I kind of feel for the Strokes, in a way. Whether they like it or not, a large part of the band’s appeal depends on maintaining enough of an authentically independent, outsider image to make their well-crafted pop rock palatable to those who profess a distaste for pop or anything well-crafted. There is an interesting contradiction, then, in seeing them try to entertain a mass audience, although in general they pulled it off quite well during last Friday night’s Murat Egyptian Room show.
Amidst the precise guitar interplay of Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi and the Strokes’ trademark loopy mod grooves, lead singer Julian Casablancas was an enigmatic presence, the delivery of his barbed melodies alternating between tempered passion and robotic disinterest. Throughout the show, Casablancas seemed fussy and angry, full of a raging ennui that manifested itself mainly in liberal sprinklings of the F-bomb, but also, amusingly, the hurling of a mic stand towards the back of the stage. Aside from a brief, mostly unintelligible rant about misplaced patriotism, however, his anger seemed to rise more out of boredom than any specific agenda.
Later on that evening, as I watched fellow NYC pop-rockers Hot Socky perform an excellent set in the more intimate confines of Radio Radio, I couldn’t help but think about how amazing (and, perhaps, appropriate) the Strokes show would have been there. For now, though, I will have to be content with sharing the band with the rest of the planet.