Has anyone else read Meet Me in the Bathroom? After reading, I discovered that I am among the guilty indie rock fans who had no idea who Jonathan Fire*Eater was. But the opening story of this book really enchanted me as much as it haunted me; these guys were such a strong influence on some of the biggest bands in the New York 2000s rock scene, yet fell off the face of the earth quickly and strongly enough for millennial kids like me to have no idea they even existed. But these guys were the group in the 90s who inspired the indie rock scene unlike anyone else, directly influencing acts like The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs with their stage persona, swagger, dirty but well-composed indie sound, and unorthodox way of rocking out. They’re the most hyped act to never be known by anyone.
Although people knew about their drug use, the story in Meet Me in the Bathroom seems that their lead singer took it too far. This led to their demise early into their career, right as they were about to take off and sign a record deal. They were able to release one commercial album, Wolf Songs for Lambs, which has been recognized by many big voices in the music scene to be nothing like their original work and live shows. It is a pretty creepy album, with unique and confident vocal performances much like Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground over non-harmonic, pretty original indie instrumentals much like Modest Mouse or a non-syncopated Strokes. But I agree with whatever people said; it lacked any sort of kick they may have seen from the earlier years. They would break up shortly after, and 3/5 of the band would continue with a project into the 2000s known as The Walkmen.
I knew one song by them, off of their 2004 album, Bows + Arrows. “The North Pole” was kind of a jolly tone with melancholic instances to it, nothing like their Fire*Eater beginnings. I decided to listen through it, and each track kinda blew me away. The entire album had glimpses of Velvet Underground’s ambience / eeriness, Modest Mouse’s dirty drug-influenced indie, and the Strokes energy. It was a fascinating listen that just never existed to me before some dense Spotify browsing.
“The Rat” is the indie anthem of the album, an enthralling and lively drum beat continuing from start to finish toppled by a pretty unique but harmonic chord progression on the guitars and heavy organs in the background. The vocals on this thing possess the swagger I could’ve imagined from Jonathan Fire*Eater. This adrenaline rush of a song crashes down into the ambient “No Christmas While I’m Talking,” The ‘Velvet Underground’ nature of the album, with trippy, messy guitar chords over extended vocal tracks and crash cymbals. It’s a very sad song that may remind you of “Heroin” off Velvet’s self titled. Other tracks that really stuck with me were “The North Pole”, a song I had already known, but in the context of the album and its nature, reminded me of what The Smiths were able to accomplish, which was a beautiful dichotomy of jovial vibes and depressing lyrics. This post-break up song ends up being a fun indie rock track. Other tracks like “Hang On Siobhan” bring back their ability to create beautiful slow ballads, while “Thinking Of A Dream I Had” is reminiscent of Modest Mouse’s 2001 sound, with a similar energy to “The Rat.”
If you are a fan of any indie rock bands from the early 2000s, or found yourself listening to any of the bands above, I would recommend taken a listen to this album.
Notable Tracks: Xmas, The Rat, Hang On Siobhan, North Pole,