The resurgent indie rock scene in New York at the millennium’s turn is the focus of this interestingly un-nostalgic documentary, based on an oral history of the same title by Lizzy Goodman – and the title is in fact that of a song by the Strokes, inspired by lead singer Julian Casablancas’s rumoured relationship with Courtney Love.
The movie revives the memory of white-hot NYC bands in their pouting pomp: the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Rapture and Interpol, and contextualises them with the global tragedy of 9/11 and the growing upheavals in New York and the music industry itself. Bands who sang of passion, rage, anxiety and dislocation found they were right in the middle of an undreamt-of new zeitgeist; knocked sideways by the attack on the World Trade Center, they found themselves part of an exodus away from Manhattan to then down-at-heel Brooklyn, so kicking off the gentrification and hipsterfication of that borough.
The bands themselves also had to negotiate the traditional stepping stones to the longed-for fame – including, interestingly, UK tours which were taken very seriously. Within a few years, broadband internet would entirely replace the mighty MTV in their lives, and gave the world file-sharing and Napster. And so the fame that many yearned for was arguably easier to attain with a closer connection to the fans, but the riches were further way. There was, however, a new emphasis on the live experience, as the one thing that could not be illicitly downloaded.
Another type of documentary might have been a little more dispassionate about the Strokes and their nepo baby background; wealthy showbusiness fathers loomed large and they met at that most un-rock’n’roll of places, a Swiss boarding school. However the standout star is the passionate and fierce Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a Korean-American musician for whom music was an escape from racism and sexism.