Columns - "The Sign of a Good Time" 04.01.02

The following column, my first for Blank Generation, grew out of a discussion on the newly added "Trade Forum" (check it out). The topic in question is one that I've been giving a considerable amount of thought to lately, almost obsessively. So now's the time to unleash the crud in my brain...I'm gonna throw in MY two cents cuz it's Sunday and I'm bored. And…………it's just time to drop some fucking knowledge, bitches...on with it...

The Strokes................I know, I know..."Goddamnit!!!!! You just HAD to go there". Yeah. Sorry. I'm a dick.

Shaun Anagram, Joe Domino, Todd Trickknee and other famous BGer's have been discussing the controversy (for lack of a better word) surrounding this band, each casting opinions about why, for some ungodly reason, some people seem to HATE them. I'm going to offer my theory. Kindly disregard it as complete and total horseshit if you want.

They suck.














Just kidding....










Anyway................(long pause, deep breath)...........THE STROKES....their album and singles (same thing) are all very good. I like them. They are by no means saviors of rock'n'roll. Am I happy that a band capable of actually writing a decent tune is getting all this praise? Of course, I'd much rather have something I'm able to stomach shoved down my throat than the horrible crap that we've come to regard as "the norm" over the past several years. And this brings me to what I consider to be a BIG contributing factor to Strokes backlash among genuine rock'n'rollers and fashion-minded hipsters: at this point, it seems that the marketing of The Strokes is a far more important factor in their popularity than their music.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about all this, it's all secondary to the music, but c''s marketing "cool"...The record company has teamed up with every major pop-culture publication/publicity source to sell the dream of being a "hipster"...showered this band with praise, say how "real" it is, say how they've rediscovered rock'n'roll in an age of rap-rock garbage and BOOM, sold 500,000. And that puts a sour taste in my's pretty sick. This kinda shit happens all the time, with nearly every newly-signed band…but now, it’s band that a lot of "Blank Generation" types dig, so what are we to make of it??????

Seriously folks, is it possible that there are 500,000 people in America who love The Velvet Underground, Television or Reed 'n' Iggy's "Bowie period" at this point? Now, you don't need to have a vast knowledge and love of The Strokes' INCREDIBLY FUCKING OBVIOUS influences to dig their record, but shit, it might fucking help! Does your average 15-19 year old kid swear up and down how incredible "White Light/White Heat" is??????? 400,000 copies (minimum) of "Is This It" were sold to the same people who bought Radiohead, Lincoln Park, Eminem and Creed records. I totally believe this. There just aren't THAT many people around that dig this brand of music, are there????? Tell me if I'm wrong. I'd love to find out that the majority of the record-buying public has taste, because ALL fucking signs are undoubtedly pointing to the conclusion that most people wouldn't know rock'n'roll if it slapped 'em in the fucking least in this country. I can understand in Europe, where people still apparently like fucking MUSIC and aren't bombarded buy The Donnas and Donny Denim selling towels for Target. SOMEONE FUCKING KILL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe it’s just all the different camps gathering around one record: garage rockers, indie folks, emo kids, 77 types…but even that couldn’t explain it, could it? Also, if a Creed or Lincoln Park fan is legitimately blown away by "Is This It", hey, I’m ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL for it. But, I HIGHLY doubt that is taking place…maybe I’m being an asshole.

It's not the band's fault...It's not the band's fault...It's not the band's fault. I want to make that clear. All they did was write a slew of great tunes that caught the eye of some management and major label people...who, in turn, decided to use the tried and true "Next Big Thing" strategy to sell records. Is there anything inherently WRONG with that? I don't really know...I don't think so. If the music itself is of primary concern, then go ahead, sell the fuck out of it. But, as is so often the case with these GIANT businesses, getting a gargantuan return on your investment is the primary goal, not the music. "Is This It" could be an album full of poorly-miked fart noises and if the label gave it the EXACT same amount of push, it would sell just as many records, maybe more. Worked for Radiohead, right? I know I sound like a broken record here, and yes, the whole major label thing has been beaten into the mofakin’ ground, but PEOPLE, elements of that argument apply here, even if only on the outside of things.

It’s the practice of making money. Think however you want, but "I$ Thi$ It" is mind-control! THE MAN is doing this….

I don’t really think that.

Whatever, like the record, hate the record…just think about it.

I suppose the reason I feel strongly about this is because The White Stripes, my current favorite band on Earth, find themselves in the same position The Strokes were/are in: Overseas success, major label attention, return to America as THEE BUZZ. Let me state this, first and foremost: I would love...LOVE...for The White Stripes to become the most popular band in the world. The amount of sheer glee something like that would bring me would force my bladder and bowels to open up and flow freely all over the place. Or something… Anyway, I love seeing them in all the big magazines, hearing them on the radio, seeing their videos on TV...all of it is A-OK with me. What I don't want to see happen: The White Stripes marketed in the same disgusting fashion The Strokes were. It appears that it's already too late for this.

I think it's pretty obvious that there are a whole lot more peculiarities to The White Stripes being the huge buzz band than The Strokes being the huge buzz band. First, and most importantly, The White Stripes are, roughly, 79676327126948786993629143865191297.4 times better than The Strokes (As a side note, I am completely and totally against these two bands being lumped together. They are nothing alike. They simply find themselves in similar situations, with similar shit being talked about them. It officially SUCKS to use these two bands in reference to each other, but for the sake of argument, I must...fuck it all to hell!). I think this is strange because most of the bands selected for this almighty buzz status have, traditionally, sucked huge, sweaty ass. Feels like a whole new ballgame these days, doesn’t it? The Hives are all over the radio in SF, The Briefs are on Interscope…hitting a little closer to home for any of you?

Next, it's not as though The White Stripes make the easiest music for the average "rock" listener to grab. Barebones rock'n'roll with fantastic songwriting is something generally overlooked by the vast majority of people. Record sales would prove this to be true, ask In The Red or Sympathy. Oh yeah...and Jack 'n' Meg are kinda fucking weird. The whole color thing? The #3? Don't even get me started on the whole ex-hubby/ex-wife vs. bro/sis thing, entirely too much time is spent on that subject. Seems to be much more of a challenge to market them as "cool"...the safe bet would be to market them as "freaks", which would only escalate things. We'll see what happens....

Also, they have yet to go through an inactive period. They are touring machines who've somehow managed to release a pretty impressive amount of records in short period of time. Would a giant record company commit to releasing all that they have to offer? All their b-sides and cover tunes? Peel Sessions? With the "Hotel Yorba" and "Fell In Love With A Girl" singles, it appears that they will continue this trend of giving the people what they want (or hate). Also, they'll be able to release other bands on Third Man, which could be great. WHITE STRIPES CONQUER THE MEDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Enough...

SO..................with all this, where does that leave us, John or Jane Q. Neoteric???? We find ourselves in the same place pop-punkers found themselves in with Green Day...or where grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrls found themselves with Bikini Kill...or where rednecks found themselves with The Allman Brothers. Shit is blowing up and we'll see what happens. The totally cliché "everything goes in cycles" theory about popular music far too hippie-ish of a concept for me to grasp, Sunflower. I just think, right now, it's our time to throw shit at each other for thinking one way, at them for treating it one way and at yourself for ‘just because.’ Who knows, maybe with all this attention on the bands that we love/hate/don't care about, we'll all get a whole lot more sex now??? That's always a plus...

1) I saw Le Tigre a couple of weeks ago and loved every second of it. You should all check 'em out live.

2) Don’t be afraid of hardcore...wait, scratch that...don't be afraid of GOOD hardcore... find yourself a copy of the Limp Wrist album.

3) The new Hit List is out, after a 6-month wait. If you wanna get pissed, read one…I just do reviews…

4) Good Sculptures will have it's debut release sometime in 2002. Vague enough? An EP by The Rock'N'Roll Adventure Kids, the best worst band on the planet.

5) I like records. I review them too. Bitch.

Mitch Cardwell
1405 Rose St.
Crockett, CA 94525


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