Squabbles and footnotes aside, in the pages of history books and The FADER, New York rock in the 21st century began with the Strokes. Of course the Strokes always evoked New York rock of the 20th Century, but that was kind of the point. The band captured the city’s borrowed nostalgia for a time when young men wore tight jackets and let their hair fall into their faces, then wrote thrilling songs about the dejected glamour such lifestyle decisions would lead to. At the time of their arrival, downtown Manhattan was still stuck in the orange plastic/white vinyl hangover of lounge culture, but the Strokes were a band for dark bars where the bathroom door was always broken and you could sink into a booth and hide out from adulthood for a few more years. They were a great band for New York because no one could agree on them: they were either the best or the worst thing that could have happened. People would tell you they hated them and everything they stood for, then a couple of beers later they’d confide that they’d never actually heard them or that they secretly loved them. They were one more part of the city you could endlessly kvetch about, then take pride in because no other city had anything nearly as good.
I went to England for four days in the early summer of 2001 to write a piece for The FADER that would be the Strokes’ first cover story. The band hadn’t done many shows outside of New York before then—some opening dates for Doves and Guided by Voices, another brief trip across the Atlantic—and they were still learning to deal with life on the road. They hugged and bickered like brothers. They turned up the volume when they heard their song on the car stereo and took trips to HMV to see their EP at the listening stations. There were no rumblings of stifled creativity. There were no rumors of breakups. Their drinking wasn’t problematic yet, it was the point.