THE STROKES – “Last Night”
THE FRENCH KICKS – “Young Lawyer”

Oh, The Strokes, The Strokes, The Strokes. Where do you begin with The Strokes? You could begin with “Last Night”, off their first single. It’s jaunty. It’s fine. I’d dance to it if I’d had a few drinks. But it’s not about the music, is it? Well, of course, it’s “about the music”, though when people tell you “It’s all about the music” from first-single front-cover features you’d do well to raise an eyebrow. It’s just not about their music. It’s about Patti and Iggy and Richard and Tom – the New York Ur-Music that every rock journo sews into their skull at around the same time they practise signing their second name “Bangs”.

So yes, what I’m saying is that The Strokes – who are fine! Honestly! – are not the problem. They’re an easy option, that’s all, the New York Oasis if you will, a guaranteed banker. They’ll shift copies and change a few lives, and win a few critical promotions too. They’re so wonderfully familiar – a proper punkrock band, at lazy last – that you can hear every tuppeny local paper writer just sighing with relief. Pop’s at its messiest for years, and of course the writers just want an evens bet: they’re scared of getting it wrong. (So are The Strokes, maybe). Me? I think The Strokes are fine. And I think anyone who rates them higher, for pay, should lose their job.

Because, yes, that band will change lives, but getting your life changed is what listening to pop is half about. It’s not so difficult! And getting your life changed by something as hackneyed as The Strokes would be like losing your virginity in a brothel. There are other ways – they might not be better, they certainly might not be as slick as The Strokes with their uh-huh voice and their chugga-chug rhythms, but at least they’d be different.

Some people might point you at the French Kicks, for instance. You shouldn’t listen to them, either. The French Kicks are indie rock – nothing lyrics, tempo shifts, lazy cool. They’re a very ‘cool’ band, actually. They leave me numb on one listen and annoyed on three. But hearing them reminds you why The Strokes are going to be big and the Kicks aren’t. As I say, it’s a similar trick to the one Oasis pulled in Britain. A popular style, a few hooks, the right looks, a perfect attitude and nothing to fear in the music. The Strokes are the French Kicks – are indie rock – with the creases ironed out. But an old shirt is an old shirt, and no amount of ironing’s going to save it.