The Strokes Make Me Feel Old. And Young.

After escaping the midwest suburbs for college in the pacific northwest, I was right back in it nine months later. The summer between freshman and sophomore year meant making as much tuition money as quickly as possible, which is a long way of saying I took an office job while staying with the parents. Throughout, I listened to the legendary Radio K on AM radio.

Radio K occupied the Siberian outpost of 770, right at the end of the dial, which suited its scrappy programming style: it was the University of Minnesota’s station, staffed my obsessives and High Fidelity extras. I averaged three to four hours a day, knew all the DJs names and schedules, and thrilled when my call-in request made it on air, even though this happened a few times a week. Because of Radio K, I heard the Strokes’ Modern Age EP the week it came out.

This was summer 2001. A full decade ago, as Pitchfork reminds us in their great profile of the band. (New Yorker, where were you on this one?) I caught the band on their first U.S. jaunt, cheekily called the Smell the Glove Tour. They played in support of a record not yet in stores: Is This It‘s release was delayed by 9/11 and the need to remove “New York City Cops,” now offensive (albeit unintentionally). The Moldy Peaches opened for them at some small Tacoma venue; about 150 people showed up. I scored free tickets through my new gig as Promotions Director for my college radio station, KUPS.

Of course, by the end of 2001 the Strokes sold a million copies of Is This It, played SNL, and were anointed rock saviors by the press. I saw them every time they played Seattle, including a secret show at the now-closed Crocodile for Room on Fire.

Fast forward to 2011 and Angles.

The band isn’t so different from the band ten years ago. They make bad album covers on purpose, their music videos are phoned in (a laziness only Roman Coppola’s been able to translate into anything worthwhile), and, like Interpol, they play shows as if they hate being onstage.

None of this affects the music. Julian Casablancas said in an interview years ago they don’t play anything live they haven’t rehearsed at least 100 times. That’s not rock n’ roll, it’s professionalism. It’s also why the band has always been incredibly tight live, like one person playing four instruments. (See also: Phoenix.)

Have they changed? Is the new record a return to form? I can’t even tell anymore. I think my music taste has evolved/deteriorated so much since Is This It that even if they topped themselves, it’s just not my thing anymore. So I feel old. (But there is this cool ambient guy I’m getting into…)

1 Comment

Filed under music, writing

One response to “The Strokes Make Me Feel Old. And Young.

  1. Dan

    Wait Ryan, credit where credit is due, I gave you those tickets. You and Rosie both won a pair by winning the essay contest. (Now isn’t that a better story – I got free tickets to The Strokes by winning an essay contest – how rock n’roll is that?!). I remember that watching them play made me feel uncomfortable, it looked as if Julian had a junkie itch and couldn’t wait to get off stage and shoot up. Either that or he was too warm in his leather jacket, but too cool to take it off.

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