Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Track of the Week: The Strokes, "Reptilia"
Sit down, kiddos, and old uncle Werner take you back to a distant time called the early 2000s. Y'see, in the late 1990s, American rock music hit its biggest trough since the days of shoulder pads and hairspray. The pioneers of grunge had shuffled off of the stage, and all we were left with were the likes of Creed, Sum 41, and Puddle of Mudd. Yeah sure, there were some good indie acts out there, and Radiohead put out some amazing records, but they were not the types to plug in the axe, crank up the amp and ROCK.
'Round November of 2001, when pretty much everyone was feeling rotten after the 9/11 attacks, your uncle Werner got at least a little satisfaction from the rise of what we called then the "the bands." Y'know, The Hives, The White Stripes, The Libertines, and The Strokes. These guys brought back the rock, and not the turgid, self-pitying grunge-lite that had been polluting the airwaves for years. The Strokes really kicked the whole thing off, and I must have listened to Is This It on a daily basis for awhile there. As much as I loved that record ("Someday" in particular), it wore out fast. The Strokes had a pretty set formula: shuffling up-tempo beat, basic post-punk riffs, and the singer opining decadent lyrics while laconically over-drawing his vocals. I also discovered that they were a bunch of trustafarian New York pretty boys, which made the hipsterized, blase attitude of the music hard to swallow.
Having given them up for The White Stripes, I happened to miss out on their best song, "Reptilia," which came out on their second record. It's got the same ole formula, but the beat's more insistent, the guitar lines more searing, and the vocals more vital. The part 2/3's of the way through, when the song just gallops off like an untamed stallion, still gets me every time. It's the closest anyone has come to matching New York punk greats Television on their own sonic turf, and for that the Strokes deserve a tip of an aging man's hat.