Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth And Rock And Roll In New York City 2001-2011
How to survive NYC’s last great rock’n’roll explosion…
There are a lot of people having a lot of fun in Meet Me In The Bathroom, journalist Lizzy Goodman’s dynamic record of the New York music scene as the century turned. Fun bubbles up in Brooklyn and Manhattan, in basements and lofts, it spills out as pills and powders and in performances that are almost as “legendary” as the parties that followed. There’s James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, taking ecstasy for the first time as Tomorrow Never Knows blares around him. There’s Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs grabbing “super-spitty” beers from the audience to tip over herself on-stage. Amid all this rough-and-tumble,
“THE STROKES WERE BAREFOOT IN BED AND SMELLED LIKE ROCK STARS.”
centre-of-the-universe revelry, however, there’s one moment of pure joy: the scene that greeted publicist Jim Merlis when he visited The Strokes’ Columbia Hotel room during their first British shows. “They were all barefoot in bed together and they smelled like rock stars,” he remembers. “They said, ‘We just want to tell you, we want to do this for the rest of our lives.’ It was so sweet.” The coolest gang in any room is how The Strokes are remembered, but among the cautionary tales in this wildly entertaining and evocative book “nothing lasts forever” rings out loudest. Created from hundreds of interviews by Goodman (she put down NYC innercircle roots as a student working in a restaurant with The Strokes’ Nick Valensi), this digital-age version of Please Kill Me is raw, intimate and surprisingly frank. There is sometimes a hint of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge about things – “I was there!” – but interleaving, if sometimes contradictory, testimonies bounce light and meaning off each other, allowing the city and its people to rise off the page in a hiss of pungent sidewalk steam. The large cast includes the forgotten and the false starts – electroclash avatars Fischerspooner, for example, or skinny no-goodniks Jonathan Fire*Eater. It’s also the story of a city which had lost its rock’n’roll crown to Seattle in the ’90s and become “a dot-com kind of town”, according to TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. The Strokes upended that – but they weren’t the only agents of change: here is the rise of the internet, a destabilised music industry, the inexorable force of gentrification (a club called Abasement is now a Jil Sander flagship store) and, of course, the impact of 9/11. Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture: all these bands are shown saving humankind from an endless future of nu-metal and Coldplay. But The Strokes dominate, creatures of the modern age and players in an old story of fame and glory. One minute bassist Nikolai Fraiture’s brother is giving Julian Casablancas The Best Of The Velvet Underground for Christmas; the next, Fabrizio Moretti is kissing Drew Barrymore at Coachella and the band are staging interventions to keep “bad influence” Ryan Adams away from Albert Hammond Jr and his increasingly calamitous drug addiction. No wonder the next generation – Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors – would be more sensible. Life moves fast, but in this book’s 600 pages Goodman pins down a remarkable cultural moment. They were there.