Clocking in at over 600 pages and featuring a cast of some 162 characters, ranging from Strokes to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem to time-distilled acts like Mooney Suzuki and Har Mar Superstar, could-shoulda-wouldas like Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Rapture, along with various journalists, bloggers, industry heads, and Moby, it’s safe to say that Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011 is an extensive read.

Lizzy Goodman has done an unbelievable job collating it all together in an oral history that pulses with a dated but undeniable beat. She worked in a cafe with Nick Valensi, who she went for drinks with in a place where Julian Casablancos bartended. Soon their band is playing SNL. Goodman is absent from the oral history (great interview with her here on one of my favourite pop-culture podcasts) but writes in the introduction that really, it wasn’t about bands. “We didn’t even think of them as bands, exactly. Real bands were professional rock stars, Pearl Jam or Oasis. The Strokes and their like were coconspirators, comrades in the pursuit of ‘youth and abandon’… We were all – every kid in the crowd and every person on stage – chasing the same thing: a feeling of rebellion, of possibility, of promise, of chaos… And for a few magical years, we caught it.”

It’s an interesting idea, examining the New York music scene that was the centre of the music world for the first decade of the 21st century (is anywhere the centre of the music world now?). It ends with LCD Soundsystem’s final show that turned out not to be their final show. It’s all so… recent. And yet the first half of the book feels so long ago, when people still bought music, when 9/11 hadn’t happened, when Brooklyn hadn’t been gentrified (I’ve never been to New York, let alone Brooklyn, but I won’t lie, I was googling flights throughout my reading of Meet Me in the Bathroom. But it does seem like a lot of the bars and venues that became hangouts for the likes of Interpol and up-and-coming DJs have closed down. When bands such as Libertines and Franz Ferdinand (who barely feature here; more anon) come to town, they end up playing shows at new bars the cool kids are turning their noses up at, longing for their just-closed drinkholes.) It’ll be interesting to see if any TV shows will be made chronicling some time in NYC in the noughties – will it become as nostalgic as 1970s New York or is the fact that the Sopranos was already on TV at that stage going to negate that?

(A genuine laugh-out-loud moment, featuring Anthony Rossomando from Carl Barat’s post-Libertines band Dirty Pretty Things and Interpol frontman Paul Banks, discussing the Darkroom venue –
Anthony Rossomando: I looked awful, I was dirty, I had shit under my nails. But Paul – He’d have this sweater tied around his neck like fucking James Spader – James Spader of the music scene.
Paul Banks: Anthony who?)

The Stokes are the heroes of the book – at least I think they’re heroes; you can see them as squandering away their talents on drugs, forgetting about the music as they fall in with the celebrity world – Fab Moretti dates Drew Barrymore, Casablacas dates Renee Zellweger. Albert Hammond Jr was the wildest of the fivesome. He and Casablancas share an apartment at the start, and as their stock sky-rockets, he becomes the fiercest party animal, eventually descending into heroin, ending up in rehab. His final quote in the book is laden with regret (it almost made me tear up): “I’m sorry I killed everyone’s dreams. I don’t know if they’re still mad at me. We’d worked so hard and we’d gotten so good. We were just like a machine. A well-oiled machine. Even when we sucked we were awesome. We were emotionally disconnected, but physically and musically what we built was at its peak.” (Here’s an extract about the Strokes, Ryan Adams, and drugs). Meanwhile, though a reckless animal throughout their rise, Casablancas is said to suffer great stage fright, hugging the empathising Kimya Dawson for support. A perfectionist, he was apprehensive about second album Room On Fire. “He really, really wanted it to be successful,” says the late Marc Spitz, a journalist to whom the book is dedicated. Casablancas: “To us it always felt amazing but like it could disappear at any second, or it wasn’t that huge.”

I could go on and on about the Strokes but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who is dying to pick up the book. I’ve been listening to them a lot the past few weeks, but only the first two albums. “I wanna be forgotten,” sings Casablancas on the presciently titled opener of Room On Fire, ‘What Ever Happened?’ The Strokes will never be forgotten. Those first two albums will forever be associated with a certain generation’s (millennials?) best nights out – ‘Last Nite’ is 3.14 minutes of youthful euphoria – and, as the book makes clear, they’re the reason for the Vines, Arctic Monkeys (barely mentioned), Kings of Leon, the Killers, and so many other, bigger bands. It’s unclear from Meet Me in the Bathroom when the Strokes were last in the same room, if they’re still on talking terms. And it’s doubtful that they’ll ever even get close to their 2001-4 heyday again. But maybe, hopefully this book acts as catharsis and I can finally get to see them live.