Ah, 2001. Pete and I moved to Columbus and into our first apartment together on September 10th (yes, THAT September 10th) and I'd started grad school at Ohio State later that month. It was an exciting time. We were quickly becoming grown ups.
We'd also had an experience at a local punk show towards the very end of our Hawaii residency that shifted our feelings and perceptions about punk rock music. I don't remember the specifics. I don't even think I was there, but I think it involved a fight or something. Pete was shaken by this and even started to grow his hair out after years and years of having short hair which he stood up in spikes using hair gel.
This was the start of the NEW MILLENIUM and the end of the mainstream's infatuation with pop punk music and I guess we were all a little tired. I've mentioned before that I felt that in the 90s the simple fact of enjoying the music felt oppressive with all of the rules involved. There seemed to be this arms race towards the most purest of punk rock lifestyles that even trickled down to a sideline observer/admirer such as myself. You needed to be straight edge, ideally vegan, and could only listen to vinyl in order to make the cut. Wear band shirts but make sure they're not too well-knowm. Only shop at thrift stores but if you absolutely must wear new clothes, make sure they're Dickies. I am exhausted just typing this.
But coinciding with the turn of the 21st century, this suddenly became uncool, which was in a lot of ways a big relief. Mainstream rock music seemed to change on a dime as well and I think of this turn as being lead by the Strokes and the Is This It album.
THIS ALBUM IS STILL INCREDIBLE. I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It's still a great listen. The Strokes could have been a Whitney, where I'm enthusiastic about the artist's work but can't pick just one song. But I couldn't leave the Strokes off of this list. I listened to all of Is This It to really think about which one track should make the cut. If you're curious, my second favorite song on this album is "Barely Legal" and it's close.
According to Wikipedia, "Hard to Explain" was the first single released from Is This It, but I don't think I heard it until I got the album and think of "Last Nite" as the introductory track to the Strokes. Pete had caught wind first and it was one of those "you gotta hear this." Not having heard it, I asked him what the genre was. He basically said that it seemed like rock music that bordered on punky but, and I'm quoting now "they're like, hip or something." I was like "what?" And he said "I'd think they'd get laid a lot." Welcome to the early 2000s.