 “making people really sensitive,” but they were going to play it anyway because it’s such a good song. Which it is. And when they played it, they slayed it. It’s a good time to be thinking about “New York City Cops” again, given current events and everything, but it’s a better time to not be thinking about it and just yelling it instead.
Punk might be dead (or it might be Odd Future or something), but rock and roll is different. It’s not political. It’s pure as the earth’s own dirt. It’s when you know all the words and scream all the words and the drums kick the shit out of you and there’s a mosh pit and beer gets in your hair and you just don’t care. Rock and roll isn’t rhyme or reason. It just is. This is it.
It’s been a long decade, but we’re not tired. We’re alright, we’re alive, we still sing the same songs. When after the show I got out of the sweat-heavy air and into the shivering night, I breathed in until it hurt.