In the Light Field: Moretti/Hammond, Jr./Valensi/Fraiture/Casablancas

The Strokes

I’m not the biggest Strokes fan, and I’m not the most knowledgeable. I’d to trip to their songs in high school, but those were passive listens. I’d have their tunes played despite the lingering back-of-the-head awareness that I’d a scant grasp of their music. I rediscovered them soon after talk of their upcoming album Angles surfaced (it’s been two days since its release). Now, they’ve recklessly found their place in my list of favorites. Within some days and nights, I got to read reviews and articles, saw interviews and recorded live sets. Better late than never.

These guys have been around for a decade, I can hardly believe it. I was reading Pitchfork’s This is It: Ten Years of The Strokes, which made me ponder on some things. At the outset, The Strokes were practically label rejects and scene outcasts, playing shows for scarce audiences. By the time they were recording and mastering the tracks for Is This It, the band was criticized by engineers for the sound they were aiming for. Their debut album was recorded sans Pro Tools or any such technology. Some have taken the raw, gritty vibe as unregarded and mischievous, but I think it’s brilliant. Casablancas was too right in sticking to his vision of fashioning their recordings into how they are. The fuzzy “flaws” and sheer musical audacity were the charm of The Strokes sound, really. Oh, and I suppose the skepticism and snobbery just about dissipated as the album delivered. Is This It? bagged awards in 2002 at the NME Rock Awards, Brit Awards, and Meteor Music Awards. and the band were tagged as the “saviors of music.” Critics, talk amongst yourselves.

Enter Room on Fire and First Impressions of Earth. Personally, I believe Is This It is their best record to date (given that I haven’t yet heard Angles). With their arrogantly persisting hooks, attitude and looks, The Strokes tripped in with nonchalant swagger, and we just had to notice. That being said, I give credit to the band’s enthusiasm in the spirit of irony. Let’s face it: Enthusiasm was the lifeblood of their debut because without it, all that mono-and-fuzz would’ve been sound and fury for nought. Room on Fire may have prevailed as the more polished take on their classic sound, but there’s something about its predecessor that severely haunts and taunts. But don’t get me wrong–their sophomore release packed a punch more potent than a drunkard’s wayward fist. As for First Impressions, you know how the story goes: the gloss and stereo finish, eyebrow-raising songs (arguably), the works. The Strokes first happened to me while I was channel surfing then I came across an MTV of them playing a song called Juicebox live. At the time, the realm of rock-and-band-music was relatively new to me, so I was practically in awe. Even now, I can’t find the right adjective to do the riff justice. Later on however, as I listened to the rest of the album, I realized that although they cracked a decent shot at expanding and diversifying, their potential to do so still vastly exceeded their efforts. I don’t intend to subscribe to the per-album growth perspective that several rock critics patronize. I simply mean to state that based on what they’ve exhibited in their previous records, these guys are capable of so much more. One thing’s for sure: they proved everyone wrong in thinking they were a fad by staying and evolving. This is why Angles holds me in much suspense and excitement.

I’m still waiting for a copy to fall into my hands and dear possession. I’ve been saving my ears from all the leaks and downloads. I’ve heard Under Cover of Darkness and read mixed reviews but I can’t wait to listen and see for myself. Whether it bends in the direction of their earlier or later releases, I’m excited for these guys–and if Valensi says they’ve got a “better album” in them and that it might emerge later on, that’s some action I’m willing to wait for. In the meantime, I’ll trip to Angles.

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