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Like the Ramones, who they probably most resemble in concert, with the gangly, awkward Casablancas constantly dropping the mike to the floor with a thud, the group comes together in a
joyous thrash.
A STROKES PIECE
RCA Buzz Band Sells Out Hollywood's Palace Twice, Captures Cognescenti
No less a keen pop observer than Blondie's Clem Burke has called The Strokes the best band to come out of New York in 15 years. For me, they're the best thing to emerge from the Apple since the Beastie Boys. For enthusiastic media and overseas fans, they're the Next Big Thing.

Comparisons have been made to such hallowed downtown garage bands as the Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Television, Talking Heads and the Ramones. All well and true, but the band's RCA Records debut, Is This It, is anything but derivative, taking Noo Yawk punk-rock as a mere starting point, like the Stones did the blues, weaving something tantalizingly different but just as deadpan cool.

Like those great cult bands, The Strokes have parlayed the kind of critical acceptance and popular support in the U.K. and Australia that inspires cries of "hype" as the label strives to duplicate that feat in the U.S. In fact, rumor has it that Courtney Love her bad self has been hassling KROQ to get the station to play the band. The album streeted on Oct. 9, selling 17k the first week out, on top of more than 6,000 imports that had already been sold.

The band hit L.A. for the first of two sold-out shows at Hollwood's Palace last night amid a building buzz among the rock cognescenti, who are hoping the group's neo-classicism will unite several of the beleaguered punk-rock genre's splintered factions, generational and otherwise.

Fast-forward to Thursday night: The group takes the stage backed by three empty, television-shaped screens ringed in lights, but their presence is pure prep school cum street urchin. Lead singer Julian Casablancas is the privileged son of modeling agency mogul John Casablancas, but he's obviously anti-fashion in his blue jeans jacket and denim pants. Casablancas seems genuinely touched by the surging crowd, noting the difference from their last appearance six months ago at the much-smaller Troubadour.

The set gets underway with the album opener, the title track, and the fivesome—including guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. (that's right, the son of the guy who sang "It Never Rains n Southern California")—who alternate between rhythm and lead—and the rhythm section of bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti—lock in and become one. Like the Ramones, who they probably most resemble in concert, with the gangly, awkward Casablancas constantly dropping the mike to the floor with a thud, the group comes together in a joyous thrash.

Lest you think the band could only be appreciated by egghead rockcrit types, they make some arena-rock moves. There's the crackling Carlos Santana-style guitar solo in "Alone, Together," the Johnny Thunders-meets-Chuck Berry guitar twang of "Take It Or Leave It," the very Stones-by-way-of-Dolls-like swagger of "New York City Cops" or the Motown/McCartney-like bass lines, which invariably lock into the unmistakable melody underneath the maelstrom.

The set includes all the songs from the new album, their odes to the give-and-take of relationships reflecting that duality as "damned if you do, damned if you don't." And then, as quickly as it started, it's over—about a dozen songs in 40 minutes and off. No encore, not much stage patter, but impressive nonetheless. As the boys themselves put it in the closer, "Take It or Leave It." I, for one, am not refusing The Strokes' offer.

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