The Strokes appear to be the latest in an endless string of bands struggling with a case of the Beatles. This curse isn’t about the uncertainty of whether you’re going to reach the same level of fame as the Beatles; only rappers and an occasional Irish band flirt with such hubris. Rather, the nature of this curse is that almost every band since said Beatles has been left with the belief that artistic vibrancy demands that you dramatically evolve your sound over the course of your career.
The result of this curse is that even diehard fans have an album or two from their favorite artists that they can barely identify and wish they could forget. I, for one, am forever left with the image of Eddie Vedder holding (and playing) a ukulele.
A few weeks ago, The Strokes released a curveball that sounded like A-Ha without the wink. Motives unclear, fellow parents everywhere feared that The Strokes had gone from spelling us from kids’ music to covering such.
Here’s a new song from The Strokes: their first new release in five years. And, as we do when any once-loved band releases a new song after a long hiatus, we have to hold our breath and see if we once again have to blame the Beatles.
It used to be, more often than not, artists had grooves. You had a band, you had a sound, you wrote songs that sounded like… well, you. But then the Beatles blast through town with their constant reinvention and everything goes up for grabs. Artists who are lucky enough to have found huge success with one sound feel compelled to keep mixing up their style in the spirit of creativity. (Side note: very few hip-hop artists are afflicted with this restlessness. A topic for a future post.)
But this relentless restlessness has its ripple effects: fans start to sniff at follow-up records, dismissing them by saying “it sounds just like their last album.” Why, for a band that you already really like, is that such a bad thing? The Beatles, that’s why.
When asked about their upcoming release, The Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valenti said that they inevitably would find themselves battling “Chinese Democracy Syndrome.” Not sure if that is a reference to unfortunate applications of headbands or equally-tragic cameos on the Super Bowl, but I can say that The Strokes have avoided that (whatever it is) and have also dodged The Beatles Syndrome.
Here’s a song that sounds just like them, and thank goodness.
As we continue our on-again/off-again flirtation with warmth, I thought I would share a beginning of summer mix from back in the day. Listening to it for the first time in a while, I was reminded that it’s one of my favorites. Dire Straits-inflected remixes, a crazy Prince/Jet mash-up, Eleanor Rigby through a steel drum, Outkast meets Queen, Jay-Z and Punjabi MC, it goes on from there. It’s just plain fun. Continue reading →