Anyone who's managed to turn on a radio or MTV or leaf through a magazine or a newspaper over the past couple of months won't have trouble telling you that The Strokes have taken their scuzzy New York City shuffle way beyond the five boroughs, making a coast-to-coast sensation out of their pilfered chords and carefully mussed hair. But even if you can take the band out of New York, you can't quite take, uh, the band's influence out of New York: The past year (the time, give or take, since the Fab Five graced the world with their debut single) has seen the remarkable rise of a new Brooklyn-based scene of bands playing rock and roll cut from the same rough-hewn cloth The Strokes have happily worn to the bank--a scene we'll get a taste of when The Walkmen, the French Kicks and the Mink Lungs bring their leather-jacket stylings to Rubber Gloves. (A disclaimer: Most of these bands were, of course, playing music before The Strokes went Hollywood. But before The Strokes went Hollywood no one cared about that music, so you take what you can get.)
The Walkmen probably view the new hype as very much like the old hype: With a different singer they used to be called Jonathan Fire*Eater, a late-'90s band that got its own quick spin through the mass-media turnstile before burning out in the haze of DreamWorks' gory mishandling. They sound exhausted by the effort: Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, their shrewdly titled forthcoming debut long-player, is a bleary swirl of heavy-ass drums and guitar reverb, singer Hamilton Leithauser's theatrical yowl swooping between the instruments while the instruments try to ooze like tar around his voice. On the band's first EP, released last summer in the midst of Strokes buildup, the effect was narcotic in a bad way--lifeless compared to Is This It's jumpy ebullience. But the ensuing months have done good things for them, so that now the group sounds like masters of mood, champions of the elegantly wasted.
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The French Kicks and the Mink Lungs haven't yet achieved that clarity of vision: Both bands' new albums--the Kicks' soon-to-be-released One Time Bells and the Lungs' The Better Button--show off outfits not yet finished turning over wiry guitar rock and looking for a way in, the Kicks homing in on a lean, handsome tunefulness not unlike Austin's Spoon, and the Lungs figuring Spoon already exists, so why not try anything else. Still, The Strokes didn't spring fully formed from Lou Reed's forehead (well, actually, they probably did); the extra attention may prove to be just what these young groups need to find their voices.