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Gotham Sleaze: The Strokes

Casually mention The Strokes to rock fans and be prepared to receive a strong opinion. Many just don’t understand allure of this rock band from New York City while others have drank their juice since day one. The latter were excited for their fifth studio album Comedown Machine and are looking forward to their headlining gig at New York’s Governor’s Ball in June, 2014. The Strokes are: Julian Casablancas (vocals), Albert Hammond Jr. (guitar), Nick Valensi (guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), and Fab Moretti (drums). This is a band clearly influenced by the tough seventies and also drawn to the pop side of punk. No doubt The Clash and Ramones are influences for this band that mixes a hard exterior but not afraid to slice open their insides, exposing their deepest thoughts and fears through their music.

In 1998 this group started a band and performed at various Lower East Side joints in New York and released an EP titled The Modern Age. The EP was a huge hit, leading to a deal with RCA and a debut album titled Is This It. The release was a huge hit, receiving four stars from Rolling Stone and a world tour that included a headlining gig at UK’s Carling Weekend festival. Two singles powered the album, “Hard to Explain” and “Last Nite”, the latter charting to number 16, eventually leading the album to over four million sold. The videos for The Strokes have always been straight forward. Often a lot of shots of the band in leather jackets just playing, staring straight ahead, disjointed from the spectacle of life around them. Live performances (Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brien) were more of the same, typically the band jamming hard while a tortured Casablancas sings into the camera. With some bands, this wouldn’t work; they wouldn’t be able to sell it. The Stokes have always refuse to fake it, hence the reason on camera it comes off real.

In 2002 The Strokes began recording a follow-up, finally releasing Room on Fire in 2003. Critically is was another big win, but not as much with fans or commercially. Also, in addition to their music, the band was becoming pop culture items, appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone as well as dating celebrities (Moretti dated Drew Barrymore) during this time. It wasn’t until 2005 that new music would come from the band. In 2005 the single, “Juicebox” was released, their third album, First Impressions of Earth was released in January 2006. After an extensive tour Casablancas told fans there would be an extended break. The band confirmed and for three years disappeard. In 2009 the band came out of hibernation and began working on a new album, in 2010 they released Angles. Since the band has continued touring, often regulars on the summer festival circuit. In 2013 the band released Comedown Machine, their latest album that returns to the classic sound many fell in love with back in 2001.

Call them punks, dirty rock and rollers, or alternative. It doesn’t matter. In the end The Strokes are exactly what they set out to be, a great American rock and roll band.

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