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CAUGHT IN MY HEAD

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The Web: Part III

Artists are so frequently asked what music or which artists influenced their work. Although it is asked again and again, I’m sure artists are more happy than annoyed that someone is actually asking about the music rather than some extraneous details about their lives [not going to lie, I do love hearing those deets, though]. It’s interesting to see where the inspiration for a certain sound may have derived. Similar to hearing the individual sounds of each member of The Strokes within the music, you can sometimes hear an artist’s influences in songs.

For The Strokes, a major influence that I can think of right off the bat is Guided by Voices. The reason this connection is obvious is because the members of Guided by Voices are in The Strokes’ video for Someday (2001). The premise of the video is just that the two bands are hanging out- at a bar and then on the set of Family Feud [believe it or not]. You can see how they interact and how the members of The Strokes respect Guided by Voices and really listen to what they are saying. [Also, I saw an interview where Julian Casablancas said that they were influenced by GBV so you don’t need to take my word for it.]

Similar to The Strokes, Guided by Voices started out when the members were in high school. Although the members of the band have rotated throughout the years, the principal songwriter has always been Robert Pollard. They are considered indie rock but they fit in the worlds of garage, psychedelic, progressive, and punk rock. Being active from 1983 to 2004 and then coming back together in 2010, the band is almost ridiculously prolific- sometimes having two releases in a year, but always at least once a year while they were active. They have so much work, that I don’t even know what to spotlight, so here is their Spotify profile and you can choose what to check out for yourself…

Among many, many other influences including The Ramones, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, GBV partly inspired the garage rock sound of The Strokes. The Strokes however took garage rock and put their own spin on it. They gave a freshness to the genre that was undeniable. They pretty much revitalized and brought attention to it.

It is not surprising that, in turn, The Strokes influenced their fair share of bands. Honestly, most rock bands forming in the early 2000s where probably at least slightly influenced by The Strokes. I will only mention one band that The Strokes influenced because if I started to go into the innumerable great bands/artists they influenced, we would be here forever and my hands would probably start hurting from typing so much. [Also, I’m slightly biased because the band I’m about to mention is one of my absolute favorites.]

Right about when The Strokes released Room On Fire (2003), the now members of Tokyo Police Club were in high school and beginning to form their band. It is composed of Dave Monks on bass and lead vocals, Josh Hook on guitar, Graham Wright on keys, and Greg Alsop on drums. The band is from Toronto and are now pretty much indie royalty.

They started out by recording a couple EPs called A Lesson in Crime (2006) and Smith EP (2007). A Lesson in Crime remains one of their best records to date [or so I believe]. It’s full of super quick rocking songs- not one track exceeds the 3 minute mark. Their first “full length” album Elephant Shell (2008) barely goes over a half hour. It’s not a bad feature of the band though. That’s all the time they need to make a song count. They come in, say what they need to say, and are out just like that. [This is actually a common trait of GBV. All the connections!]

My favorite part about this band is their lyricism. The more I write on this blog, the more I realize how important that facet of music is to me. It really can make or break an artist for me. Tokyo Police Club lyrics are just quirky enough and just meaningful enough. Mainly though, the songs are fun and dancey and I like that.

Although their first record Elephant Shell (2008) is not my favorite release by them, it boasts some great tracks like Tessellate with an awesome melody and clapping [who doesn’t love a song with some good clapping??] and Your English Is Good starting out with some anthem-type chanting and then a memorable guitar riff.

Their next three releases are pretty genius, if you ask me. First, Champ came out in 2010. After a two year wait from their previous record, it definitely does not disappoint! You can hear how their sound has matured and evolved. When it was first released, I had it on repeat. I don’t thing there is a single flop track on that album. Highlights include: Favourite Colour with an interesting and almost unexpected line of percussion, Bambi with awesome synth work and Dave’s voice goes super low in a super good way, and Hands Reversed which has a more laid back style and really, really good lyrics.

The next release was an interesting project called Ten Songs, Ten Years, Ten Days or 10x10x10 (2011). The album included, you guessed it, ten covers from the past ten years recorded over ten days. Although they are all pretty awesome my favorites are Party in the U.S.A [originally by Miley Cyrus, but trust me, this version is great], Strictly Game [originally by Harlem Shakes], and Under Control [by, surprise, The Strokes].

Finally, their most recent release Forcefield (2014) came out earlier this year. And guess what… There’s an 8 minute and 30 seconds track. Not joking. Argentina I, II, III was their first single off the record. Being such a derivation from their normal style, it flows so well. It has a cool video, too. Another choice track is Hot Tonight which has such a great beat, base line, and chorus. Definitely one you can dance to. Finally, Toy Guns possesses an abrupt change in tempo that adds so much to the song as well as great synth.

Did I mention that you should check out this band, yet? Well, you should. Sorry for the amount of times I used the words awesome, great, and cool. This band just makes the music part of my brain get all charged.

So, that’s it for The Strokes case study. Did you learn a lot? I hope so. In upcoming posts, we’ll keep it more simple and maybe only talk about one artist.

Until then, happy listening.

Xx. J