IS THIS IT? | ARE THE STROKES A GENUINELY GREAT BAND OR DO THEY JUST HAVE A HANDFUL OF INDIE FLOORFILLERS? – FEATURE

strokes

New York City has, arguably, endless great exports. Great sights, tacky souvenirs, etc. as well as indie icons THE STROKES. With their trademark leather jackets and shoulder length hair, the NYC rockers are one of the most loved bands across the world, but does the music they produce warrant the attention they have gained over the past two decades?

With news of their long awaited comeback at next years Bilbao BBK Festival, many people are losing their shit over a potential (and likely) announcement that they will do a run of headline shows around the world. Last playing in the UK way back in 2015 at British Summer TimeJulian Casablancas and co. will no doubt come back to these shores next year – whether it be as a surprise addition to the already much-improved Reading and Leeds, the increasingly popular TRNSMT or the new and exciting All Points East; there is a guarantee that they will sell out whichever field they bring their rock star attitude.

However – for the past 24 hours I have been thinking whether or not I am actually THAT excited about the return of The Strokes. I mean, they have some classics that always seem to keep me company at 2:30am in every indie nightclub from Glasgow to Brighton, but at the same time they have never released an album that I have been able to listen to front to back without thinking hmmm track seven sounds awfully like track three.

Obviously, debut LP Is This It has the ‘classics’ if you will (New York City Cops, Hard to Explain), but as their discography progressed the follow up albums only really had one or two GREAT tunes on them. Room on Fire is home to ReptiliaFirst Impressions of Earth has You Only Live Once and Angles has the exceptional Machu Pichu and Taken For a Fool. Aside from these, unless you are willing to do some serious digging, you’ll be hard pushed to find stand-out anthems. If you really do love The Strokes, you will argue that each and every record is packed with massive tune after massive tune, but I personally just cannot see it. Comedown Machine and Future Present Past lacked anything particularly mindblowing and this possibly is why I feel the way I do.

I’m not saying The Strokes are a bad band. Hell no. What I am saying, though, is that their synthesised vocals and typically New York style has never really appealed all that much to me away from the big, well loved hits. Said hits do of course belong in sweaty clubs, though, where the 3 for £5 bottles of Stella are raised when Last Nite comes on – much like it has every Saturday since I have turned 18 and probably every weekend since its release in 2001. The predictability of hearing it is on par with Franz Ferdinand‘s Take Me Out and The Stone Roses’ Sally Cinnamon – not a bad thing, but this is where the excitement of The Strokes comes to an abrupt end.

What I am also saying is that they actually aren’t THAT different to someone like The Killers or Kings of Leon – except there is a somewhat pretentious tone about guys that listen to The Strokes. They wouldn’t be caught in public listening to The Killers because they are a bit popular and through Mr Brightside they have explicitly made the crossover from the indie to the mainstream – but when you scratch at the surface, neither The Killers, Kings of Leon or The Strokes don’t really offer much more than a few sing-along classics. The quality depth of their records is fairly shallow, but when one of their handful of classic popular tracks comes on after a few drinks there is a guarantee of lyrics being screamed.

Both Casablancas’ The Voidz and Albert Hammond Jr‘s solo projects injected some excitement into what The Strokes do, but it didn’t really stray too far away from their original project. Obviously they are confident doing what they do, and as the old cliche goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but the news of a new tour will hopefully mean new music and sound exploration, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

As mentioned at the start of this feature – if The Strokes announced an abundance of outdoor, summer shows on UK soil for next year they would no doubt sell out. Will I be frantically refreshing See Tickets at 9am? No. Will I continue to give my best rendition of Someday on a Saturday night? Absolutely.


Do you think that The Strokes are a truly great band, or does their music belong in indie nightclubs? Let us know via Twitter and in the comments below.

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