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neumu
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
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+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
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+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
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+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
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+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
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+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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The Strokes
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Is This It
RCA
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Gazing blankly through a raindrop-smeared windshield, cleared every few seconds by the squeaking blades, I drive down the dark, tree-enclosed, two-lane road that has taken me from my suburban hometown of Gladstone, Ore., to the "big city" of Portland hundreds of times over the years. I am confused by the fact I'm still here, traveling down this same goddamn road, again.

"To me/ My life/ It just don't make any sense," The Strokes lead singer and songwriter Julian Casablancas sings on "Barely Legal." I forget they're his words; they feel more like mine. His heartache and confusion — set against simple yet severely emotional music — comes across so painstakingly clear that my own life begins to make sense.

The night I cried because I had no life, I listened to The Strokes. The day I cried because I missed my old self, I listened to The Strokes. The morning I packed my suitcase and left my boyfriend, I cried and I listened to The Strokes. The day I moved back to my parents' house (at 24 years of age) I — of course — cried and, yes, listened to The Strokes.

People keep writing off their new album Is This It as unoriginal adolescent angst. Am I immature because it touches me? Am I naïve because I love it? My friend Jim dislikes their new album. "I already went through that whole thing — I'm over it," he told me. He's in his late 20s, I think.

Will I reach a point where I'm over it? When I'm older? Confusion, love, loss and pain — aren't these timeless feelings, to be felt over the span of a lifetime, albeit arriving in different forms? And when those feelings are conveyed in songs with perfectly on-point lyrics backed by music just as ablaze, it's difficult to understand how any human being could go untouched.

Lately, I've come to the conclusion that most of those who think, "Ugh, not them again" when The Strokes are mentioned have agreed to dislike Is This It not because they've spent much time with the album, but because they've let the hype get to them. The infamous "buzz" has negatively influenced these folks' opinions of the New York City five-piece — all before their first full-length was even released. Once they finally get around to hearing the album, they're carrying so much baggage of preconceived notions, heavily influenced convictions and whatnot that right off, they think the album is no good. The Strokes are no good. "The singer rips off Lou Reed. They rip off Iggy Pop."

What might they have thought had they pulled this album out of some clearance bin at the record store, having read nothing of it before? Might they have felt differently?

Now don't get me wrong. The Strokes certainly borrow from the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and others who've defined '60s and '70s NY punk. But c'mon, who hasn't been influenced by these guys? What matters, what it all boils down to, is The Strokes write incredibly powerful songs, and those who allow the media — or better yet their reaction to the media, what I call the anti media — to influence their opinions are missing out.

Now I'm not exempt from this sort of media influence, but I was lucky enough to hear The Strokes' music before reading any of the dozens of identically raving reviews. And all I could think was, man, what a diamond in the rough. Finding such impassioned, hard-hitting music is no small feat. I felt lucky.

It didn't take long before Is This It grew into sounding, in a sense, like the soundtrack to my life. And that, too, is no small feat — only two other albums have touched me so deeply, moving me to tears — ever.

Just as I cruise past a house some old friends of mine live in, Casablancas admits in a regretful yet acquiescent tone, "Things they have changed in such a permanent way," on "Alone, Together," and I understand the sad-but-true sentiment. "Life seems so unreal," he adds — we all know that, we've all felt that, but his anguish comes across so strongly I, again, mistake it for my own as my throat grows tighter and tears begin to gush, spilling over my lower lids. "In many ways/ They'll miss the good old days," he sings on "Someday" — I laugh over memories and then I cry for the past that is gone, for the person I used to be but no longer know.

I drive on as reflections, regrets, worries, and hopes flush my mind. So overwhelmed, swallowing becomes difficult. But the words and the music, in all their gritty power and soul, continue to touch me, forcing me to feel. When Casablancas sings "I should've worked much harder/ I should've just not bothered," on "Barely Legal," I wonder what I'm doing and what I've done with my life. When he sings "Leaving just in time/ Staying for awhile," on "The Modern Age," I feel lost. My grounding, my security, my home are absent — his ceaseless contradictions throughout Is This It clarify my own, forcing me to feel and think. "Tomorrow will be different/ So I'll pretend I'm leaving," he goes on — denial can be so reassuring. And when he croons in a deep, throaty tone "I like it right here/ But I cannot stay" on "Hard to Explain," it hurts to accept. But then, on "Someday," he wails with shaky assertiveness "I ain't wasting no moooore tiiiiime" and I look forward — with weary optimism — to what lies ahead. Through all of the 11 tracks, most of which seem to escape from the car speakers too quickly, I sing along. And it is, of course, that forced type of loud singing, the kind used to force the lump back down your throat, to assure yourself your world hasn't collapsed.

His words — none of which would be as potent without the equally inspiring music — are neither deeply complicated nor poetically obscure. But truth lies in simplicity. And honesty is a tough thing, especially when you try to convey it to others. But when you've got it, when you really can communicate your own truths, people understand — they are touched.

They say crying is a form of healing, an emotional release. So, I thank The Strokes for helping.

PS: And furthermore, to quote Public Enemy: Don't believe the hype.


by Jenny Tatone




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