Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The New Strokes

Strokes have a new video out (you can watch it here)

There has been a moderate bubble of hype developing over the new album, and while this sounds reasonably fun is anyone really expecting great things from them anymore? I don't think this track really has much going on (Casablancas sings "everyone's singing the same song for the last 10 years", surely that's rather been what he's doing really, the rest of the music scene has been fairly fast moving this last decade) yet is pleasant enough.

It is actually reasonably sad though, too many bands are condemned for never matching up to their debut, and some never actually do, The Strokes and Interpol being the main offenders. It always feels a cheap shot, the difficult second album is not a myth, and further is often a response to growing audience so flattening or simplifying the sound can make it work better in bigger venues. Conversely a band trying to rescue a diminishing fanbase can be led the other way, desperately changing their sound towards new and not necessarily successful. Think of how Snow Patrol managed to become fairly insipid stadium pop as soon as Run became a hit, when previously they actually have some pretty interesting if unoriginal albums in the back catalogue.

Neither is necessarily bad but this new Strokes isn't doing much for me. They were always somewhat soulless, it was almost their gimmick, but now somehow that's caught up with them, and the cool veneer has slipped away to leave a middling band. The lockstep guitar rhythms that are their bread and butter work fine, but the melody is not that special and it advances at a pretty slow pace. The lyrics aren't brilliant and aren't quite laconic enough or screamed enough which was always the two sides to their song writing.

Lets all just watch them absolutely kill Take it or Leave it on Letterman 10 years ago. No shame in playing this same song for the last 10 years, just fingers crossed this new album improves when I hear more of it, and they can reach this level of intensity again.


  1. Isn't it the case that bands never match up to their debut when they consciously try to match it?

    i.e. if you try to do everything that worked so well/earned you praise again, it's never going to be quite as charming or special?

    Maybe the best way to follow up a great debut is to move onto something new, to try and develop.

    In fact, you could argue that the Strokes have done both routes - second album that was like their first, and a third album that was very different. And neither was wholly satisfying.

    Having said all of that(!), it has to be mentioned that 'you only live once' is ace...

  2. Fair on the you only live once, wouldn't totally dismiss the other two, just the first was way more intense.

    I think it's often about bands coming out with ideas fully formed. Sometimes (XX most recent examples) the first album is cohesive and a fully developed idea, it's then tough to pull yourself out of your one good idea. Having one idea that's really good can work absolutely fine, see Sex Pistols, but not everyone can be David Bowie or Radiohead and have 3 or 4 great ideas.