Tag Archives: The Strokes

The Circus That Was The Strokes

The Strokes' Is This It

The Strokes’ Is This It

If you happened to be sauntering around Queen West yesterday in search of new pants or maybe some fancy boots, you’d have surely noticed the untold amount of Sloan Pretty Together posters stapled to, literally, every post along Queen between John and Spadina. If you didn’t know there was a new Sloan record coming out before yesterday, you sure as hell know now. You may have also noticed the ridiculous line-up of people trying to get into the Horseshoe.

That Sloan were getting some street-marketing love from their new label BMG Canada isn’t shocking. But what was interesting was how it represented just a small part in an elaborate plan that would pay off most effectively around 12:30 a.m. later that evening as The Strokes triumphantly strode off the stage from their free show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The invasion of the much-hyped Strokes proved an excellent opportunity for piggy-backing. Along with aforementioned New Yorkers, their label BMG Canada coyly set up an early evening showcase with Copyright. The catch, if you wanted to get a “privileged” ticket to guarantee admission to The Strokes, you had to go to the Copyright showcase at the Rivoli to pick up said ticket. It was a sly move for sure and it seemed to pay dividends as the plied-with-free-liquor insiders gave Tom Anselmi and crew surprisingly hearty round of cheers, though more mean-spirited colleagues of ours took great pleasure in deriding bass player Eric Marxsen’s Archie Bunker rock ‘n’ roll look.

And then it was off to the madhouse… It was a mighty surreal sight to behold a line-up to get into the Horseshoe that stretched well past The Rivoli and was three or four people wide. Clearly, a lot of folks were going to be sent home unhappy but the optics of such a ridiculous display must have been pure gold in The Strokes’ camp.

Shortly after the ‘Shoe doors were flung open and the kids with dollar bills between their teeth dutifully attacked the merch table, troubadour Pete Yorn took to the stage. He started off on the right foot with a cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” — an effective move considering the crowd of hipsters and anglophiles in attendance — but lost much of that initial steam when the weight of the inane chatter filling the club rendered him mute.

Around this time the celeb spotting began in earnest. There was Patrick Pentland from Sloan, some members of Treble Charger, Copyright, Robin Black and his ubiquitous posse of spandex casualties, hip-hopish upstart K-OS, Neil Leyton, members of Wayne Omaha and Maximum RNB and no doubt a whole bunch of others that we didn’t see just because it was too damn packed to actually move.

For the more disgruntled types, pretty much every high-profile music reporter in the city was hovering around as well, including reps from the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Eye, Now, local radio and Much as well as no less than 10 different Chart writers. All it would have taken was one well-timed machine gun attack and there’d be no more scathing condemnations of Big Wreck, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace, The Watchmen or any of the other usual suspects we rock reporter types use as fodder for our elaborately constructed punchlines.

And speaking of punchlines, let us discuss The Moldy Peaches’ wardrobe. We’ll start with Adam Green, the skinny acid-casualty of a singer whose range of facial expressions ranged from vacant to, um, vacant. For one, guys wearing hats like that need to be shoved in lockers, and two, what the hell was that gossamer poncho get-up? Really? We’ve got to start a whole new paragraph for Green’s singing companion Kimya Dawson. Looking like a cruel experiment between an understudy for Cats and too many cheeseburgers, Dawson was somewhat more entertaining, though the cat-calls of “Get off the fucking stage!” were getting hurled at her and her band with regularity.

At least they played their anthem “Who’s Got The Crack” quite well, though few of the stern, and by this time sardine-packed, audience members picked up on the wonderful singalong possibilities of chanting “Who-woo-woo’s got the crack?” over and over. Opportunities lost, children.

From there it was on to The Strokes. The band were clearly on the top of their game as they ran through virtually every song from their Is This It album. Though the record isn’t even officially out yet in Canada, MP3s and a fortuitously early Australian release of the album meant a substantial number of the multi- hundred jammed into the ‘Shoe knew songs like “Hard To Explain” and “Someday” intimately.

Considering the stodgy and downright prickishly cold nature of most Toronto audiences, the zeal that bordered on fanaticism in support for the band was a sight to behold. It’s rare that the icy reserves of such a collection of know-it-alls and too-cool-for-schools would be broken down so effectively, but that’s because The Strokes showed and proved all of their advance billing. The band’s rock ‘n’ roll swagger made every machination, line-up and invasion of personal space moot.

Commence your “I saw them when” stories now.

This story was originally published October 3, 2001 via Chart Communications

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Filed under Concerts, Music, Recollections

Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2001

Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow

Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2001:

1. Gord Downie Coke Machine Glow
2. The Strokes Is This It
3. By Divine Right Good Morning Beautiful
4. The Avalanches Since I Left You
5. Ours Distorted Lullabies
6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club BRMC
7. The Dears Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique
8. Spiritualized Let It Come Down
9. Ashley Park The American Scene
10. The Constantines The Constantines

Since I started unearthing these Top 10 lists a week or so ago this is probably the first I’ve felt close to entirely comfortable with.

My #1 album in 2001 was Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow and I continue to maintain it’s a brilliant Cancon canon album. I think I might have even given it a 5 out of 5 rating at the time, which is something I’ve done max 10 times in my years of music writing. What’s so special about Coke Machine Glow is it’s so guilelessly “art.” The fact that it was a solo album by the lead singer of a beer-rock arena-level band was secondary. Here, Downie dove deeply into his poetic narratives and then surrounded those stories with alternately beautiful/weird/exciting complimentary music courtesy of The Diner Is Ruined and a cast of related Can-indie veterans. This is the album that proved that Downie was definitively on the side of good.

Gord Downie “Chancellor”:

Everybody had Strokes fever back in 2001 and it was totally deserved. Is This Is? was a super-relentless dance party. It was bold and free and it’s still a great listen today, which is more than I can say for every other Strokes record. It’s funny, I got this record, Spiritualized’s Let It Come Down and Mercury Rev’s All Is Dream on the same day and I remember the V2 Records rep at the time being mad that nobody cared about All Is Dream, but why would they? There were two other nuclear bomb statement albums on everyone’s desks.

“Last Nite,” if you’ve never wildly danced to this song at a club you’ve been at the wrong clubs:

I love By Divine Right and consider them one of the under-appreciated pillars of Canadian indie rock, so I was pretty excited when Good Morning Beautiful came out. In hindsight is more “good” than “great” an album — still Top 10, but probably lower. I would’ve ranked it this high at the time because of the epic hippie jam “Hugger Of Trees.” It’s a song that can cut through all my layers of Grinch.

By Divine Right “Hugger Of Trees”:

Man, The Avalanches’ Since I Left You. Four billion samples, legal bullshit, mystery… none of which matters because if you know this album at all and I say the words “Radio,” “Flight Tonight” or “Frontier Psychiatrist” you should be experiencing an immediate Pavlovian reaction.

The Avalanches “Since I Left You”:

The voice of Jimmy Gnecco from Ours remains one of the most powerful, most chilling things I’ve ever heard. When Ours’ Distorted Lullabies came I out I was convinced they were going to become the biggest band in the world. I’m not sure why they didn’t. I suspect drugs, record company bullshit, band troubles, etc., etc. — the usual stuff — all had a hand in it. Mostly though, I’ve come to learn over the years that most people don’t actually like intense music. They can’t handle the emotional gravity of it all and just want something to hum along to. In the grand scheme that’s probably why Ours never hit it. It’s the world’s loss.

Ours “Meet Me In The Tower”:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are the perfect rock band. They’ve got black leather jackets, their music’s kinda noisy and dangerous, and the band members themselves are often difficult mumblers. Which all makes them hella cool.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Spread Your Love.” I was at this “video shoot,” which wasn’t really a video shoot so much as a proper concert with pro cameras capturing everything:

This would be the second year in a row I had The Dears in the #7 spot, this time for Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique. The best thing about this EP is it gave the band an identity. Something that was theirs alone — which is extremely underrated a commodity in the music universe. This was the dangle that made people want to know more.

The Dears “Autotomy”:

At #8 was the aforementioned Spiritualized record Let It Come Down. This was supposed to be super-huge and it was. Something like 115 people worked on this record and it shows.

Spiritualized “Out Of Sight.” Fuck, this song’s big:

And in every Top 10 list there must be something you no longer care about. For this one it would be Ashley Park’s The American Scene. I remember really digging on this album when it came out, but I’ve never been back to it. And in the sign of true listener death for me — I haven’t bothered to rip the album into iTunes.

I haven’t ripped #10 into iTunes either. That would be The Constantines debut album. I feel no need or desire to revisit this record. I rode that hype train at the time, and enjoyed parts of that journey, and that’s enough.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1


Filed under Music, Recollections