IT’S THE WAY YOU DON’T READ CAMUS, OR BRET EASTON ELLIS
A lot of randomness this weekend, obviously.
I watched a DVD of all the videos from The Strokes—or more precisely, three videos and two live tracks. I really want to like The Strokes more than I do. Their music is gloriously empty, but sometimes that’s okay, especially when you bang out some really spectacular tunes, which The Strokes occasionally do. Unfortunately, there are two many ironic contradictions to this band—including the fact that I don’t think they know how hollow they are—that make it impossible for them to ever be great to me.
There’s the video for “Someday,” where they are filmed by Roman Coppola hanging out in a dive bar with Slash. It’s almost like, “Look at how famous and normal we are all at the same time.” It’s a pretty banal display of expensive slumming. This footage is intercut with them playing Family Feud against old man sadbags Guided by Voices, and it gets even more ridiculous. In another group’s hands, you could see it as a great display of a sense of humor, but with The Strokes, it makes you feel like their rock music is a bit like the spoiled brats from the private school going to the public school to sell drugs, getting richer on the backs of the poor. Isn’t it all just a laugh?
All from a band write a song like “New York City Cops,” where the most intelligent observation they can muster is that said cops “ain’t too smart.” Beyond that, it was a pretty easy sentiment for them to turn their backs on when it was more commercially viable to do so in the wake of 9-11. Now they seem to trot it out and stick it on things just to say, “Look, we’re naughty. We’re rock ‘n’ roll!” But how rock ‘n’ roll was it to change your album cover from this to this just so Wal Mart would carry you? (Normally I don't care about such things, but you know, if you're going to have the image...)
And with all the people getting all purple with whining about which pop kid can sing and which one can’t, why doesn’t anyone ever ask why Julian Casablancas can never perform without filtering his voice through a muffler?
I am sure plenty of better critics have said all the same stuff before. But man, I am not sure the last time I was turned off that much by 17 minutes of video.
An interesting note about Gravitation: I’ve reached the first big kiss between Yuri and Shindou, and up until that moment both of them are pretty much denying they are gay. I am not sure if there are cultural differences I should know about when it comes to how homosexuality is viewed in Japan. Or is it that little Japanese girls are more turned on by straight boys kissing, much the same way some gay men find it attractive to see a heterosexual man stray over to the other side? Either way, I am trying to play the book for the appropriate drama, play up the confusion that at least Shindou feels and tone down some of the outside reactions—while at the same time being true to the text. What a balancing act!