The Strokes' new Single: Is it Better to Stay the Same, or Try the Wrong new Things?

The Strokes
The Strokes
No band has ever been photographed looking unmoved in more dark rooms.
Some bands never stop trying to solve the first problem critics point out. 10 years ago, now, the Strokes were accused of not having enough ideas--of going back to the well for a follow-up, Room on Fire, almost exactly as streamlined and deadpan as their debut. The similarities were exaggerated, but there are places, even now, where it does sound more Is This It than Is This It--more streamlined, more deadpan.

Then they released First Impressions of Earth, and some critics pointed out that it was overstuffed, and undercooked, and a little too different from Is This It. Five years passed and they released Angles, which was, for another change, covered in retro synths and written collaboratively.

Now--two more years later--they've released "One Way Trigger," an overstuffed song with even more synths, pervasive falsetto, and another co-writing credit. So: Would we be better off if the Strokes had stayed the same, instead of trying willfully to be different? You should listen to it first:

Draw your own conclusions about whether it's a good or bad omen re: their next album; personally I'm in favor of falsetto, but a little ambivalent about falsetto-whispering. But it's a long way from Is This It, or even First Impressions--the matter-of-fast vocal take and the robotic drumming are mildly familiar, but the dueling guitars only make their appearance during the solo, with the second one buried apologetically in the back of the mix.

So The Strokes have successfully solved the problem critics had with Room on Fire. They could have continued to release albums filled with three minute songs and exotic guitar tones and scowling and I would have bought all of them, but they didn't--and in doing so they've released two albums and a single that those same critics have not really enjoyed all that much. (Their loss.)

Well, that's critics. If we knew as much about music as we hope to convince you we do, we'd be The Strokes. But enough bands find themselves in this situation to suggest the phenomenon might exist even when you're not the last decade's great rock hope.

So maybe it's not exclusively a matter of critics being dumb or Julian Casablancas being acutely sensitive to criticism. Maybe we're talking past each other.

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5 comments
canitro
canitro

That song is a plagiarism of the song "En el muelle de San Blás" of the Mexican band Maná.

Very shameful.

alex_crispin
alex_crispin

@canitro do you even know what plagiarism is? This sounds nothing like "Muelle de San Blas." This song is great, The Strokes.... They're back :' )

canitro
canitro

@alex_crispin , clearly you are deaf. Keep trying to use your ears, maybe une day you will distinguish music from noise.

kwernowsky
kwernowsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

Let's look at this in a couple of ways:

Artist v. Self: Of course The Strokes weren't going to keep making the same album. No one likes to be pigeon holed. With any success, they're going to go into a fancier studio with all of their success money and make an album that shows the public that they were capable of sounding like something besides The Strokes. They view themselves very differently than the general public. To them, they are the artists and  they should be able to do whatever they want. Even if it's confusing to most people. To quote Dave Gilmore, "Great art is made without any consideration of the audience." Is this the wrong approach? No. Does it always result in the best music? Name two Dave Gilmore solo songs that you love?

Artist v. Audience: We have to sort of ask ourselves, "Do we expect way too much out of a band that is inherently stupid." Their name, their image, their lyrics, their musical proficiency is all pretty dumb. Just what exactly are we expecting from The Strokes? Kid A? The Wall? Revolver? I don't turn to them for that, so why should I expect them to make dramatic style shifts every other album? What they do (did) is (was) pretty freakin' great. So what if people get bored after two albums of same-sounding music. Would you rather this band do one thing in a really great way, or try a lot of different stuff that doesn't really make a lot of sense? 

Artist v. Critics: I have a theory that most critics won't be satisfied until every band that they love has a Captain Beefheart moment; that moment where a band pushes themselves in a creative direction that doesn't make sense and alienates half of the listening audience. Writers say, "Hey, here's a band that does this thing and we enjoy it. We would like to see them do something more than tread water on this third album. Oh, and if  they do anything other than tread water we're going to take a big dump on it." Let's be honest, there are bands that we give a lot of leeway to explore the creative world (Radiohead) and others that we just sort of want to hear them do what they do well (The U2 "Pop" fiasco). Interpol did the exact same thing and that band is damn-near un-listenable. 

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