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Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Why We Write About The Strokes

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: It is the goal of many musicians to become popular on their own terms (you know, without "selling out"). Some work for years, even decades — playing clubs, recording singles and albums — without getting much attention or much of an audience.

Three years ago some young guys in New York formed a rock band. Sometime later they recorded a three-song demo. Unlike thousands of other bands, this one was not only good, it caught the attention of the owner of a respected English record company. Subsequently it also caught the fancy of many rock critics.

The band is, of course, The Strokes. Here at Neumu we've written three pieces about them during the past few months. Why? Because their demo, released as the EP "The Modern Age," is brilliant. Because their upcoming debut album, Is This It, is also brilliant, and because they're great live as well. In other words, we dig their music and we think they're an important band. As it happens, we're not alone.

Yesterday we ran a piece about them, by Neumu contributing editor Jenny Tatone, as the "Daily Report." Tatone, who'd just seen them at the Roseland Grill in Portland, was blown away by what she saw and heard. That was reflected in her piece, which also included some quotes from a member of the band.

Normally, getting media attention is a good thing. It's one of the ways music fans — you know, the people who buy albums and attend shows — find out about a new band or solo artist.

If no one writes about an artist, and they don't get any airplay, no one will know about them. That's not a good thing. It's not good for the artist; it's not good for music fans who might like that artist. We think music fans who like indie rock and punk will like The Strokes if they hear their music. We hope we've helped draw attention to the band.

Yesterday I got an email from a talanted designer and serious music fan named Rachel Lipsitz. She wrote to say that she's "already completely fed up with The Strokes' marketing machine that seems to have had every critic mentioning them for the last couple months."

I don't know whether Lipsitz has heard Is This It, which hasn't been released in the U.S. yet. In her email she wrote about all the attention the group is getting: "This wouldn't be so bad if they were at least good but I don't think they live up to the hype at all — but that's beside the point. I was just surprised that anyone would have the nerve to mention them at this point when the hype surrounding this band has already made them a joke to most people."

A "joke to most people"? To what people? I can tell you that most people in the U.S., at least, have never heard of The Strokes. Most music fans have not heard of them. It takes a lot to break through the constant info babble. In the U.S., The Strokes have not yet been on the cover of a single national magazine. They've gotten mentions here and there, and certainly there have been profiles and reviews. From the perspective of a fan of The Strokes, it's all for the good!

Lipsitz writes that she is "annoyed at the Strokes column in Neumu today" which she "expected" would be "a commentary on the bizarre amount of press surrounding a completely mediocre band." She adds, "I'm convinced The Strokes have brainwashed critics because they all seem to lose the ability to write about this band in the manner with which they normally write about music."

What is it about media attention that bothers some people? And how much media attention is too much? I mean, at what point did it cross the line to where she became bothered by it? Was it the NME cover? Or was it when issues of Q and The Face both came out with stories on The Strokes?

Or is it simply that Lipsitz thinks The Strokes suck? I mean, would all the attention be OK if The Strokes were her favorite band?

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears weekdays at 9 AM PST, except when it doesn't.

by Michael Goldberg

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