The Strokes gear up for phase two

The smoke has cleared.

After the turbulent months of smothering hype and gushing publicity, The Strokes have emerged largely unscathed. In New York and elsewhere, hipsters in hexagonal eyewear have moved on to discussing Rival Schools as the next rock and roll heroes, and the UK press is now swooning and fixing their hair about Starsailor. Sure, there’s still hype. How could there not be? But it is not of the viscous, butter cream variety that surrounded the band during their meteoric rise to darling, or hated, status, depending on who you hang with or which message boards you visit. The paradox is that, after all of the windbag platitudes, The Strokes are still – as they always have been – just a band.

What do they do now?

Past and future hype aside, The Strokes’ career as rock stars is unfolding in a manner befitting a talented young group with the attention and financial backing of a large record label. They are touring diligently behind their record, and getting solid spins at modern rock stations in many large radio markets. They even filmed a video for “Last Nite,” albeit on their own terms. Refusing to fake playing their instruments, The Strokes opted for a live performance on a well-lit soundstage. The resulting clip has garnered a solid following on MTV’s “Total Request Live,” and just may bestow Cliff Richard status upon Julian Casablancas, outside the dueling realms of indie chicks and silicon golddiggers already waiting with empty dance cards by the door of his tourbus. Which is fine. Before it spun wildly out of control, the band’s publicity onslaught was the same as any other group that had the ear of its backer. In an alternate world, The Strokes would have emerged as a promising buzz band, a la the current hubbub surrounding Arizona emo-poppers Jimmy Eat World. After 6 years of success in the Indie world, Jimmy Eat World signed to Dreamworks, and are currently winning over a nation of Blink-182 fans with their infectious brand of New Wave-y power chordage. But for reasons that have been documented too many times to be named here (You don’t know? You better ask somebody), The Strokes followed a different path to their current state. Their buzz exploded before note one, and only after this Hungry Man-sized portion of bullshit did they begin the systematic rocking of hearts and minds that most baby bands use to actually establish said buzz. They may have had us at hello, but now it’s “What have you done for me lately?”

The challenge here is to remove the machine from the band, and view them as any other gang of rockers with something to prove. For even without the hype (there’s that word again), the band’s music is worth hearing, and if it hadn’t been put under such a glaring light, would likely move mad units anyway. Viewing The Strokes as Just Another Band then, their next move would be another single, performances at a few of those radio station holiday bashes, and appearances on major media outlets to solidify their name in the brains of the Sugar Ray’d. In fact, they have already taken that step. The Strokes will appear on “Saturday Night Live” January 19th, with host Jack Black. Playing out this business plan of sorts, The Strokes would parlay their SNL appearance into a series of early Spring shows, perhaps piggybacking a tour with an appropriately cool, already popular tastemaker like Weezer or even Incubus. The Strokes would then appear on whatever mildly sexual college entertainment MTV has planned for Spring Break, with Casablancas acting as a judge for, say, a beachfront edition of the network’s popular “Say What Karaoke.” By Summer, Casablancas and his mates would be ready for a large-form arena tour. The second year of Moby’s successfully eclectic Area:One tour of last Summer would seem to be a good fit. And after all of this, The Strokes, critical darlings who were once both hated and loved by music types everywhere, would officially be Rock Stars. And their sophomore album would feature too many keyboards and be destroyed by the very same critics who wrote XOXO in their diaries a year before.

This is all speculation. If The Strokes’ ascendance occurs as such, a legion of music intellectuals will undoubtedly dismiss them more than they already have, accusing the band with the same vitriol meted out to Green Day in 1993. You will recall that Billie Joe Armstrong and the boys were lambasted for “selling out their punk roots” after signing with a major and releasing Dookie to instant success. The difference here is that The Strokes have never been very punk rock, and don’t have much of an Indie pedigree to sell out upon. Nevertheless, because so much of their aura has focused upon their NYC rock pedigree (Television, Velvet Underground, etc.), if The Strokes become rockin’ 9-to-5’ers and not just a fashionable flash in the underground pan, people who gnash their teeth over this sort of thing will disown them. Because implicit in the shitstorm surrounding the group was the joy at being part of it. And when it’s over, it’s time to move on to the next band that has something to offer beyond pent up rage, a dreamboat singer, or a hot series of hooks.

The Strokes have, for all practical purposes, outlasted their own hype. In countless interviews, the band has repeated their wish that everyone talkin’ at them would just listen to the music. Well, now everyone is. And as just another band in showbiz, The Strokes need to decide if they want to burn out, fade away, or continue to do their part in making pop music rock again.


43 thoughts on “AFTER THE GOLDRUSH”

  1. What if they just continue to do what they’re doing, sell a bunch of discs, sell out basically everywhere they play, avoid all the MTV silliness [or not], continue to be loved and hated [what ever the case may be] by ‘modern rockers’ everywhere, and stand shoulder to shoulder with other bands, and there are quite a few [Jimmy-Eat-Poop or whatever not necessarily one of them, IMO], of equal quality and Rock?Hopefully The Strokes WON’T burn out or fade away. Hopefully, they’ll just keep doing what they’re doing, making great rock and roll, and winning fans over by their live shows. (Still, can’t believe the album has been out less than two months here in the States).

  2. God, I missed it when the strokes album first came out in my small town. Nobody liked them or cared but me. Now, they are on god damned mtv. My favorite 90’s band (pavement) wasn’t popular ever, and that was part of their dynamic. Nearly all of the weezer, incubus (both of which I hate) worshipping geeks have bought the strokes album, and I am quite sad about their blooming popularity in my school. I really hope that they are never on MTV again.

  3. That’s what remains to be seen. Bands on the cusp of major success fall under a LOT of pressure. It’s sometimes easy to lose sight and make dopey moves. Throughout the history of Rock good bands have made bad decisions and ended up washing out fast. Even the Velvet Underground made some weird career decisions that went against their beliefs (including establishing Nico as front person, the benefits and detriment of which is arguable).It’ll be very interesting to see what happens to the Strokes in the next 18 months. Johnny makes some good points in the article and brings up some interesting scenarios. I think most of us here at GLONO dig the music and are now just wondering if they can hold on.

  4. I talked with Ryan Gentles, (The Strokes Manager) at the show in Indianapolis, and Ryan said the guys have been turning opportunities down left and right. You know the show called “Reverb”? Well, the boys turned it down. Acts such as Weezer, Pete Yorn(Opened for The Strokes in Canada), and Guided By Voices(Which The Strokes toured with!) have all recently been on the HBO special. Ryan said they turned it down because they don’t want their live show taped. I guess they’re keeping it a surprise! That is a plus in good decision making. Picking shows like Conan, and SNL is ok. These are shows that they probably enjoy watching. Why is that wrong to make appearences on shows you enjoy, and giving your fans a chance to see you. Most of their shows have sold-out, and some folks were left empty handed. Well now they have the chance to see what they missed. It won’t be the same though, but still worth viewing. MTV: You could go on for days. I can honestly say, that after meeting Julian, he is not the type of guy MTV would even pick to be on a show. He’s a too much for 12 year olds. They can handle Fred Durst! Also, when I talked with Ryan he got defensive when I asked him about Carson Daily mentioning The Strokes on TRL. He said it wasn’t like he called Carson or MTV and asked him to say anything. Carson’s from NY, and he picked up on the vibe. I guess in this world on Modern Rock, which I’m new to in the past five years, that it’s bad to be popular. My God though, look at Travis. They sold out a show in Cincinnati. That’s hard to do. Does that mean they “jumed the shark”? It’s stupid to sit around and micro-manage the situation. Their album has been out in the States now for two months and you people are already talking about if they’ll make it! Take them for what they are. A kick-ass rock band! They’re putting new songs in as they go too. Plus their album isn’t just 3 good songs and out….it’s 11 or 12 great songs. You can listen from track 1 to 11 or 12, and not even turn it. Last album I had that did that was Micheal Jackson’s “Thriller” and that was when I was 5. “Meet Me In the Bathroom” is an awesome song and it’s not on the album, but you can hear it live if you get the chance. So there’s one track on their new album that already kicks something serious. So you can ask yourself,”Is This It” for The Strokes? They don’t care……”Take It, or Leave It”!

  5. Yeah, yeah…we all know it’s “all about the music,” but it’s still interesting to consider where the Strokes will go from here. It’s most interesting to me because I’m a little surprised to hear a Strokes song on my local “alternative” radio station, sandwiched between the Goo Goo Dolls and Incubus. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the band doesn’t think about these things too. The Strokes are facing a bit of a crossroads here. The hype, both positive and negative, is finally dying down and it seems the songs have made an impact on those who were originally caught up in the press. Now, what happens? Will the band continue to grow in popularity? Will it remain an underground favorite? Or will it make some decisions to increase exposure and therefore alienate current fans? That’s what this is all about.

  6. Mr. Phillips: you listen to your local alternative radio station? Wow. Mr. Spurlock: I would bet you that the reason they chose SNL and Conan over HBO’s Reverb has absolutely nothing to do with whether they like one show better than another, but rather which shows will help them sell the most records in the long run. They know full well that if they oversaturate the market with themselves now, that there’s a good chance they won’t get any press at all in the future… I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this sort of planning (that’s what managers are for, right?), but don’t kid yourself that the Strokes are just a bunch of kids out there doing what they love and bouncing around merrily from one fun gig to another. They’re smarter than that. Let’s just hope they’re smart enough to someday release another album as good as their first one.

  7. you hit the nail on the head with this article. they’ll do their snl deal, maybe put out another video, hit up spring break2k2(holla) and will make another really good album. love the insight in the article! keep it up!

  8. I don’t like the fact that tiny-boppers are listening and swooning to julian casablancas. And don’t fucking tell me that they aren’t, because I am right fuckin there. My 11 year old sister asks to borrow my copy of it all the time, and she likes fuckin sum 41 and britney spears. All these shitty bands in my school are trying to cover fuckin strokes songs and it is pathetic to watch it because they are fucking weezer cover bands. I don’t know, I guess I thought that they would stay unpopular for a while like the white stripes who mad three great albums before anyone mentioned their god-damned name.

  9. Dylan, are you worried that the attention will affect the music? Or is it just to hold a band underground for a while (which I can certainly understand)? There is something lost when you have a band that kicks so much ass and only a handful of your best friends know who that band is until they “break.” You’re secret is out, my friend.

  10. Two bands have been mentioned as fellow travelers when speaking of the HYPE and ROCK that define the Strokes. The first is Jonathan Fire*Eater, and the other is At The Drive In. Fire*Eater was borne of the collaboration between friends, just like The Strokes. They were discovered in the New York scene, just like The Strokes. The difference is, after a few brilliant EPs and a major-label signing tha produced one impossibly ambitious full-length, Jonathan Fire*Eater self-distructed. Their music was impossibly gorgeous, it rocked, and many said it would change things. They couldn’t handle it, and neither could their dumbass major label.At The Drive In found plenty of success in the indie world, releasing their incendiary, Fugazi-esque rock screeds primarily through Grand Royal’s indie side. After jumping to full-fledged Capitol, At The Drive In’s rocking sound blew up on modern rock radio nationwide, and the band got plenty of pub. They sounded like nothing else on the radio, just like The Strokes do now. But they couldn’t handle the jump from some people loving them to everyone liking them. And they broke up.I’m generalizing the plights of these two incredible rock groups. But their story is similar to what The Strokes are going through right now. Casablancas, etc. have already established that they are talented. They rock. And they have the look. They’re poised for greatness beyond the world of rock critics and indie kids. And I for one hope they make it, because the stuff is goddamn good. But like I said in the article, it’s a challenge. And they need to figure out how to approach it without losing the vitality and chops that make all of us wish we were still listening to that first Rough Trade single in our bedroom and no one else in our town knew about it.Johnny Loftus

  11. I am a little worried about the music. I mean, look at what happened to the Clash after london calling came out. Their stuff wasn’t bad at all, just WAY too ambitious. When bands think that people expect something of them they always go for the sprawling, ambitious record. I think the Strokes should keep it simple but keep it new. I DO NOT want to hear Julian Casablancas singing a god-damn ballad. I would die laughing. (not that I think that it would ever happen)

  12. With regard to Jake’s observation about four comments above this: Maybe I’m missing something, but I find it to be exceedingly odd that in the packaging for “Is This It” Ryan Gentles’ photo is right along with the band members’. There is something a bit business calculating about that, as though the manager is as essential to what you’re listening to as the musicians are. I’m not ignoring the importance of management, but it strikes me as somehow diminishing the work of the performers. It’s as though a cell phone and PDA are as important as guitars, drums, mikes, etc. “Get me Conan on the phone, stat!”

  13. Until they put together at least a small catalog of work that shows growth and more depth than this one album, I’m not ready to put any type of rock crown on their heads. They’re just another rock band from NY City. They have 11 songs that sound pretty good right now. If that’s all they do, then no one will be talking about them in 2010. I remember getting all wet in the pants for the Sugarcubes back in 1988. They had one cool album. Big deal! I remember a band called James that the rock media coo-coo-ed about. They put out one (maybe two) decent albums. Anybody remember Big Country? This Strokes album just doesn’t consist of strong enough material to warrent all the freaking slobbering it’s getting from fans and the media. If they live up to their potential they may just end up being the nex Cheap Trick or J. Giles Band, which isn’t a bad place to be! But it’s not earth shattering. It won’t change the face of rock music.

  14. Other overhyped bands:SuedeLondon SuedeOasis GenePavementPhish (smells like it sounds….nasty)Georgia SatellitesBlack CrowesBlind MellonWallflowersMorphine (wha wha sniffle sniffle)Hooty and the Blowfish (playing at a state fair near you)Dave Mathews Band (the pop god that isn’t)Bare Naked Ladies (Huh? Canadians?)etc.etc.etc.

  15. Scott: Who hyped the Georgia Fucking Satellties??? And as for all those Brit-Pop bands you mention, you’ve got to remember that the UK has WEEKLY music magazines, so their cycle of HYPE-HYPE-BACKLASH is short and stupid. If you believed everything you read in the NME, you would be a broke, schizophrenic maniac. The Strokes won the NME’s coveted Album of the Yeat, but just look at the previous winners over the past few years: “This is the fourth consecutive year the accolade has been given to an American group, with last year’s winners being Queens Of The Stone Age for their ‘Rated R’ album, 1999’s award going to the Flaming Lips for ‘The Soft Bulletin’, and Mercury Rev’s ‘Deserter’s Songs’ claiming the crown in 1998.” None of those albums sold anything in the States, so it doesn’t look promising for the Strokes. That’s not to say it’s not a great record.HELP: can anyone think of a great band who only released one real album? I was going to say the Stone Roses, but then they went and released “Second Coming.”

  16. Where has “James” been? Maybe around the block a time or two! They’ve been together for almost 20 years. They’ve got a new album out too! It’s good. Really good. Tune into and check them out. Like Dustin Hoffman said in “Rainman”…”97x,BAM, The Future of Rock n Roll.”

  17. Pick up, or download Blind Melon’s second album titled “Soup”. You can get it used pretty cheap. Sorry they didn’t have a second bee costume video for you to hear about it! It was recorded in New Orleans, and it might possibly be one of the best kept secrets of the 90’s.

  18. Pick up, or download Blind Melon’s second album titled “Soup”. You can get it used pretty cheap. Sorry they didn’t have a second bee costume video for you to hear about it! It was recorded in New Orleans, and it might possibly be one of the best kept secrets of the 90’s.

  19. Are you guys still talking about The Strokes? Better hope Julian doesn’t get on here, he might mash your heads to the ground!!! You guys crack me up.

  20. What’s your definition of “real” Jake? I think this is all subjective…About the Strokes, the fact Mr. JTL’s article has ensued 22 comments only emphasizes the over-inflated hype that this band has somehow captured. I mean, yeah, they put out a pretty good album with catchy jingles, but why all the fuss? Why do all of you rock snobs have nothing better to talk about? Also, maybe this is just the music snob in me coming out, but I can’t help but like them less when they are played in the same top-40, commercial rock set as Lenny Kravitz and Dave Matthews and Creed. Also, what’s up with the comparison between Weezer and Incubus, Mr. JTL? I don’t get it. Although, I must say, I kinda dig Blink-182, especially after that video where they were running around naked…HWW

  21. HWW: my definition of a real album is a collection of songs that was recorded to be released as a collection, and was. That is, things like singles compilations and collections of demos and live albums DO NOT count.

  22. HWW: And that’s the point. There IS a lot of hype around a band who, so far, hasn’t done much. I certainly wouldn’t say that those of us here at GLONO are obsessed with the Strokes. In fact, I haven’t even listened to the album since the week I bought it. I’m probably more fascinated with the amount of attention the band gets (and yes, we’re doing our aprt to feed it). As far as “comparisons to Weezer or Incubus,” I don’t think Johnny is saying their music is similar, just that those bands may share some segment of an audience.

  23. I guess you could say At the Drive In is another great band that only released one album. Forest for the Trees is another, I guess. The Modern Lovers, sort of. Anybody else?

  24. Jake, At The Drive In has several albums and ep’s. You’re probably just thinking about Relationship of Command.The reason a band can’t truely be great with just one album is because those that are truely great are the ones who’s music stands up over time. They also must have an impact on rock/pop in general. The Stones did that, but their material after the 70s has had no impact at all on rock in general. I would argue that Guns N Roses was a great rock band. A couple of their albums really pushed hard rock along at a time when it had been ruined by glam metal ballads. Other artists, such as Nick Drake, who has been exploited ad nauseum post mortum have had a quiet influence on many many musicians who have gone on to become mainstays of rock music. I can go on and on.One thing that is true is that the million selling top 40 acts will continue to pump out albums. Creed, with their useless “I’m a tortured moral christian rocker” attitude, for instance, might sell millions, but they’re nothing but a pothole in the neverending highway of corporate crapola. Once christian bullshit-redundant rock is played out, so will they be. Bush is another such band, riding in on the coattails of Nirvana, but lacking Cobain and Grole’s originality. What makes a great band different from a flash in the pan? I guess it’s all about who remembers them and why.

  25. Hang on a minute, who was that saying the Black Crowes were over hyped?The Black Crowes are the shit! Shake Yer Money Maker is as fine a debut as you’ll hear and Southern Harmony si not too shabby either.And as for having a swipe at Oasis, well thats just not on…Well when you say they were over hyped I think the only time that happened was before the release of “Be Here Now”. The first two albums can be put alongside anyones first two.For Christ sake, when the Stones were on their first two records Lennon/McCartney were still writing their tunes!In the first place, I don’t see whats wrong with loadsa of big hype. If theres one thing rock n roll needs in this day and age its great big superhype with bells on.The more hype the better, it’ll inflate egos, fuel drug abuse, and their relationships but hell I wouldnt have it any other way.”I know It’s only rock n roll but I like it, like it yes I do.”

  26. Oasis, by this I mean the brothers Gallager, were subject to an endless amount of media hype for their first two albums. On top of that they have acted like total idiots in public and on stage. Their first two albums are unoriginal and redundant. If i want to remember the Beatles I’ll put on Sgt Pepper. What “influence” has Oasis had on popular music? I can’t think of a damn thing.When the Black Crowes had their big ‘hit’ they were hailed as the next big thing with a sound that was retro but different from the bulk of radio fare. What happened to them? Repeated showings at the Hoard Fest didn’t treat them so well. I also don’t see any lasting impact on rock by their material. Although I did see that they are included on the mailorder Southern Fried Rock cd.As much as I hate Billy Corigan, I once saw an interveiw with him where he lamented that his biggest regret following the whole “grunge” scene was that they(Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc.) had had a brief chance to make an impact on how rock music would be produced in the future, but that none of those bands, including his own, managed to do that. What he meant by that was taking control of their own product, owning their own songs, deciding as artists where to take their their sound, rather than being dictated to by the record companies. I think he was correct with that statement. They never really did change rock music. But then neither did Fugazi, but they certainly have done things their own way.

  27. Hold on a minute. Yeah the Gallagher brothers acted like idiots. Liam Gallagher’s the last rock n roll star we’ve got. I once heard a wise man say after the demise of the Clash: “Sure they were full of bullshit posturing and rock n roll swagger but once you take bullshit posturing out of rock n roll there isn’t really a whole lot left.”Same is true of the Gallagher brothers.They grew up in a tough part of Manchester. I have a feeling their goal as a band wasn’t to “impact on how rock music would be produced in the future.”Oasis’ first album as it happens was produced as follows:They set up, pressed play and record and that was that.I totally reject that “Definitely Maybe” is redundant. I never felt that Oasis had anything musically to do with Sgt. Pepper. For me they were always between the Pistols and T Rex.Personally I think “influence”is an overused and abused word in music. For instance the Velvets are said to be one of the most influential groups ever. Lou Reed sais at the time:”Everyone thinks we’re great but we don’t have a pot to piss in.”Of course the Crowes have influence. Listen to em and you hear Keith’s guitar, Sly and the Family Stone, Muddy Waters…It’s all a melting pot.Really if you think about it the most influential band will be the band that sells the most copy.So who’ve we got? The Bee Gees? Abba?

  28. The Crowes were INFLUENCED by Keith, they did not influence Keith. That only proves the influence of the Stones on rock Music, not that the Crowes had any impact on rock themselves.How is Liam the last rock star we’ve got? Who is “we”? That might be true of the UK, but he’s not the last rock star here in the colonies. I would also say it is a sad day indeed when one of the Gallaghers is saddled with that mantel. Did you forget Bono? He is The Fly, after all.One of my points is that album sales figures have little to do with influence. Nick Drake, Phil Oaks, The Smiths, The Cure, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones etc. etc. all had a great deal of influence on various genres of rock/pop music here in the US while they were getting no radio play and generating paltry album sales figures. Countless bands today list these groups as major influences on their sound.

  29. Bono is not a rock star he’s a cruel joke Ireland is playing on the rest of the world.I only started playing music when I heard the first Oasis record. Myself and guys from around would literally sit round for hours playing along to the albums.I know of at least 4/5 bands in my neighbourhood who only got an impetus to form a group after the “hype” surrounding Oasis.My point about the Crowes is that they will in their turn influence musicians. Of course they will, I’ve seen it; I’ve seen great guitarists imitate Rich Robinson’s licks just as Keith imitated Chuck Berry’s.It’s unfair to tar a band as talented as the Black Crowes with the label of “over hyped”. I’ve seen the Crowes live and, you better believe it, they deliver.

  30. The La’s s/t album was quite good, and it was their only album. Singer was a bit too much of a perfectionist to be happy with any further music, if I recall.

  31. jeff buckley only had one record, and i’d argue it’s had quite a bit of impact on the music world. ‘course, he would have released more had he not passed away…

  32. Why is everyone talking about the Strokes? The Strokes are great but the album we should be talking about is Coldplay – Rush of Blood. By the way Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin’s boyhood heroes were…you guessed it Oasis. Live Forever you wankers!

  33. why is it so horrible when our secrets get out???

    does it make the MUSIC any less credible because “mainstrem” people have caught onto it? we should be happy. if it had to be some band/singer i’m glad it’s the strokes. let’s all share.

  34. If you knew what music was about, you wouldn’t put so much emphasis on whether a band is mainstream or not. It may seem naive and idealistic of me, but rock and roll is an essence; a spirit that is about the MUSIC, not who likes it and who doesn’t. You shouldn’t get all pissy because other people know about the music you like. Why is it a secret? I know that the “mainstream” tossers don’t appreciate the music like we do, and CANT appreciate it that way, but music cannot be contained in an underground movement if it is truly great.

  35. i need to find an original Jeff buckley record for my partner, please help, cost is not an issue, fans of all great music give us a hand x

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