Style: alt rock, post-punk
Label: Beggars Banquet
Home: New York City, New York
Members: Julian Casablancas ~ vocals
Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr. ~ guitars
Nikolai Fraiture ~ bass
Fabrizio Moretti ~ drums
If I've heard the Strokes, I can't remember. I likely have in passing, but I've never given them much attention & they've obviously not stuck in my memory, or if I know a song by them I don't know that it is their song. Coming across their 3 song debut EP on youtube I decided to give them a listen. I was blown away by who the opening track, the title track, sounded like with the crack of the first notes. While the next 2 songs took me in 2 places I didn't see coming. Before I go farther, obviously I know nothing about this band beyond they exist & I believe are popular or were popular. Thus, what I say about this album might not come close to reflecting where their music & career went. This review becomes about first impressions & my interpretation as a listener. While I might be completely off track, & I welcome links in the comments putting me on track, I'm going to go on a limb & say the Strokes like classic rock based on my first impressions. I'm even going to say they were deliberately aiming for a classic rock sound with this debut release. I'm not referencing the lo-fi production quality, but the songs themselves. The title track is totally Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground! I'm a huge fan of everything Lou. I seriously can't believe these guys are just coincidentally sounding like the V.U., via their arrangement of just a few chords, steady drumbeat, muffled quasi-monotone vocals & lyrical phrasing & style. Let me explain. I find the only major difference between this first song & the V.U. post their debut album is the pacing. It sprints in a way the V.U. didn't even do on their upbeat pop album Loaded. Slow it down & throw in a little kick & this this would be the V.U.. I dare you to compare to see what I'm talking about! Even more so, the lyrical style of Lou at that point in his career is present, though it may be a bit unintentional on the Strokes' part. "Up on a hill is where we begin / This little story a long time ago" brings to mind Lou's "26 dollars in my hand / Up to Lexington, 125 / Feel sick & dirty, more dead than alive" from V.U.'s classic "Waiting For My Man". While "Let me go, oh darlin' let me, oh, g-g-g-g-g-g-g-go" echoes the repetition of Lou's lyrics in "Run, Run, Run" with "You gotta run, run, run, run, run / Take a drag or two / Run, run, run, run, run" or in "I Found A Reason" Lou's refrain is "Pa papa papa papa / Pa papa papa papa / Pa papa papa papa / Pa papa papa papa." This repetition isn't exclusive to Lou's writing, but its something that was prominent in his lyrics at that time he was in the V.U.. For the Strokes to sound musically like the V.U. & to have some lyrical similarities I find too coincidental to be just coincidence. Now, I'll confess, maybe nobody hears Lou in this other than me. I might be off in left field, though I think not. If anything, maybe the V.U. isn't a good or accurate comparison, but the Strokes are absolutely drawing on classic rock. I can't see how they're not. I believe this because of the song that follows which keeps the classic rock feel alive. "Last Nite" is less V.U. & a bit more glam. This is partly due to the singing, which now has the big voiced sound that seems to be floating across the beat like Jim Morrison in a druggy haze. Its also far too pop for the V.U., though the guitar solo is reminiscent of Lou's time in the 1980's with Blank Generation guitarist Robert Quine. If someone said this song came out of 1970's New York glam scene I wouldn't question it. The final track, "Barely Legal", turns the table again for a singing style that sounds like early solo Iggy Pop. Reckless, like Iggy, is how I describe the mood, but with a modern touch via the Killers. Its like The Modern Age gives us a slight tour of underground non-mainstream classic rock. That's at least how I hear it. Though, I'm the first to confess a 3 song EP is not the best way to discover a band as you don't get enough of them to hear who they really are. Maybe if I heard a dozen other songs I wouldn't think of the V.U. at all, or call them very contemporary in their sound. For all I know, my comparison to the past has done the Strokes a disservice, though I would hope being compared to Lou Reed they take as a compliment. If you disagree with my evaluation of how the Strokes have reached into the past & churned out a great modern interpretation, let me know in the comments. All 3 songs were re-recorded for their debut full length, which I obviously haven't heard.