A vivid scrapbook of early-aughts New York, this raucous but thoughtful music doc invites you to follow the trajectory of New York’s indie rock revival through the varying moods of its figurehead band, The Strokes. The hipster’s guitar band of choice exploded from the city’s packed gig venues to transfix music journalists, conquer the world and help launch a whole scene. Lead singer Julian Casablancas was its avatar: louchely handsome, charismatic and oddly introspective. Suffice to say, the buzz didn’t last long for him and his bandmates.
It all inspired one of those music journalists, Lizzy Goodman, to get it down in an exuberant warts-and-all oral history, a 2017 tome that took its name from one of the band’s songs.
Without losing that same atmosphere of chaotic creativity and breathless hedonism, co-directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern intelligently cut the story with a dose of post-9/11 melancholy. Bittersweet nostalgia is provided by the disembodied voices of key players reflecting on their (often literal) highs and the collective hangover that followed.
Of those figures – Casablancas, spiky LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, Interpol’s mercurial Paul Banks, the bookish TV On The Radio and quirky duo The Moldy Peaches – it’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ elastic-limbed post-rock icon Karen O who emerges as the most compelling figure. A fierce on-stage presence but self-effacing off it, her struggles with suffocating attention, sexist objectification and the grind of keeping the show on the road vividly illustrate the darker side of the moment.
The heady early days are charted in a disorientating collage of shakycam DV footage from dive bars, tour buses and gigs that gives way to montages of media clips and dressing-room musings as the fame levels crank up.
This raucous rock doc will make one-time indie kids feel twentysomething again
Southern and Lovelace directed LCD Soundsystem’s 2012 concert doc Shut Up And Play The Hits and they cram in the hits here too. One-time indie kids will feel twentysomething again watching a baby-faced Paul Banks launching into ‘Obstacle 1’ or Murphy droning out ‘Losing My Edge’.
And beyond the music, Meet Me in the Bathroom makes a compelling study of the whole idea of a ‘scene’: how does it happen, why does it end and what’s it all about? Just a bunch of improbably cool people with guitars who happen to live near each other or a self-perpetuating movement with the power to create its own zeitgeist? One thing’s for sure: by the time the credits roll to a celebratory burst of Hello’s ‘New York Groove’, you’ll be ready for another one.
In UK cinemas Fri Mar 10. Streaming on Apple TV+ in the US on Mar 27.