The Strokes: America’s Best Science Fiction Band?

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”

“12:51” (video)

strokes 12 51

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.

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2 responses to “The Strokes: America’s Best Science Fiction Band?

  1. Wow

    I always used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of internet therefore from now I am using net for posts, thanks to web.

  2. I can sympathize with your girlfriends–I have pissed off many a boyfriend by hating the Strokes and have been equally angered by boys I liked loving a band that was oh so, uh, not nearly as good as the anything on a Nuggets compilation, right? (Don’t even get me started on how much they do not sound like Lou Reed or Television). Now that’s not to say it was not a really exciting era–it was! It’s obnoxious and I was there-ish to state, yes, but to be 19 and thinking why did I ever move to this fucking city when it’s the epicenter of death (9/11), the one saving grace was that NYC was also the epicenter of music. It was fucking rad. Even though we were all “oh man what sellouts” everyone got kinda excited when Julien would show up at Lit and so on. However, I was one of those bitches who would throw a Gang of Four cd at someone who might date to actually put on THIS IS IT in my presence (it’s possible that I actually did do that, despite the metaphor). Actually, I remember hiding it in my cd case (because, yeah, duh, I actually did buy it) under another cd so no one knew I had it. I even posted an angry anti Strokes piece at one point on my now abadoned blog a few years ago. (Friendly ex boyfriends and friends wrote angry comments still!)

    Anyhow, the point of this story is that the other day my Pandora playlist for Phoenix (another band I told myself to hate but the powers of “1901” won me over…and over!) played “Last night” and i sorta wanted to dance around in my cubicle, completing forgetting all the pretention of my youth…uh, yeah, and therefore all my hating=bullshit. Ah, adulthood!

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