REVIEW: The Strokes: The First Ten Years by Cody Smyth

In brief: The Strokes brought rock back to New York and the rest of the world. Here is a picture and essay collection from their first ten years.

The good: Reliving the glory days of the first album Is This It.

The not-so-good: Knowing that the following ten years didn’t have as much.

Why I chose it: I love The Strokes and their new album (The New Abnormal).

Year: 2017

Pages: 223

Publisher: Lesser Gods

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

The Strokes (along with others) brought rock and roll back to New York. They were huge, they disappeared and now they are back with perhaps the best name for an album released in 2020, The New Abnormal. Cody Smyth has been a friend of the band since before they were The Strokes (i.e. high school) and has been taking pictures of them since those days. Who better than to compile this book of pictures and essays about the band?

This is by no means a definitive and complete history of the band, but rather captures glimpses of them on their road to being noticed, a huge first album and then the relentless touring and follow up albums. It also has a personal tone to it, as Smyth discusses following the band for some tour dates and getting in to that inner circle of rock bands as a friend who was there before everything. There are also essays from NME and stories from The Guardian. Some may have read these before in their original format (or via bad early 2000’s scans/fans dutifully typing them out) but it’s fascinating to read them knowing what was to come. I found the piece by Jay McInerney equal parts frustrating and mesmerising. Frustrating because he points out the flaws in Julian Casablancas’ personality (fangirl says how dare he?) and mesmerising because it’s a portrait of an old Julian, forever in the past now.

Smyth’s photographs are excellent, even from the earliest of days. The ending picture of them in 1996 captures a moment before it all happened and it’s funny to think that these ‘5guys’ were responsible for the music of my youth and today. The concert shots bring you right to the barrier and the behind the scenes shots capture mischief, fatigue and boredom from life on the road to waiting to perform to the comedown after. This is a book that all fans of The Strokes should read, to reacquaint themselves with the early days or to find out what it was like back when Is This It dropped.

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