It’s kind of a funny story, it’s been roughly 21 years since we saw the burgeoning recalculation, the reboot, the reimagining or rock and roll music for a commercial audience, which turned ultimately into indie rock by the way of garage rock in the form of the ‘The’ bands.
Where the ’90s saw alternative rock surge from grunge to metal to punk to pop punk to nu metal. The essence of no-frills rock and roll was a thing of the past. From where I stand the two bands that you can directly point the finger at for this revival would have to be New York’s The Strokes and Detroit’s The White Stripes. In 2017 journalist Lizzy Goodman released the book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011. The title taken directly from a track off of The Strokes’ sophomore effort, Room on Fire.
The book, an oral history charting the emergence of the scene using New York as the epicentre of the cultural shift that was occurring. Contributors to the project range from the musicians themselves, critics, journalists, label heads, producers and publicists to paint a picture of the many of the perspectives taken into account to tell the many stories of the decade.
Marc Maron kicks off the book by giving a short sharp history lesson on New York in the ’70s to the ’90s to Simon Reynolds admitting that before The Strokes not much was really happening in the rock scene until that point followed by a number of journalists quickly pointing out that the actual band to ignite the scene was Jonathan Fire*Eater, a band led by the mystical front man Stewart Lupton filled with members who would go on to make up the majority of The Walkmen in years to come.
Skip to 2022 where we would see filmmakers Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern well-known documentarians known for Blur’s 2010’s No Distance Left to Run and LCD Soundsystem’s 2012’s Shut up and Play the Hits, release a companion piece to the book. A raucous, loose 105 minute ode to a scene and time now well behind us.
Without a firm narrative to ground the film, Lovelace and Southern decide to strip down many acts and contributors of the book and focus on the core bands of The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture with supporting mentions of Liars, TV on the Radio, Ryan Adams and The Moldy Peaches.
With mention of The Moldy Peaches, the film kicks off with footage of Adam Green and Kimya Dawson waxing lyrical about New York and an emerging scene happening which is immediately layered into key moments with all the aforementioned artists and bands.
What the filmmakers do well is offer an opportunity to fans to relive and capture moments of incredible footage of this timeframe even if it all seems at times to be lacking a cohesiveness, instead of painting an overall picture of the decade the filmmakers choose to focus on and build the narrative around key players that being Julian Casablancas, Karen O, Paul Banks and James Murphy, displaying quality sound bites and footage probably never seen before of these front people and their band members.
Rather than breaking down this time in any particular fashion, it just kind of is and unfolds shambolically. There is no break down of albums or interviews, just tonnes of footage with the only real thread of continuity being the rising success of The Strokes, the tragedy and aftermath of 9/11, New York itself and gentrification, the rise of Napster and the music that came before it which is exhibited with the likes of Woodstock ’99 and the artists of the time and the quick shift a few years later.
Meet me in the Bathroom will still satisfy most fans it’s a period, for me that will always personally hold a special place in my heart however it plays out like a greatest hits compilation anyone desiring for deep cuts will be surely left disappointed.
A few stray observations:
- Carlos D is and forever will the fucking coolest, got to love that holster
- The Rapture most definitely gave way to LCD Soundsystem
- If nothing more, this documentary serves as a reminder how much of a modern classic Is This It and that you should listen to it ASAP
- There was no need for Courtney Love to make an appearance in this.