The Strokes: Not selling out, buying in.
In May 2001, NME ran an article titled, “The Strokes — Why New York’s Finest Will Change Your Life — Forever!” At the time, the writer proclaimed The Strokes, “look and sound like the band who are going to save rock.”
In many ways the writer was right. In the early ’00s (or as Julian Casablancas would say: “whatever the fuck they’re called”) New York City, The Strokes were the future of Rock. They were a bunch of kids that went to a “rival” high school of mine. They then stayed in town to perform for us New York kids, which in many ways made them all the more legendary to me. Rather quickly, everyone knew someone who knew Julian or Nick or Nikolai or Fabrizo or Albert.
At the time, you would find yourself in conversations about The Strokes and how they are bound to “sell out” for the money. This is not unlike any other conversation you may have with your friends or on Reddit. We all enter these conversations like we are the authority of what “selling out” means. We also feel that “selling out” destroys the music we love — even though music doesn’t die (Sorry, Don). It’s like we all feel overly protective, and like Holden Caulfield need to help our favorite band from falling off the cliff. For reference, that is the claim of Mark David Chapman on why he plotted to kill John Lennon. Chapman wanted to prevent Lennon from selling out.
My favorite part of The Strokes New Year’s Eve 2020 show this past week (besides the music and the new song “Ode To The Mets” was when Julian Casablancas addressed selling out. Albert Hammond Jr. quickly went over to Julian and corrected him, “not sold out, bought in.” It was a funny, sweet, and unexpected moment that said so much about their relationship, which at times I thought was strained, and the future of The Strokes.
The concept of “selling out” means something different in your teens and early 20s than it does in your late 30s and early 40s. In a conversation with Dev Hynes a few years ago, Julian said, “I love selling out. No, I’m kidding… No, I think you have to weigh it, I think you gotta weigh the good versus the bad effects of those kinds of decisions.” As they got older, The Strokes started weighing their decisions, which led them back home on New Year’s Eve.
On New Year’s Eve, The Strokes were confident, assured in who they are, and came across accepting of one another. It was as if the struggles each have gone through over the past 20+ years banded them together, or “froze them” together. In announcing an upcoming album Casablancas addressed this bond:
“Yeah, we’ve got a new album coming out soon! 2020, here we come. The 2010s, whatever the fuck they’re called, we took ’em off. And now we’ve been unfrozen, and we’re back. If you really lvi someone, you’ll be frozen with them. You know what? I don’t know what I say generally, and I rumble a lot, but I love you guys, and it’s a real honor to share the stage and this night with you guys.”
I dig the new song off of their upcoming album: “Ode To The Mets,” which you can see below. Casablancas response after performing it was text book Casablancas. He called it terrifying to perform a new song but even more frightening when its met with a subdued applause. Yes, The Strokes are older and more confident. However they are human and want their fans to understand where they are today and what to expect in 2020.
In 2020 I am all in for The Strokes. Don’t call it a “sell out,” because it’s a “buy in.”