The Strokes – “Last Nite”

Released: 12.11.01

Peak: #5 [Modern Rock]

What a ridiculous band for us to get all worked up over. And I mean all of us. We skeptics were as dazzled by irrelevancies of pedigree as fans were seduced by promises of authenticity. In retrospect, it was equally foolish to dismiss these well-heeled scruffs as “derivative” (like “punk originality” is even a thing) as it was of you to anoint them heralds of Real Rock. Maybe Brit journos thought this was what classic American punk sounded like, yet post facto comparisons to conceptually advanced neo-punks the White Stripes or even the Hives show these guys up as the low-affect formalists they were–a decent little pop-punk band for folks too grown for pop-punk.

I saw the Strokes play twice–once in NY, with The Modern Age EP at full buzz, later, back in Minneapolis, on the Is This It tour–and they were a sloppy yawn each time.  A distinctly un-punk precision of attack was the hallmark of their recordings, and live club energy could only rush their rhythmic deliberation out of the pocket and slop up Nick Valensi’s careful little guitar figures. And much as the ladies felt sexed up by Julian Casablancas’ slouch, his poor posture, like his invariably filtered vocals, struck me as a smokescreen set up to hide that he had nothing to hide.

Still, “Last Nite” was a nice jangle-pop rip of Tom Petty, feinting toward punk abandon then settling back into a comfortable swing beat. The lyrics sharply reduce a lovers’ spat to a blat of nonsense syllables, something to wax with bored impatience over, and in the end, Julian is right: no one can understand him, not even spaceships. In a better world, this fine little band would have peppered mass consciousness with a string of pop singles as indelible as, say, those of the Cars. Instead, we got the Vines and Jet. It’s almost enough to keep a guy from getting worked up over a rock band ever again.

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  • Matos W.K.  On March 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve seen them three times. First time was in 2001 at Hammerstein Ballroom, and they were not that good. Second time was in 2002 at Radio City, with the White Stripes. WS played first: only time I’ve seen them, and if you’re gonna see them once, that’s the time. Bananas. Then the Strokes came out. Julian had broken his ankle, was sitting on a stool in the middle of the band, stone still–usually he wanders all over while the band plays. They killed, and I’ve always thought the reason why (besides Radio City’s acoustics; the best venue imaginable in every way) is that Julian sitting still focused the band considerably. Third time: Crocodile Cafe, Dec. ’05 private/corporate/MySpace show, 70-30 Radio City-Hammerstein, only scaled down.

  • zellar  On March 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I’ve had a hell of time with an internet connection for the last six weeks, and feel like I’ve fallen hopelessly far behind here. Is there a master list somewhere? And have I missed any Bubba Sparxxx?

  • CK  On March 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    “It’s almost enough to keep a guy from getting worked up over a rock band ever again.”

    I classify this sentiment as, “The Keithiest of the Keithy”!

  • usefulnoise  On March 18, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    1. Both times I saw them (Bowery in NY, Entry in Mpls) the Moldy Peaches opened, and upstaged em (for me). Didn’t mention that before cuz I wanted to hold onto whatever tiny bit of cred I still got.

    2. I’ll try to arrange the archive here better soon Brad. No Bubba yet though!

    3. If only I’d really learned my lesson, Chuck.

    4. Every time I see Julian now all I can think is “I saw a Spanish guy doing the Bartman”

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