Book Review: Meet Me in the Bathroom – Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City

‘Failure is the best. After you fail, you’re free…’

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Ahh 2001… I was just about to be put in all bottom sets at school (apart from English, I still had my pride). The British music scene was awash with maudlin Coldplay wannabees and terrible dance music. However, somewhere in the bowels of NYC, something special was rumbling…

Meet Me in the Bathroom is an oral history of a game changing decade for the Big Apple. Beginning with The Strokes and ending with Vampire Weekend, journalist Lizzie Goodman has assembled a painstakingly detailed account of what it was like to witness the rebirth of garage rock as well as the rise of electro and all the other weird little bands that came along for the ride. The Strokes are rightly seen as the main source of interest within the book but they share almost equal billing with LCD Soundsystem, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol. Only retrospectively is this scene starting to be reevaluated as something approximating britpop in terms of cultural impact and musical importance.

This impact can be measured by fashion, record sales and column inches but it is also apparent in the intangible details. I had just turned 14 when the Strokes debut album Is This It was unleashed to the world and, even as a teenager in Doncaster, I knew that something important was happening. I remember the coolest kid in our school burning me a copy of Is This It? (rest easy Daz). I remember being floored by Maps and singing Interpol at poker nights and I remember the very first time I heard Franz Ferdinand pulverise the airwaves with Take Me Out. It was a seminal time in music that happened to coincide with my own coming of age and for that I am forever grateful. Then the Arctic Monkeys came along and made all this NYC music seem like it belonged somewhere far away again. But for a couple of summers there when Yorkshire boys were walking around with leather jackets and every guitar from the Scottish highlands to the beaches of Newquay were distorted beyond recognition, we were all a little bit New York.

It’s impossible to bottle lightning but Meet Me in the Bathroom is as close as you will get to capturing that sense in New York that everything was about to change. Looking back now there is a feeling that perhaps none of those bands reached their true potential but there is no doubting that guitar music was never as good again.

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