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On The Strokes, Nick Hornby, Nostalgia and Everything In Between

March 11, 2011

I’m an obsessive. I’ve long been an obsessive. I’ll continue to be an obsessive. I don’t read band messageboards or post obsessively my thoughts and views on all things, because generally I let all ideas formulate and terminate in my brain. In my head are some of the best essays and thoughts that any human has ever had, but they’ve gone by the hyperbolic wayside.

The Strokes are my favorite band ever. They will be my Beatles or Dylan or Jay-Z, and I accept any and all criticism or judgement that comes from that. When the band reconvened last summer for Rockness and Isle of Wight, I all but bought plane tickets. And when they announced they were playing ACL Fest, I did buy a plane ticket. I centered it around a visit home for family, but that visit involved me driving eight hours in two days on top of all of it. I don’t remember the first time I heard a Strokes song, I don’t remember how much they changed the musical landscape as everyone wants to keep writing about in the 10 years since Is This It? was released, and I don’t remember exactly why they became my favorite band. But here we are.

Nick Hornby is my favorite author. If I were in some sort of desert island scenario, I would take Dorian Gray and my Nick Hornby collection. And yet, I didn’t read his book for teenagers, I still haven’t seen An Education, and worst of all, released in September 2009, I hadn’t even opened Juliet, Naked until tonight. I’m only 45 pages in, and it’s basically as if Nick Hornby trudged up the five flights of stairs into my bedroom, jumped up the ladder to my loft bed and smacked me across the face. It’s my life, already, 45 pages in. Maybe I’ll get to the end and change my mind, but I’m already reminded at how we obsessives are the only ones who can describe we obsessives.

From Fever Pitch:

There is no analysis, or self-awareness, or mental rigour going on at all, because obsessives are denied any kind of perspective on their own passion. This, in a sense, is what defines and obsessive (and serves to explain why so few of them recognise themselves as such. A fellow fan who last season went to watch Wimbledon reserves against Luton reserves on a freezing January afternoon on his own — not in a spirit of one-upmanship or some kind of self-mocking, laddish wackiness, but because he was genuinely interested — recently strenuously denied to me that he was eccentric in any way).

I mention this all because Nick Hornby always gets it right. Because the opening 45 pages, are at this moment, parallel to The Strokes comeback. A lot has changed in the past ten years. It’s possible that somewhere deep down, my love of the band is tied in with my nostalgia for 2001. It was the first full year I lived after my dad passed away, it was a year where I spent a lot of time driving in my car blasting whatever I could – mainly my cassette tape of Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True, followed by The Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About and ..maybe.. Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. It might be that I was really working towards making my dreams of working in the music industry come true, and that I thought Ryan Gentles was a role model. It helps that Is This It? as a record is perfect. It was perfect then, and it’s perfect now (minus “When It Started,” but that is, legitimately, the fault of terrorists). Before last October, the one and only time I saw them was in January 2002, their first show in Houston. I was supposed to go with my friend Nairuti, but she ended up being really sick, so I went alone. I stayed after the show by the backstage door until they all came out, signed autographs, took pictures, and were hilarious. I have many, many memories from this, and it’s kind of funny to think of my encounters with them then versus any professional one I have had anytime recently. And that was it. Despite having AIM away messages based on Room on Fire quotes, the Julian Casablancas cover of SPIN Magazine taped to my dresser in college, a folder full of Strokes photos saved to my hard drive, or one of the three albums that I listened to daily at one of my college internships being First Impressions of Earth, I don’t that I would have realized how much they were ~my favorite band ever~ until the hiatus.

Then the new songs started rolling out. First thirty second previews, then full songs, interviews in which I appreciate the honesty while wishing they would JUST. STOP. TALKING, show announcements, and at this point almost the entire album has leaked. I’ve heard 30 second clips of all of the album, and 5 full tracks from it. And that’s where I draw the line. I have yet to hear a song that will be on Angles, that hasn’t instantly made me think, “This sounds like …” It’s uneven, a big jumble of different sounds, and I don’t want to hear anymore until I can hear it as a full album and see if it makes the slightest bit of sense.

From the excruciatingly candid interviews, I don’t even think The Strokes themselves are pleased with Angles, and I almost wish that this were released as some sort of B-Side/Rarities album in anticipation of another release instead of the big comeback. It’s as if they went into a studio (sans Julian), worked out their issues, scratched and clawed out an album and know that they have something better as a result. I’m worried that this album will get panned or the hatred will come back and they won’t end up with the gem that I’m predicting a fifth album will be.

But beyond all of my nonsensical rambling, I am more giddy than I ever would have thought possible that they are back. I’m happy that my favorite band is back, and that my favorite author is still writing about things that mean everything to me. I am presently incapable of hearing “Under Cover of Darkness” and not passing out. I went to see them on SNL last weekend, and despite Julian’s vocal issues, I almost had a nervous breakdown. And I have my ticket to the Madison Square Garden show. I’m going alone, because I didn’t want to mess with not getting the best seat possible while trying to find more than one ticket, and I know I’ll probably end up spending the entire thing texting about how happy I am. because you can’t stare directly at the sun for too long.

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