That old indie-fanboy cliché of “I was there,” which James Murphy so memorably eviscerated in “Losing My Edge”? I avoid it like the plague. Coming across a nascent scene as it explodes is pure chance, so don’t wear it as a badge of honor.
That said… I did get into The Strokes pretty much right at the beginning. I heard their first single as it hit the college radio waves the first week of its release, in the early summer of 2001. I caught their first U.S. tour, with the Moldy Peaches, in a sparsely attended Tacoma venue that September, before the LP hit stores. I have the b-sides, the early bootlegs, all that. Of course, we all know the five photogenic, wan New Yorkers became international rock stars, trading magazine coverage and backlash cycles weekly. I didn’t really care, to be honest. Is This Is was and still is a fucking brilliant record. I’ve listened to it over a hundred times and pissed off many a girlfriend with my drunken analyses of the lyrics.
So I think I know what I’m talking about when I say The Strokes is the best science-fiction band in America.
1. Look at the videos, people.
This is a band whose second music video, for “Hard to Explain,” is an 80s hodgepodge of nerd nostalgia. And the video for the single off their followup record? TRON.
“Hard to Explain”
2. The Artwork
If I’m pretty sure Interpol hates naming their songs, I’m definitely sure The Strokes don’t care about their disc artwork. The aesthetic of the records, EPs, posters, websites, etc. is purposefully all over the map, as if to call attention to the fallacy between rock’s sound and image. Still, guess where they grabbed the image for the U.S. cover of their debut? That’s right: the Big European Bubble Chamber. For a more recent example, take a gander at the cover for “11th Dimension,” Julian Casablancas’ single of his solo effort.
3. The Lyrics
Their third LP is called First Impressions of Earth, which sounds like an extraterrestrial’s journal. “11 Dimension” has lines like “Man was on the wings of robots” and “You’re looking for your own voice, but you’re nervous/ While it leaves you trapped in another dimension.” Sure, these guys work the old reliables like relationships, drinking, and parties, but they also explore the real shit too. Like robots and other dimensions.
4. Because Mark Mothersbaugh Is Old
I’m sorry, but it’s true. He scores Wes Anderson films now. He can’t carry the Devo torch forever. The Strokes have their own unmistakable look, like Devo, albeit with less flamboyant headgear.
The Strokes are recording their fourth album right now. I hope it’s called The Singularity.