Song 157: The Strokes, “Someday” (2001)

the-strokes_is-this-it

Sometimes the hype is true, and sometimes the nostalgia is still vivid for a reason. Like everybody else who paid attention to rock music in the early aughts, the buzz on the Strokes was deafening. I remember reading an interview with Peter Buck in which he proudly declared that he had seen the Strokes, and they were everything they were supposed to be. Think about that: one of the leading forces in indie rock, guitarist for the band that defined the path for a successful (commercially and otherwise) indie band, announced that these guys were the real deal. Peter Buck doesn’t do that very often, and not many others do either.

Because they fully expected that the hype would only lead to widespread disappointment, the Strokes named their first record Is This It. But Peter Buck was, of course, right. They may not have “saved” rock ‘n’ roll, as many had hoped (mainly because it didn’t need saving), but they reinvigorated it. There were excellent rock records coming out throughout the late nineties and early 2000s, but he ones that got the most attention were by big, bloated sludge bands. They sounded like mud.

Out of this mud came Is This It, an electric, frenetic, fun record that felt (and still feels) like a record: a time and a place, a room with five guys playing their very, very best. This may be rock music, but it’s immaculately arranged and performed rock music, with all the parts in place and the rhythm like a metronome. “Someday” is my favorite song on Is This It, because it exemplifies all of these qualities, and a few more: Julian Casablancas’s just-accurate-enough vocals, a melody that won’t go away, and lyrics about aging and nostalgia that hit home for young and old (“Now my fears, they come to me in threes” sounds downright demonic, like something out of a Robert Johnson song).

Is This It is the rare record that reminds me of a very specific time and place (wandering around Bates College in a post-Sepetmber 11 haze) but doesn’t sound dated in the least. It still jumps around like a living, breathing thing, like five guys just trying to get someone to hear them.

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