PART TWO: THE STROKES
The Strokes become the iconic NYC band of the decade.
By Alexander Laurence
Around Y2K there were many changes in the music scene. You can look at the lineup of Woodstock 99 and see how much people were into crap music. Besides Metallica, nobody listens to any of those bands anymore. Napster took over and people stopped buying CDs. There used to be music magazines and people actually read them. Now there were a bunch of cool music sites like The Modern Age, Stereogum, and Fluxblog. I met all these people at CMJ in those years. There are bunch of new publicists like Johnny Kaps, Girlie Action, Nasty Little Man, and Big Hassle.
I remember calling up publicists and telling them that I was writing for an online magazine Free Williamsburg. “Print magazine: how old fashioned!” I visited London in February 2000, and I did an interview with Divine Comedy. His manager was in the same building as Chemical Brothers and Primal Scream. I remember seeing “Go Let It Out” by Oasis on TV. It was the first lousy album by Oasis. Although people were just getting into Britpop in the USA then, by London standards it was stale. People were waiting for Kid A to come out. Things were speeding up and everyone was joining social networks. One of the first was Live Journal. When I got back to NYC, I started hearing about The Strokes.
The Strokes had been on a few magazine covers: “The best band from NYC.” Most of us hadn’t seen them. Liars and Yeah Yeah Yeahs did a tour with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The Strokes played a big show at the Troubadour in August 2001. The biggest record of the summer was actually White Stripes “White Blood Cells.” The Strokes and the White Stripes played a bunch of shows together in Fall 2001.
I ended up not seeing THE STROKES until many years later. But their first album was excellent and they definitely stole the thunder and were the coolest band in NYC for a few years. They have done four studio albums and have been around for ten years. They can play some big venues. Some of the solo records have been good too. Not only did the Strokes become an international success, they dragged some other bands into the limelight, such as Moldy Peaches, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Regina Spektor. They have survived and endured and have aged better than most of the bands from that time.
I remember getting a copy of New York Magazine. The “New Rock City” issue from September 30th, 2002. Also there was a few compilations like This Is Next Year (2001) and Yes New York (2003). These anthologies highlighted many of the bands on the NYC scene, and many of them signed to big labels and gained much publicity. Going back to New York Magazine. Here’s who they included in the issue:
LIARS are on the cover and are probably my favorite band from NYC. They have done five albums now, all brilliant and different. They have followed me here to LA. They are huge in Europe but still play medium size venues in the USA. Recently they opened some shows for Radiohead who respect the Liars for their experimental streak. Liars are always a fun show. They are equal parts retro and futuristic. They are artistic and modern and always up to date.
!!! (CHK CHK CHK) has been a great band over the past ten years although the name didn’t help them any. They have continued to put out amazing records and now they are on my favorite label Warp Records. The band members have changed over the years but the songs are great and they seem to show up at many festivals. Besides LCD Soundsystem, !!! are one of the best dance group from this era.
THE RAPTURE ruled heavily early in the decade. What party wasn’t complete without “House of Jealous Lovers” or “Get Myself Into It.” They often did shows with odd bands like Mogwai, Mars Volta, or BRMC, but they usually blew them all off the stage. There was a five year break and Matty Safer left. Things got weird when they were managed by Paul McGuinness and opened up a bunch of shows for U2. I saw them last year at FYF Fest, and a new record is on the block. So let’s see if The Rapture can make a comeback?
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM is probably the greatest band from NYC during the past ten years. From their first single “Losing My Edge” to their final show at Madison Square Garden this year, there were few mistakes. James Murphy doesn’t have the looks of The Strokes or the flash of Fischerspooner. He just has great songs and a great live band. His shows have a great overall feel. Murphy worked on a few DFA records like the first Rapture record, so it took him a while to release the first LCD Soundsystem in 2005. He would play epic shows with MIA and Arcade Fire. He will be missed.
RADIO 4 was a great punk/funk band at one time. They seemed amazing during the time of their first album Gotham! (2002). But once they signed to Astralwerks EMI they soon became invisible. I last saw them open for the Libertines in 2004. Apparently they still exist. Maybe they were more like a NYC 1990s band? But now they seem like a faint echo of LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS have always been one of the most popular bands in this scene. They were on the cover of many magazines before they had a full album out. They seem to be more productive than just three albums worth all these years. There are a lot of side projects.
INTERPOL came on innocently and now they are one of the most mainstream acts of all these mentioned. They had a cool sound and they dressed well: in a way, they seem the most obvious. They are probably the most mainstream and suburban band of them all. They have done four albums and play large venues now. There was even some shows with U2. I am starting to suspect opening for U2 is where these band start to lose it. But hey, Interpol is for the most part successful although they are dull. It turns out that no one in this NYC centric band is from New York. In their own way, Interpol has played with other influential NYC bands like Luna, Blonde Redhead, and Calla, and even Secret Machines. Brandon Curtis, the main songwriter for Secret Machines, has since joined Interpol.
CALLA have been mentioned before. They are in this New York Magazine article but they are more like an older brother to these bands.
PROSAICS is a band I never heard of really. Reading about them, they sound like a light version of Interpol. They broke up in 2005.
MOMMY AND DADDY were another short lived band. I was friends with Vivian Sarratt at some point. They were most happening later in 2005. Supposedly they broke up and quit the band. The name was never internet friendly.
W.I.T. was one of the lamest bands and more about the bad side of electroclash. Ladytron is a great band because they have done great records. WIT is a lousy “electroclash” band at its worst.
THE WALKMEN are probably the most prolific and deep band of all of these NYC bands. They are produced six albums and numerous Eps and toured with so many bands: everyone from Weird War to Fleet Foxes and Kings of Leon. They would have been included in the previous post of influential bands, since they somewhat existed in a previous form as Jonathan Fire*Eater. They had drug and big label issues. Got a new singer and became one of the great bands of the time.
FRENCH KICKS I saw a few times. I never got into them. They have done four albums and are shockingly still at work.
LONGWAVE was a good band at one time. I remember liking their second album. They have done four albums and are also still in the running.
THE ROGERS SISTERS were an amazing band. They put out three records and toured a lot during 2003-2006, mostly in the UK. I knew Laura Rogers because she worked at the Pink Pony in NYC. They opened a bar in Williamsburg called Daddy’s. The band broke up in 2007. Miyuki Furtado has continued on in bands, and I think Jennifer Rogers got married and had some kids.
THE STAR SPANGLES were much like the punk bands I found uninspiring in the 1990s. I knew the lead singer Ian Wilson when he first moved to NYC in 1998. But in 2002, at a Doves concert he pretended not to know me. He recited lines from “Withnail and I” to me back in the day and then he became a snob. They were one of the last NYC bands signed to a label, and when their record Bazooka! came out in 2003, and bombed, Capitol dumped them. Ian always claimed that The Strokes ripped off their look. It’s ten years later and pretty much everyone will tell you that Is This It? is better than Bazooka!
THE MOLDY PEACHES seemed like they were around way before everyone else. They toured with the Strokes and when Moldy Peaches started to get popular in 2003, they broke up. Adam Green and Kimya Dawsom have had prolific solo careers.
THE WITNESSES were a more convention rock and roll band, who had little to do with the new NYC scene. I heard that they played a lot at Canter’s Deli in LA.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE were also mentioned in this article. They have their own record label Paw Tracks and Merriweather Post Pavillion is one of the best albums of the decade.
BLACK DICE and FLUX INFORMATION SCIENCES are fucking weird bands. It’s good to always drop these bands names as essential important bands and watch people freak out. Flux Information Sciences broke up in 2001, soon after they appeared in the movie “Kill Your Idols” which is another keystone to this scene.
NORTHERN STATE was a good rap group. Their first album, Dying In Stereo (2002), was an amazing record. Hesta Prynn went solo in 2010.
METRO AREA never heard of them.
BEN KWELLER and THURSDAY probably don’t belong here either. Kweller was born in San Francisco, and was in Radish. Thursday is a crap band from New Jersey.
Unmistakeably absent from this issue is THE STROKES. I guess they refused. They didn’t want to be mixed with such lame bands. They had already been on the cover of a few magazines by then, so it didn’t matter. Also they mentioned Free Williamsburg in this article so that helped me get some interviews later.
When I met these bands in LA later when I moved here in 2003, I realized I knew a few of them. Sam from Interpol worked at Beacon’s Closet. I knew the Rogers Sisters. I used to see the Walkmen, TV on the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs walking around Williamsburg before I knew they were in bands. By 2003, NYC had a scene, but the successful bands have been on tour most of that time, or in the studio. So they created a vacuum for something else to happen.