It’s the year 2000, Britpop’s stranglehold on the UK charts has ended. Across the pond, nu metal dominates and West Coast hip-hop has already conquered the globe. Over in New York, the city’s underground scene is prepping a guitar-led, indie revolution.
Fast-forward 20 years and new documentary Meet Me In The Bathroom arrives to tell the story. Named after Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 non-fiction book of the same name, British directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace interview key figures of the era, mixed in with chaotic archive footage from sweaty gigs, parties and tours. The Strokes (whose song Goodman’s book took its name from), Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Moldy Peaches, TV On The Radio, The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem all feature heavily.
Unsurprisingly, The Strokes become a big part of the film. We kick off with their origin story – meeting at boarding school, forming the band – and move on to the Lower East Side where they first found a rabid fan base. London’s importance in the story is given space too – Rough Trade signed them and sent them out on tour. Then came the press adulation (including a run of NME covers) and their still-brilliant 2001 debut album ‘Is This It’. Unfortunately, the horror of 9/11 was just around the corner and this changed New York, its bands and the world forever. It was perhaps inevitable that the optimism and excitement of the age would implode after a few, short years of success, especially once the redevelopment of Brooklyn and tripling rents forced many musicians out of NYC.
The scene at a DFA Records Party. CREDIT: Ruvan Wijesooriya
Elsewhere, it’s a joy to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ magnificent South Korean-American frontwoman Karen O get plenty of attention. Her influence, then and on what came after, is impossible to understate. TV On The Radio’s inclusion is to be celebrated too as further proof that there was more to the scene than white dudes in skinny jeans. There’s also fun to be had with James Murphy. We hear how Northern Irish composer and DJ David Holmes turned former punk Murphy on to ecstasy, and inspired his work as DFA records co-founder and ultimately LCD Soundsystem. It’s worth noting that Southern and Lovelace directed LCD concert doc Shut Up And Play The Hits in 2012 – so they’ve got previous with bringing the electro wizard’s genius to life on screen.
You could argue that the film’s broad focus means great individual depth isn’t achieved. Experts may find little that they didn’t know already, and some of the book’s most interesting talking heads are omitted. On the other hand, skipping across the sticky dancefloors of early noughties indie is so enjoyable that you probably won’t care. Meet Me In The Bathroom makes for a lively snapshot of a very exciting period in rock history. Veterans and newcomers alike should check it out.
- Directors: Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace
- Featuring: Julian Casabalancas, Karen O, James Murphy
- Release date: March 10 (in UK cinemas)
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