January 19, 2006

Young Adults To Modernize

Upon my return from Africa in 2002, I was told by several friends that Rock n’ Roll had a fresh, new, but somehow recognizably old school gritty sound. Apparently a group of young art school debutantes had taken over the East Village, NYC and the world, with a blend of driving rhythm guitar, a metronome like drummer, melodic baselines, and a condescending ambivalent coated angst that made young girls scream and men seethe with jealousy. The soundtrack for the hipster movie had been born.

Lost in the shuffle of the “The” bands, I opted to wait out the new saviors of modern music and see what would stick during sophomore record season. So when Room On Fire first hit the streets, I jumped onto the preverbial Strokes bandwagon with a dedication only seen with teen geeks prone to fan club memberships and groupies. Within a week, I had memorized every word, not only on said album, but I had discovered songs like Modern Age, Barely Legal, and Someday from The Strokes much publicized debut.

Living in New York City, The Stokes became the soundtrack for my life. Their sparse unsympathetic and perceptive lyrics took me back to a time when I wasn’t engaged and women were relationships falling apart or coming together. Weeknights were spent passing out, mornings filled with shallow regret, sometimes guilt. But despite the pitiless self-absorption there was always a sense of hope. This feeling of stark reality in the face of idealism was what The Strokes mastered with lines like:

I don't want to change your mind,
I don't want to change the world.
I just want to watch it go by.

Add a raw, gritty, dare I say honest sound to these lyrics and The Stokes became the perfect band for a generation lost in themselves, wanting to care and not care about society at the same time. Their music moved. It was the sound of road trips with synthesized sensibilities and Casio inspired drums beats staring in the eighties and never ending.

The Strokes took me back to a time when it was okay to don headphones, ride the trains beer in hand pissing in between cars, screaming at the top of my lungs that, “I don’t need anybody, I never needed anybody, it won't change now.”

The last year before I left the US, I saw The Strokes in concert five times. San Francisco, Boston, two times at the Garden and a show in Central park. At one point in Boston, Casabalancas, the lead singer, was sitting next to me with his microphone and spotlight in my face, as we screamed, “The end has no end” to the delight of the packed crowd at The Orpheum. Also how fitting that on my last night in NYC, stumbling out of The Big Bar in the Village, I should run into Albert Hammond Jr, guitarist of the band that had defined my NYC experience.

Since then I have used The Strokes’ music every time I have needed a shot of youthful apathy coupled with a dedication to some kind of unspoken dream shared by everyone who has ever believed that Rock N’ Roll will somehow save us all.

click here for a song by song review of First Impressions Of Earth

1 comment:

  1. a shot of youthful apathy coupled with a dedication to some kind of unspoken dream shared by everyone who has ever believed that Rock N’ Roll will somehow save us all.

    Jabiz, I needed to hear that quote today. I wasn't a rocker (big surprise, huh?). However, in the past week I've spent 8 hours on buses as we rode to and from our environmental ed trip. As I watched my fifth graders get lost in ACDC, Guns and Roses, Pink Floyd and other "old" bands I wondered what it was about. I hated watching them check out and I could see that some of the music was adding fuel to their belligerence (not at me, but at life). Now I possibly have a bit of a clue of what and why.

    Thanks for giving a middle-aged teacher a clue.