Posts from 15th August 2001

Aug 01

Nostalgia For The Present Time

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Nostalgia For The Present Time: a thread. I can remember nothing about January and February this year. What on earth did I do?

Why We Write About The Strokes

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Why We Write About The Strokes: So, OK. Neumu which is a big online altzine covers the Strokes who are an altband you might have heard of, yes? (Here’s what I thought of them) Neumu wuvs The Strokes. Reader writes in, and is sick of The Strokes coverage. Neumu leaps boldly at chance to give second straight day’s coverage to The Strokes. O fearless journalism! “How much media coverage is too much?” they ask. Especially when the band is good. They ask it in a kind of faux-naif style which is really annoying, mind you, but it’s still a good question.

Well, actually, the clue to readerwrath is here: “we dig their music and we think they’re an important band”. But why? Why “important”? No clue. We can guess why they dig the music – it’s catchy punkrock, refracted and redacted to seem supermodern (look at that cool chair on the cover!), and what’s not to like about that, but “important”? How do bands get to be important anyway? What do they do when they are? Would Neumu have called Television important in 1975? Would everybody else? Would they have ended up making the same music if that had happened? (The article doesn’t touch on what the negative effects of mass exposure might be.)

The word “important” is a suckword anyway: pop and history mix badly. But if you’re going to use it, please back it up. Neumu says that if you’re a “fan of indie rock or punk music”, you will like The Strokes – presumably because they play what you’re used to already. That’s fine, but is it “important”, this kind of niche marketing?

The report ends with the unsurprising conclusion that if you like The Strokes you will like coverage of them and if you don’t, you won’t. Nothing to argue with there, surely. Except the original report isn’t about the music (cos you already know what the music sounds like, silly), it’s about the ‘hype’. Or rather what it’s about is getting excited by a band because you know they’re going to be big. There’s one sentence about the music – “Their occasionally lo-fi sound is by turns cool and distant, hot and impassioned” – which is frankly completely meaningless. The rest is glad-handing The Strokes on their way up. Backing a winner. Getting caught up in this kind of chain-reaction of puffery is dead exciting and fun, I know, but please let’s not pretend it’s criticism.

Thing is, The Strokes are in some horrid sense an important band. I’ve been arguing on the forum that the success of Limp Bizkit and nu-metal in general marks the point where my indie rock ‘generation’ – yours too maybe – ‘lost power’, i.e. found itself confronted with a pop-cultural success which was happening without its permission and more to the point was rebelling against its values. The Strokes go hand-in-hand with this – they’re the point at which this generation gives up, steps back into a cosier twilight world and stops trying to negotiate the now. Maybe there’s nothing I can do about that, but I think it’s a shame.