Nearly Perfect Albums ‘ #35

There is one thing about ‘Is This It?’ that I don’t like.  The hype.  The fact that this album was hailed as a classic about three days after it was released.  It was greeted with reviews saying that it was the album that “Velvet Underground wanted to make in 1969” and other equally nonsense statements and it almost ruined it.  It isn’t of course the album that the Velvet Underground wanted to make in 1969, but it is a great indie rock record that can justifiably be seen as a classic.

I was sitting on Ealing Common when I first heard The Strokes.  I’d been deliberately avoiding them because of the hype.  It was a weird experience.  It was almost like I been transported back in time.  Firstly, I was sitting in a 1975 Triumph Dolomite, secondly the mist had rolled in across the common like something from a 70s horror film and thirdly, the radio went all crackly and ‘Last Nite’ suddenly blurted into life. 

Last Nite – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

My first thought, genuinely, “Meh” but I might have been more concerned about a werewolf attacking me.  The second time I heard The Strokes I was in HMV in Exeter and ‘The Modern Age’ was blaring out of the stereo, the drums stomping across the store like an angry elephant.

The Modern Age – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

The third time I heard The Strokes was in my lounge and it was about thirty minutes after the second time.   By the end of my first full listen of ‘Is This It?’ I’d decided that The Strokes were a breath of (admittedly much hyped) fresh air who had arrived at exactly the right time to kick indie rock in exactly the right place.

I’ve often tried to explain what The Strokes sound like.  I’ve used words like frantic (eleven songs, 32 minutes), and incessant (especially where Nikolai Fraiture is concerned) to describe their overall sound.  I’ve described the guitars as choppy and spiky and punky especially on ‘Someday’.  I think I said that the hook on ‘Hard to Explain’ was unforgettable, because, you know, it is.

I’ve described Julian Casablancas as the greatest vocalist of the last twenty years (which he isn’t).  I also proudly declared that Nick Valensi had the greatest hair in rock music (which was at least true in 2005).

Someday – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

Hard to Explain – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

Whatever, I wrote it never seemed quite right.  I can’t tell you what it is that makes ‘Is This It?’ so good.  It might be how they make it sound effortlessly easy, it might be the way that Julian Casablancas vocals sound like they have been recorded down a telephone and still sound amazing.  It might just be the fact that ‘New York City Cops’ is one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

New York City Cops – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

So on this occasion the hype machine got it right.  A rare thing to be honest.  They didn’t get it right again until the Arctic Monkeys shuffled out of Rotherham with their songs about freezing cold prostitutes.

The One Word Countdown – #42

This Keeps Happening….

Someday – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Is This it?’)

Points 101

By strange quirk of fate, ‘Is This It?’ is getting the Nearly Perfect Album treatment at the weekend (sorry spoiler!) so apologies for the Strokes overload over the next couple of days.  So you can read all about why that record – and this track for that matter is so good then. 

‘Someday’ was the last song to reach the magical 100 points figure because up until the last vote came in, the Strokes sat just outside the Top 50 but then it received its highest placing of all and that bumped it up the chart a bit.  It is about where it should be if you ask me.  High enough to recognise the importance and the impact of The Strokes over the last 20 years, but low enough so it doesn’t look silly – besides there are plenty of other songs higher than this which will do that.

‘Someday’ is I think one of the more poppier tracks on ‘Is This It?’, and it is perhaps kind of obvious why the band decided to release it as a single some eighteen months after the band had dropped the first album.  It is a very friendly record, and if you ask me it has a hint of the ‘It’s Not Unusual’ about it, although I can’t quite see Julian Casablancas swivelling his hips as the crazy ass drums kick in.  For a starter Julian Casablancas, at the time, at least, wore jeans that were at least two sizes too skinny for him and swivelling anything in those would have probably meant a double hernia operation and six months off touring.

There were at least two other Strokes tracks that were in running for selection the first one, was on the list for some time until I shelved it quite late on.

Reptilla – The Strokes (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Room on Fire’).  ‘Reptilla was the second single to be released from the second Strokes album ‘Room on Fire’ and is one of their finest moments.

Juicebox – The Strokes (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘First Impressions of Earth’) which caused a little bit of controversy when it first reached the shelves because MTV (or whichever equivalent it was back then) refused to play the video due to some perceived sexual content (it features a DJ getting off by being urinated on, if I remember rightly).  It also remains to this day The Strokes biggest hit in the UK.   It was also the first Strokes song to enter the American Top 100.  It is remarkable how much more successful The Strokes were in the UK when compared to their homeland.

There are an awful lot of awful records that are called ‘Someday’.  Nickelback, M People and OneRepublic have all recorded songs with that title, but we don’t want to go there.  Instead, here are two songs called ‘Someday’ by two acts that have already featured in the lower echelons of the countdown.

Someday – Ash (2001, Infectious Records, Taken from ‘Free All Angels’) – Ash of course received ‘No Votes’ with ‘Goldfinger’.

Someday – Kylie Minogue (2003, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Body Language’) – Kylie finished 58th with ‘Slow’.

Major League Music – #7 – New York Yankees

New York, New York – Frank Sinatra

Until about ten minutes ago, I was convinced that the ‘Baseball Furies’ the make up wearing, bat wielding gang that chase The Warriors from 96th Street Station to Riverside Park wore Yankees shirts.  For that reason alone, I dismissed all the trash talking from friends about the Yankees being the spoilt rich kids of the baseball world.  As far as I was concerned the Yankees were great simply because the Baseball Furies were easily the coolest gang in The Warriors.  But it turns out that they were not wearing Yankees shirts at all, and I read in despair that their make up was based on the band Kiss.  You can really go off things, I’m all about the Turnball AC’s now and I’m glad that the Furies got their arses kicked by The Warriors despite heavily outnumbering them.

Putting all that to one side, the Yankees are, the most successful baseball team of all time, they have won twice as many World Series Titles than any other team and have more players in the Hall of Fame than any other team in history so their influence o the game can’t be denied.  Even if they do insist of playing “Are You Ready For This?” by 2 Unlimited before every sodding home game.

Saying that the Yankees are in something of a downward blip at the moment, its been thirteen years since they won the World Series, one of their longest barren periods yet.  

Musically, New York has long been seen as one of the most influential cities in the world.  It is (in some places at least) considered to be the birthplace of hip hop, garage, house, punk rock, and new wave music.  But away from all that, salsa was born in New Yorks Latino neighbourhoods, bebop, doowop and boogaloo all have their origins in one of New York’s suburbs.  I could do an entire series on bands and acts that have come of New York (and other better blogs already sort of have done that), another one on just the hip hop groups from Brooklyn and then another one on songs that are about New York. 

Like these four for instance

New York City Cops – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records)

New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem (2007, DFA Records)

NYC – Interpol (2002, Matador Records)

Empire State of Mind – Jaz-Z and Alicia Keys (2009, Roc-Nation Records)

And here is this weeks local band tip, and there were literally hundreds to choose from – but I’ve plumped for Geese, in whose music you can apparently hear the sounds of Television, Parquet Courts, The Strokes, The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, we’ll be the judge of that.

Low Era – Geese (2021, Partisan Records)

Of course, we shall revisit New York later in the year when the Mets come rolling into town

Next Week – another city with two baseball teams – Chicago, first up the White Sox

A Linked Series – #3

A Date with the Night – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Polydor Records)

The third instalment in this chain link fence of a series sees us move, from the grungy sawdust bar in Atlanta, where Tilly and the Wall and have just finished playing ‘Night of the Living Dead’, to a party in converted warehouse apartment in downtown New York.  Somewhere in the lounge area, the hip, trendy and semi famous are gyrating away to a splendid mixture of gonzo disco noise and post punk playfulness that is blaring out of the stereo.  This is because someone has just shoved ‘Date with the Night’ onto the stereo and, as the phrase goes, shit has going down.

In 2003, the hype that followed Karen O, Nick Zimmer and Brian Chase around was almost as infectious as their songs.  It was believable to see this band, actually being the future of rock music.  Especially when they had songs are catchy and as easy to dance to as ‘Date with the Night’ and singers as aurally impactive as Karen O.

In ‘Date with the Night’ Karen O sounds incredible, like a cross between an over excited 10 year old at a boy band gig and a wailing rock goddess who just happens to be out on the pull.  When you add her vocals to the frankly ridiculously drumming (which is sort of like a contorted 70s disco groove) and the art rock riff that underpin the song, it just makes it all better (also it contains no bass whatsoever).  It has hooks in all the wrong places, and just sort collapses at the end in a triumph sigh.  Its marvellously out of sorts but I have a feeling that its deliberate because it sounds so perfect.

So where do we go next – we can stay in New York and pick up one of the several brilliant bands that call it home.

New York City Cops – The Strokes (2001, RCA Records)

Or we could go another date (Wall are also from New York, so that would be a double link).

Last Date – Wall (2016, Wharf Cat Records)

We might of course, fancy more bands with double words in their name.  Which could lead us several ways – but this probably isn’t one of them

Cough, Cough – Everything Everything (2012, RCA Records)