- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Their debut album was greeted with a ridiculous amount of hype, led a revolution in the rock world and catapulted them from smoky New York City clubs to opening for the Rolling Stones. So what do the Strokes band mates do for an encore?

According to guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., just make another album better than the first one.

Local fans will get to hear some new material from the Strokes' sophomore record (due out sometime next year) when the band plays Tuesday at DAR Constitution Hall.

"This whole tour is kind of like a theater tour," Mr. Hammond says by phone from the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. "It's wonderful we're really tight as a band right now."

Mr. Hammond is rather mum on the new material, but he does drop a few hints about the songs. "I'm proud of them all," he says. "They're better than the songs on the first record. the overall tone is more mature."

The group's debut album, "Is This It," was a subtle stab at the hype that preceded it, and the record has stayed in the spotlight since its release in September 2001. Three singles "Last Nite," "Hard to Explain" and "Someday" have made it to radio, quite a feat for a band that was told it was not "radio-friendly."

"After the record was finished, I thought, 'This is it for me,'" Mr. Hammond says. "It was amazing just to see this happen, this thing we did as five guys."

The release of "Is This It," timed around the 25th anniversary of punk rock, helped spark a resurgence in what some have dubbed "garage rock." The rambunctious musical style, taking its inspiration from '60s rock and '70s punk, has continued to be a force on the music charts, with acts such as the White Stripes, the Hives and the Vines all getting a boost from the Strokes.

"People always said that style of music doesn't get played on the radio," Mr. Hammond says, "but we always thought if the songs are good, why shouldn't they get played?"

Sparking a new rock revolution was certainly not the plan when the band formed in New York in 1998. Prep school friends Julian Casablancas (singer-songwriter), Fabrizio Moretti (drums) and Nick Valensi (guitar) started playing together and soon added Mr. Hammond (guitar) and Nikolai Fraiture (bass).

Music runs in Mr. Hammond's family his father, Albert Hammond Sr., is a noted songwriter, who composed, among other songs, "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "The Air That I Breathe."

The band played its first live gig in 1999 which means the group was together just three years before it found itself opening for Mick and Keith.

"It was pretty surreal pretty nerve-wracking," Mr. Hammond says of the Stones shows. "It's kind of like meeting anyone famous you don't know; you don't know what to say to them."

The shows went over surprisingly well, he says, considering that the band mates were told by people backstage that most opening acts for the Stones are booed off the stage.

"There was no real pressure, because they weren't our shows," Mr. Hammond says. "We were just trying to get new fans."

The band goes into the studio next month and hopes to have work on the new album completed in January.

"Our whole thing is to make [songs that are] easy to swallow, but interesting," Mr. Hammond says, "and some of the new songs take a couple more listens."

Frank Black has been a solo artist longer than he was the ringleader behind the influential alternative rock act the Pixies, but his old band continues to shadow his current work. That's a shame, as his 10-year-old solo career has produced some amazing material that certainly lives up to the promise he first showed with the Pixies.

Fans of his old group may get lucky and hear Mr. Black play a few of those tunes when he visits the Black Cat tomorrow and Saturday nights. He will be joined by a gruff opening act, Brooklyn singer and guitarist Reid Paley.

Even if Mr. Black does not drop "Where Is My Mind?" or "Here Comes Your Man," he still has a wealth of his own material from which to choose.

He has released eight solo albums, including two new ones released simultaneously in August, enough material to spread across two nights of shows.

The late Kurt Cobain has been in the news lately with the release of the new greatest-hits disc, "Nirvana," and the impending release of his private journals. Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has just released his latest album with his new band the Foo Fighters.

So what has happened to bassist Krist Novoselic?

Actually, he's in town this week with his own new project, Eyes Adrift, playing Monday at the Black Cat.

The band features one member each from Nirvana, Sublime and the Meat Puppets, all bands that have had members who suffered from crippling drug addictions.

A self-titled album from the trio was released in September after early practice sessions among the three yielded a wealth of material. It's unlikely the group will achieve the same success as Mr. Grohl's Foo Fighters, but for Nirvana fans energized by the release of new material, Eyes Adrift is well worth checking out.

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