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Rock and roll notes

Thursday 1/4/24

Is there a better pure blast of rock and roll than the Strokes' "Reptilia"? I'm inclined to think not. Hungry and real. When I talk about the authentic in art, I mean this kind of thing. Very well-written song, and executed at peak level by everyone.

Those lines, "I thought I told you/This world is not for you," reaches right into your soul and pulls something out. And the lines, "Tell us a story/I know you're not boring," are like a dare. Yes, tell us a fucking story. We want a story. Such a great challenge: Tell a story. I love it.

The Strokes had two great albums, and that's it. Room on Fire is even better than Is This It. Sort of like Oasis--two great albums, and done. Albums as art. The guitar solos on Room on Fire use the same technique that you hear on the MC5's Back in the USA: They start a little earlier than they should, in between the last beat of one bar and the first beat of the next--or even slightly earlier--when ordinarily a solo would start with that first beat of the bar. Ups the urgency. "Reptilia" is like the perfect example. Listen to that solo. Superb video, too.

The Strokes recorded a gig at London's Alexandra Palace in December 2003 as an intended live album. Didn't release it. If they'd done so they would have had one of those all-timer live albums that went on the special side of the top shelf. Come to think of it, the Stone Roses could have been there as well if they'd released the August 1989 Blackpool recording.

There are days when I think that the Remains had the greatest of all rock and roll songs with "Don't Look Back." I listen to this pretty much every day of my life. What on earth made these guys think to do that break section? There was nothing like this at the time. They weren't Pink Floyd or the Beatles. In theory, they were a a straight up rock and roll band--with some fine songs--or, if you like, a garage band, but they played really well and were consummate pros. Listen to the drums on "Don't Look Back," and that guitar sound. Big-time skill, right?

That was a lot of confidence for Barry Tashian to do what he did on that song with the whole "Hold it, hold it," section. Then he just starts preaching eternal verities. I've never heard anything like this song. You get that walking bass line, the chicken scratch guitar, then the big guitar tone from a second guitar (1:26-1:31) after the drum-and-voice duet, with Tashian doing this thing about truth and light, before he makes what's tantamount to an offer. Mind-blowing. Where is this coming from? Then the part about the candle. And what's the whole thing about, ultimately? Moving the fuck forward.

You know how the Beatles have that spliced-in count-in for "I Saw Her Standing There" and the fake count-in for "Taxman"? Primal Scream's "Jailbird" (not the original Memphis recording) uses a kind of drum version of a fake-out. We get that dampened, muffled bass drum at the start, but it's not the real start. Pretend start. The blanketing goes away, the real drums commence, and the ear is pleased right away by this device. Secures the euphony.


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