[21] The Strokes, ‘The Modern Age EP’

The Modern Age

This is what we wrote in 2008 [I’ve not come up with any new Strokes thoughts since, unsurprisingly]:

There was such a quaint furore about The Strokes those long seven years ago, loud voices on either side. Were they singlehandedly saving rawk? Were they arch-copyists, not an original note in their scuffy Converse? Did any of it really matter? Well, yes and no. A bit of debate keeps pop lively, but would the naysayers have been so quick to swipe if they’d known the day would come when every band and its wife would be ripping off The Libertines, and not the rather more plunderable Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Blondie, you-name-a-cool-NYC-trailblazer? The answer’s no.

Anyway, what Julian Casablancas and rich kid friends had in bags were tunes. On first listen, I thought ‘The Modern Age’ was The Velvet Underground – that’ll be Casablancas’ Lou Reed drawl – still it was a catchy little effort from the off. Studiedly cool, yep, but nevertheless, er, cool. ‘Last Nite’ was a white boy’s Motown pastiche even more authentic than Phil Collins’ flail at ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’.

But we don’t want them to get too chipper. Junior and I did the arm-pumping ‘Tiger Feet’ dance, one ‘70s influence The Strokes possibly wouldn’t want to snatch. Saying that, let’s see what the fourth album brings.

Back to 2010:

Junior says: Well, not a lot. She doesn’t have any fresh observations either. But she does teach her little sister how to play air guitar and together they fight an Aircaster duel.

Best bit: When Casablancas turns on the loudhailer.

[19] Japan, ‘Quiet Life’


Quiet Life was the first LP I bought. Sure, there were a couple of cassette albums before that – both by Duran Duran, naturally – but this was my first 12” vinyl breakout, along with Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching For The Young Soul Rebels in the WH Smith bargain racks. It was March 1983, four years after its release, nicely in keeping with Japan’s own idiosyncratic chronology. You see, I bought it on the strength of their superb cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, which has just come out as a single – also four years after the event. And then there’s this, into the singles chart with a bullet, two years after its first appearance. They can’t have known if they were coming or going. In 1983 they were going.

Straddling Japan’s lurch from glam to Orient-obsessed electro-artpop, ‘Quiet Life’ veers in to the sound of helicopter blades – at least it sounds that way to me, and Junior agrees – and David Sylvian moans about – what? The break-up of the band, years before it happened? The changing state of the nation? His transitional football team? He was to take the quiet life to extremes afterwards, pootling around in the margins, crafting barely penetrable avant-pop, but still he carries on. So Junior identifies the blades, spots the handclaps, and sways to the slides, clips and ticks in the back of the car.

[8] The Jesus And Mary Chain, ‘April Skies’

They replaced Bobby Gillespie with a drum machine (there’s a thought) and revved up ‘Some Candy Talking’ to make a straight-up indie pop grower. It’s more unusual than that. You get two verses and then two choruses, and this makes it feel like it’s forever building to a big finish. In a way, it is. Jim Reid lets rip with what sounds like real drive, something that Psychocandy didn’t quite give us.

Junior was distracted this morning. We think she might’ve been peeved at wearing a blue vest and blue sleepsuit. She likes her girlie accoutrements. The Jesus and Mary Chain get a passing nod. She’ll learn though, when she’s decked out in black at 14 years old and telling us how she always liked The Velvet Underground.

Listening to ‘April Skies’ again makes me wonder whether we’ve got The Strokes all wrong. They like the skinny ties, trousers and baseball boots of new wave, but they want to make goth surf pop.