- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Timing is everything in pop music. When the Strokes released its single "Hard to Explain" in England in June, the song went to No. 16 on the pop charts, but the events of Sept. 11 suggest that the B-side "New York City Cops" wouldn't do that well in today's United States.
The unflattering "Cops" was yanked from the group's just-released debut, "Is This It" (RCA), but the band still plays it live, and you're still likely to hear it when the Strokes performs Monday at the 9:30 Club. The group has no plans to release the song here.
Like the early '70s New York City punk bands, the Manhattan-based Strokes is known for short, no-frills shows, but the band mates' swaggering manner and pouty mugs are anything but Ramones-like. The models here are Velvet Underground and Television.
The opening title track, notably in the line "I'm just way too tired," immediately establishes singer-songwriter Julian Casablancas as an amazing young Lou Reed: already beaten-down and weary, but not yet strung out. The semidistorted vocals here and throughout the album give him (and it) an appropriate emotional distance.
"Is This It" also sets the album's musical pattern: Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. both play rhythm guitar, allowing bassist Nikolai Fraiture to play counterrhythm.
In "Barely Legal" a numb Mr. Casablancas tempts a young girl: "I wanna steal your innocence/ To me my life it don't make sense." Fittingly, toward the end, the melody briefly changes to Janis Ian's "Seventeen."
Most of the songs describe Mr. Casablancas as planning to escape empty New York relationships, but he rarely follows through except in the too-cool "Last Nite." To an Iggy Pop beat, a girl complains, "It turns me off, when I feel left out." He lies to her that it'll be all right, then decides "Little girl, I don't care no more … I'm walking out that door."
"The Modern Age" finds him noticing, "It seems this game is simply never-ending." He finally gives up in the closing "Take It or Leave It" and demands that both sexes not "act too tough" and just pick someone to love.
"Modern Age" opens with drummer Fab Moretti imitating the Velvet's Mo Tucker, but once the frantic guitars kick in, the song sounds like the Jam. "In the sun sun having fun, it's in my blood … so won't you leave right now?" But somehow you just know she'll never leave, and he'll never hitch that ride to Rockaway Beach.

Old Teenbeat bands never die, they just recombine like DNA. The indie label Teenbeat itself hasn't faded away, though it has moved to Cambridge, Mass., and is only "spiritually" based in Arlington.
Headlining Sunday at the Black Cat is Hot Pursuit, with a core built from other Teenbeat bands: the goof-pop Blast Off Country Style and the grunge-pop Tuscadero, who (very briefly) found national fame in 1998 on Elektra Records.
Hot Pursuit's first album, 2000's "The Thrill Department" sounds much like Tuscadero and BOCS, varying by song. The band's name may derive from all the commuting: drummer Ginger Crockett is based in the District, guitarist Evelyn Hurley in Cambridge and bassist Margaret McCartney in New York.
Miss McCartney specialized in introspective songs with Tuscadero and doesn't disappoint here, despite a few lyrics that read like diary scribblings. Her cool-bored and crystal-clear vocals come strong on the rollicking "Summer Song," which also keeps some of the old Tuscadero humor.
In a giddy look at a new relationship, she reflects: "You forgot the early days, they always feel this way" and wants to keep the mood with "chocolate and beer … till we're more beautiful than we appear."
"Mail Call" continues Miss McCartney's old motif of writing to long-distance lovers, while the jaunty "Tobin Gets a Bonus" describes having a car towed in New York. Appropriately, its guitar rhythm borrows from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side."
"Mousetime U.S.A." is old-school BOCS: lo-fi drumming, sweet-sounding vocals by Miss Hurley, and supergoofy lyrics. There's also a Go-Gos feel to it, perhaps from the song's surfing theme.
"Spring Cleaning" has a devoted girlfriend leaving a man whose "Oedipal complex kept [him] whining for more," with some great backup vocals by Miss Hurley. Her "Why Married?" seems almost too personal, making the listener want to know the full story.
"Lucky Seven" makes a big, sweet, happy ending. (How pop is that?) Swirling harmony vocals tell of a girl who drinks seven cocktails, table-dances and realizes, "I never liked you, until last night, now I know you are the man." Ah, now that's love.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide