John Harris

Journalist & Author

Meet Me in the Bathroom review – were the Strokes the last real rock stars?

Lizzy Goodman’s oral history beautifully captures the guitar rock scene in New York from 2001 to 2011, a flashbulb moment before everything changed

In the opening two years of the 21st century, guitar-based rock enjoyed a late burst of creativity. The music industry was still thriving, yet to be laid waste by the internet. Meanwhile, New York, a city that had long been a byword for rock and its associated romance, was on the brink of a musical renaissance – and an awful trauma – before property mania transformed even its most disreputable neighbourhoods, after which affluent incomers could happily live out some dream or other, but the conditions for any kind of exciting culture were too often snuffed out.

This is the backdrop of Meet Me in the Bathroom, an oral history by Lizzy Goodman, who arrived in New York from her native New Mexico in 1999 and was evidently immersed in everything that happened. Her interviewees – there are 161 – beautifully capture the era, and illustrate its tensions and contradictions, many of which swirl around the band whose tale forms the book’s core. The Strokes were a quintet of affluent young men who had met at exclusive schools, led by a singer whose father had founded the Elite model agency. On the face of it, they were gentrification incarnate. But in the flesh, and on their first two albums, they convincingly celebrated the aspects of New York that were under threat – bohemian squalor, loose living, the idea of the metropolis as a place where twentysomethings discover who they are – and became a potent signifier for the city.

We just want to tell you, we want to do this for the rest of our lives

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