The Way it WAS

Feb 20

The Way it WAS

Posted by Max Fischer on

I miss Julian's band... we can look forward to no more of [b]It like This![/b]‘it’-to-eclectic/

Strokes Cover Band Give ‘It’ to Eclectic
By Jonah Blumstein, Blogger

Last Saturday night’s shows at Eclectic by an un-named Strokes cover band, who played Is This It (2001), the Strokes’ first album, was undoubtedly one of the most fun events I’ve been to at Wesleyan. The room, to my surprise, was packed, to the point where I got a head-butt by a guy wearing a kangaroo suit (talk about surreal). Perhaps more notably, I saw the entire diversity of Wesleyan’s concert in attendance. There were not only hipsters in tight jeans present, but Psi U brothers, football players, and track runners in formal wear as well. All in addition to the mysterious man in the kangaroo suit.

Being at Eclectic and seeing such an unusual variety of people in one place made me wonder, what is it about Is This It? The four sophomores on stage certainly provided some hints. The cover band’s singer sounded like a dead ringer for Julian Casablancas, and the group played energetically and precisely. They turned the same trick that the Strokes do, playing tightly yet oh-so nonchalantly.

The Strokes, like the group covering them, feel no need to reinvent the wheel. They play a kind of skewed, New York-centric rock’n’roll that’s instantly familiar. However, they don’t really sound like most of the older New York bands their compared to. They don’t blur the lines between avant-garde and pop, like the Velvet Underground, they don’t play with jazz proficiency like Television, and they’re far too pretty to be the Ramones. But they do take small things from their cultural and geographical forbearers, particularly an attitude that even if you’re doing something difficult, it’s best to make it sound like it’s not.

By sanding off the raw edges of the New York icons that came before them, the Strokes have made themselves accessible to a larger audience than the bands I compared them too. However, one never feels the Strokes are dumbing down their music to attract fans from outside their artistic set. Even the biggest music snob who fancies the Strokes doesn’t do so ironically or with the condescension that comes with calling a song or artist a “guilty pleasure” (James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, king of the hipsters, has called Is This It? “[A] great little record! A perfect barbecue record!”)

In the end, Is This It’s consistently top-notch songcraft that attracts so many people– from the everyman who buys only albums released by major labels, to the indie kid who too often prides himself on the obscurity of his taste. Every track is instantly catchy, sweaty and fun. Julian Casablancas delivers lyrics that detail the common without becoming banal. But Casablancas’ words, such as his demand to “take it or leave it” on the album’s finale, wouldn’t be as engaging if it didn’t sound like he was drunkenly spitting into the microphone. You can feel the alcoholic sweat emanating from his pores as he switches from barely bothering to carry the tune to a desperate rant. In its best moments, Is This It is the sound of inebriated overstimulation

Inebriated overstimulation, absolutely wonderful inebriated overstimulation, is precisely what most of the audience got. The sway of the crowd was impressive and at times crushing; I could feel everyone excited to cut loose in a way they don’t usually allow themselves to, particularly at a rock concert. When the encore switched from Under Control, a track from the Strokes’ second album, to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, the joy was palpable. Although the concert was under forty minutes long, one thing’s for sure. No one left wondering “is this it?”

Posted Feb. 19th, 2009

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