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xmag.com : May 2004 : I Love Las Vegas

The Strokes played Portland last month. And sure as April showers bring May flowers, they were greeted with a deluge of press taunting their wealth, connections, looks, and hipness. What the media misses every time is the music: the Strokes are one of the best rock bands out there today, partly because of their electrifying stage presence but mostly for their stellar songwriting. And isn't that what it's all about?

Not according to Mark Baumgarten of the Willamette Week. Baumgarten wrote a 2000 word essay questioning whether the Strokes are "real." He summarized that "The Strokes make us question realness [not a real word. --ed.] by striking a constructed pose while making music with so much soul." I bet he wouldn't know soul if it bit him on the ass, and obviously he is deaf, his overgrown cerebrum oozing into his ears. He probably gets gooey over every critics' darlings Radiohead and the White Stripes, who collectively have as much soul as a plastic beer mug.

Goddamn I hate music critics. Who are they to tell us what is good and what is bad, and that the Strokes are fake? David Bowie is fake... and great. Britney Spears is fake... but foxy. Music should not be written about. Words can't describe it. If you gotta be a music critic, call it like you hear it: great, good, not-so-good, or suck-ass and leave it at that. But obviously they pay 'em by the word.

Are the Strokes real? Is Is This It? real? Is music real? You can't touch it....

Rock'n'roll is all about building monuments out of air. Any icon has a false front. We, the subhumans, demand it. Bowie was the ultimate fake. Chameleonic, he changed his look, music, and even sexuality to suit his public persona. Disingenuous? Perhaps. Fabulous? Certainly! What about Warhol? And Lou Reed and Devo and KISS and Madonna and your own friendly neighborhood stripper with the fake name... Let's not forget the Sex Pistols, who swindled the rock world into believing they were a band and not just a posture. And penned some great songs.

People who yearn for fantasy but then call bullshit don't know how to live. We're a world of atheists now--not merely resistant to the idea of the irrational, the transcendent, the miraculous, the Easter Bunny, but downright damning of it. That's weak. I like my music to knock me over. I like my whiskey to knock me over. I even like my God to knock me over--sometimes. I don't care if it's ecstasy or Ecstasy, if it's real or fake. If it tastes good I'll swallow it! And if you think the Stones are more real than the Strokes you think too fucking much.

You know, ye grunge-school-of-music scholars, it's NOT about the sentiment, as Baumgarten claims. It's about the MUSIC. Art is infection, said Tolstoy. You feel it. You don't deconstruct it. It beguiles you utterly. It bowls you over. And no music criticism can alter the power of, say, "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

One song is all I needed from Def Leppard, Poison, Bon Jovi, Missing Persons and Spandau Ballet. Heck even fifty percent of Blondie's oeuvre sucks fuckin' ass, but still I wear a Blondie pin on my jacket. I got a Strokes pin, too.

I remain mystified why every critic from coast to coast writes the same humorless essay 'bout how the-Strokes-ain't-all-that when equal space could've been devoted to larger photos of their sweetly disheveled mugs or maybe even plaster casts of their cocks. These critics should all be strung up upside down and made to listen to bad--really bad--Bowie. Or made to write music reviews for the Willamette Week.







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