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- The Strokes »
Before the Arctic Monkeys, before the Libertines, there were The Strokes; a band to capture the heart and ensnare the groin. The coolest, kickass kids on the block, and they were from New York, not facking Rotherham. That, at the time, was perceived as cool.
And now, on the eve of their third record, they’re back to rock London Town (“our second home,” as Julian slurs to the adoring masses). Possibly, many of you don’t care. In a post-Doherty world, time has elapsed so slowly that it sometimes seems impossible to think there was a time before smack head, fat-faced wankers existed, but I assure you, it’s true. The Strokes were the best band in the world for a while. Of course, come album two, it went a little awry as the quintet failed to match what, in their debut long-player 'Is This It', was the tautest, most compelling 35 minutes committed to record this decade. But in retrospect, unlike the flawed, histrionic beast that was Be Here Now, Room On Fire was, for its sins, very good. And, clearly, there are still people who remember this - just ask the hundreds of people who queued up overnight for tickets for this sold-out-before-it-went-on-sale-gig.
So, England expects.
As the band come on stage to Prince’s ‘1999’ (played for the third time in 15 minutes), expectation reaches fever pitch. Lads who last week bellowed the lyrics to ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor’ mingle with girls who this week were jiving to Amerie. Everyone here remembers. The Strokes look like they remember what a big deal this is, too. Only Albert Hammond Junior and Fab Moretti look relaxed; Julian Casablancas is enveloped in impenetrable shades and Nick Valensi is as impassive as ever.
Opening up with the sub-metal posturing of ‘Juicebox’, the band immediately resume their now standard immobile stances as Julian implores slovenly into the microphone. Then, they play another new song. And then another. In all, The Strokes impart twelve new tracks upon the crowd. In a row. The best of which are ‘Vision Of Division’, ‘You Only Live Once’ - which by the standards of what is played before is a pop smash - and ‘Hawaii’. The problem is that the band seemed to have slipped into a soporific state, with too many songs ('Red Light', 'Evening Sun'') being midtempo and/or downright turgid. Admittedly, this is the songs' first airings for many people, but everything smacks of a decision to give up the game of being the Best Band in the World and settling on the title of Merely Quite Good.
Another problem: as soon as the band have finished showcasing their new record, they play ten or so old songs, with which they manage to blow themselves completely out of the water. As soon as ‘Last Nite’ hurls itself out of the speakers, the crowd's reaction is akin to people at an Elvis tribute concert if The King himself had stepped out of the wings, blowing the hollow shells of competition away. The problem is, as the band fly through the likes of ‘Hard To Explain’, ‘New York City Cops’ and ‘Someday’, you remember that this was a band who reminded you what it was like to be young, disaffected and happy with that. The problem is that being in your late-20s and disaffected is merely depressing. Oh, and that the songs that follow the first twelve shit all over the initial batch. ‘Reptilia’ is immense, ‘’The End Has No End’ is electrifying and ‘Take It Or Leave It’ is as incendiary as ever.
Of course, the album may appear in January 2006 and render this review impotent, but in this reviewer’s heart of hearts, he knows that that’s not going to happen.
Like those aforementioned opening paragraph bands, the danger of burning so bright is that inevitably you burn out quickly. So, is it better to snuff that candle now, or let it fade?
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