Volume I: Tracks 9-11 (New York City, NY)

New York City, NY

9. Gogol Bordello – Oh No (2005)
10. The Strokes – New York City Cops (2001)
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll (2009)

First published March 2017

Vol01Ep05 podcast:
COMING SOON

Subscribe on iTunes

Summaries in a tweet

9. Ukrainian-Roma-American upset party spirit borne of crisis did not last, as Lower East Side gentrifies around him

10. Pre-hipster hipsters put indie back on map; insult NYPD weeks before 9/11. Impact strong; legacy questionable

11. Former Strokes support make hay in revitalised indie; sex & death sound evolves from punk to nu-rave-on-steroids

Why are they worthy?

With this being the first set of US100 tracks released exclusively during my own lifetime, personal nostalgia commands the reasoning behind our final New York City chapter. With their years of release coming within a life window of mine that is absolutely critical for anyone’s individual music taste development – the advent of adolescence through to final year of university – in many ways these three songs speak to me personally on a level that some of our more esteemed and culturally ubiquitous US100 artists may not be able to reach.

This personal affection combines with the modern indie context in which they emerge, resulting in memories of my experiences with their respective albums coming flooding back – whether played on my first ever stereo hi-fi through the increasingly forgotten medium of the CD, or accompanying my walks to sixth form or university via the entirely forgotten medium of the Creative Zen* mp3 player (for the youngsters, mobile phones were largely used for phoning people then).

But these albums certainly speak to far more people than just me. 2001’s Is This It by The Strokes, released as I took my first tentative steps into teenagedom, is in certain music critic circles something of a deified untouchable, one of those ultra-revered records seen as so groundbreaking that it can sometimes feel heretic to question its quality (see How do they sound?); regardless New York City Cops is a fun and energetic number, unfortunately arriving at a not so fun time for New York. Coming from another noughties album, 2009’s It’s Blitz!, Heads Will Roll from Yeah Yeah Yeahs – once a support act for The Strokes – represents the arthouse electronic evolution of their own style and that of New York’s indie scene that continues to define a large chunk of the industry today.

Gogol Bordello meanwhile do not comfortably sit under any indie umbrella, once again highlighting how my own personal taste does not necessarily lead to entirely intuitive track grouping methodology. Nonetheless they still emerge from the same city in the same period, albeit representative of Manhattan’s Lower East Side immigrant hustle and bustle rather than the notions of hipsterism – maybe even gentrification – that one might associate with our other acts. But even if we cannot connect them by genre, we most definitely can by personal memory: this Ukrainian-Belarusian-Russian-American gypsy punk cacophony of noise and energy were my most watched live band whilst a student, me and friends developing an addiction to their insanely chaotic shows following appreciation for their spectacular 2005 album, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike. And, as we shall learn, the delightfully fun album track I have selected, Oh No, comes with a very New York City story of its own.

* – Even at age 14, I railed against the hegemonic influence of Apple and its iPod

What’s the story?

It is the song’s subject matter which first led me to include Oh No in the US100: knowing that for me personally Gogol Bordello’s inclusion was essential, I settled on a song that I not only considered to be a remarkably underrated example from the Gypsy Punks record that first indoctrinated me into this spectacular new sound as defined by the album’s title, but also one which told a tale from New York City’s recent history. Oh No, falling smack back in the middle of the album, is a lament of the human condition, prompted by singer Eugene Hütz’s experiences of the Northeast power blackout of 2003, an occasion in which the combination of one forgetful engineer and power lines sagging in Ohio knocked the lights out for 55 million people in the US and Canada. In contrast to the 1977 blackout, which was defined by high levels of crime and disorder as we touched upon in our previous chapter, 2003 New Yorkers – having relieved themselves of the fear that terrorism was to blame – threw block parties. A spirit of crisis-driven solidarity became the order of the day on the city’s streets, with marooned commuters joining hedonistic locals in attacking must-be-shifted perishable supplies of discounted beer and ice cream, as opposed to vulnerable storefronts. So why Eugene’s lament? See ‘How do they sound?’ for a glimpse at its lyrical content.

The story of the band themselves is to me the story of the Lower East Side, Gogol Bordello being symbolic of its gritty working class roots, multicultural flavour, social activism, and spirit of artistic collaboration. To a non New Yorker, the geographical definitions can be confusing: once considered the same thing as the neighbouring East Village, the Lower East Side became a distinct entity in its own right when the former underwent rapid gentrification; until, that is, the Lower East Side began undergoing rapid gentrification (see Where are they now?). One thing clear however is that this eastern area of Manhattan has consistently been a magnet for working class immigration: waves have included German, Jewish and Eastern European, and Puerto Rican.

Eugene Hütz, right, with legendary Gogol Bordello fiddler, Sergey Ryabtsev

Around a third of New York City’s 80,000 Ukrainian-Americans are said to reside in the area of ‘Little Ukraine’, which straddles the border between the Lower East Side and East Village; the Ukrainian-Roma Hütz was one of them, seeking his success having travelled from Burlington, Vermont, where his family had settled in the early 90s following the Chernobyl meltdown. Here he sourced other talented musicians who shared in his hedonistic world view, forging a multicultural collective as he went along. The Belarus-Russia-Ukraine link shared across the band seems particularly pertinent, as these three ethnicities, whose modern history is so often defined by conflict, once used to all be one prior to the Mongol Invasion of the Kievan Rus’ in 1240. Further hinting at the slightly confusing headfuck that is Russian-Ukrainian history (there remains a school of thought that there is no such distinction between the two despite cultural and linguistic differences and 700+ years of separate history), the name Gogol Bordello is a nod to classical Russian-Ukrainian writer, Nikolai Gogol – at various times claimed by both nations, but to the band a Ukrainian who ‘smuggled’ their culture into Russia, something which they have aimed to emulate in the Western world.

John Casablancas, father of Strokes frontman, Julian, and founder of Elite Model Management, credited with inventing the concept of the ‘supermodel’

The Strokes’ membership, meanwhile, includes two individuals with fathers famous enough to have Wikipedia pages: lead singer Julian Casablancas’ father, John, is credited with inventing the supermodel; while you are probably not aware that the father of guitarist Albert Jnr, Gibraltarian Albert Hammond Snr OBE, is responsible for co-writing two monster singalong ballad anthems that found later fame with other artists: The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies, 1974) and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship, 1986). As such one cannot claim that the band dragged themselves by their bootstraps from the perils of poverty or urban despair – indeed Julian was sent to an international boarding school in Switzerland so renowned that his description of ‘musician, band member of The Strokes’ appearing within a list of Institut Le Rosey’s famous alumni looks a tad ridiculous, surrounded as it is by names of kings, princes, aristocrats, and statesmen. Despite their best efforts, The Strokes have never successfully shaken their ‘rich boy’ label – some even speculated that they were a manufactured group at the behest of Julian’s father, even though Casablancas emphasises that he was raised by a single mum, and instead cites the influence of his step dad, artist Sam Adoquei, on his musical path.

The Strokes, 2001

The story of The Strokes is largely the story of their explosive debut album, Is This It – with it being recorded in the aforementioned gentrified East Village area of NYC, one is almost tempted to contrast the band as music’s East Village to Gogol Bordello’s Lower East Side, even if band member names along the lines of Valensi, Moretti, and Fraiture still hint at New York immigration and multiculturalism. Coming at a time in which few people in the mainstream beyond The White Stripes were producing any guitar music worth listening to, its arrival caused something of an indie earthquake that produced a musical reawakening, now cited as one of a select group of albums that ushered in a period of garage rock revival. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a New York University trio first formed in the prior period of rock n roll dearth in NYC, were able to capitalise on the Strokes’ success, supporting the act early on and astutely evolving their sound as they rose from niche Brooklyn arthouse punks to new wave heroes of global acclaim. Theirs is less of a story that must be told, and more of a sound that must be heard, as covered in ‘How do they sound?’.  

The contrasting artwork for Is This It for UK (left) and US (right) audiences

With Is This It comes two other tidbits of interest, both of which resulted in UK and US consumers being given different experiences of the album. For the Brits, New York City Cops was the album’s track 9 and its cover artwork was a titillating shot of a lady’s naked midriff as she bent forward; but for the Americans, they had to make do with When It Started and a psychedelic shot of subatomic particle tracks in a bubble chamber. The reason for the former is down to timing: already released in the UK by July 2001 (their fanbase was more developed here, having been exposed to The Strokes’ music before most Americans via Rough Trade Records), the band were unfortunate enough to schedule the Stateside release of the album, which declares that ‘New York City Cops, they ain’t too smart’, for a fortnight after two planes hit the twin towers, an event which overnight elevated the city’s police force to a heroic status. Sensibly pulling the song from the album on account of respect for the NYPD’s valiant efforts, they – or the record label – seemed equally concerned that the US audience would be somewhat more perturbed than British people by the sight of the artwork photographer’s girlfriend’s backside, and so this was replaced too.

How do they sound?

I like to think of this trio as three separate interpretations of raucousness. The Gogol Bordello effort, true to its subject matter, is an all-inclusive party thrown for the entire neighbourhood; New York City Cops is a suburban teenager mildly – not excessively – trashing his dad’s garage; while Yeah Yeah Yeahs take us to an illegal rave taking place on an industrial estate in the outskirts of Prague somewhere.

A bonfire is lit during the 2003 blackout

Evolving from a single rhythmic – almost Latino – introduction from Eugene’s acoustic guitar, Oh No encapsulates the gypsy fuelled madness of Gogol Bordello quite nicely, the song crescendoing gorgeously over its three minutes, electric guitar and accordion combining to share the climactic solo spot, invoking wistful imagery of revellers dancing around campfires along the way. As detailed in ‘What’s the story?’, this is especially appropriate considering the song’s subject matter of blackout parties on the streets of New York, but lyrically this revelry is tinged with renunciatory regret. From celebrating the fact that locals are ‘all engaged in sport of help / making merry out of nothing / like in refugee camp’, by verse 2 – with the lights of the Northeast back on and New Yorkers back at work – Hütz is suffering from disillusionment with this ‘back to normal’ attitude, frustrated his vision of a blackout-sparked revolution has not come to pass:

But as soon as the trouble over
Watch them take another nap
Nobody is making merry
Only trotting scared of boss
Everybody’s making hurry
For some old forgotten cause

The end result is a song which paradoxically serves as both a celebration and condemnation of the human psyche.

While we’re on lyrics, the first thing to note about New York City Cops is that it includes the US100’s first swear, as early on Julian Casablancas recalls one particular night as being ‘fucking strange’. This serves as a reasonable summary of the song’s lyrical content overall, a confusing and vague tale of someone named Nina, unhelpful letters, and police incompetence. Much like the rest of Is This It, the song to me sounds like an enjoyable slightly poppy rock song, complete with singalong chorus and indie dancefloor suitability – to me it is not epic, groundbreaking, awe inspiring, or revolutionary, which you might expect it to be when considering the pant-wetting critical acclaim the album received back in 2001:    

There can be numerous interpretations as to why this is – my taste being out of touch with NME’s is almost certainly a valid one, but I would also speculate that you can add one star to each of these reviews on account of the distinct lack of guitar-based competition emanating from popular music at the time, rock journalists the Western world over desperate to latch onto something – anything – to excite their readership. Meanwhile if you’d like to know how it sounds through a distinctly non-Jarek technical explanation, feel free to peruse the Wikipedia page for Is This It where all sorts of excessive detail about the positioning of microphones, equalisation, and effects pedals – predictably meaning nothing to me – can be read.

The mesmerising magnetic stage presence of Karen O

If it is true that The Strokes laid the groundwork for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ success, then it’s equally fair to say that the latter outstandingly grasped the nettle along distinctively creative lines, forging a sound in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland/Jefferson Airplane surrealism that is undoubtedly more unique* than The Strokes’ straightforward yet understated indie. Displaying a level of artistic maturity, their sound has evolved significantly from the straightforward punk edginess of their 2003 debut album, Fever To Tell, towards the electronic chaotic nu-rave-on-steroids sound found in Heads Will Roll, and shared across much of its host album, It’s Blitz!. Its opening track, Zero, is an inspirational stratospheric record that has one metaphorically climbing that ladder to the sun regularly referenced lyrically by the wonderful Karen O, while Runaway is genuinely one of the most treasured ballads I have in my record collection, a stunning introspective lament of longing that somehow manages to tick the boxes of both tender and earthquakingly epic.

While I definitively don’t know what I am talking about in this regard, my interpretation of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ music on a technical level is that it distinctly relies on a drummer who really knows what he’s doing, always sounding to me as if he has a particularly challenging job of dictating the tempo that Karen and guitarist Nick Zinner so awesomely flesh out – so I’m giving my personal credit for this song to Brian Chase (pictured), Gigwise’s 50th greatest drummer of all time. I’m sure, upon receipt of his US100 membership certificate, he will be delighted.

* – Come at me, pedants.

Where are they now?

Elijah Wood alongside Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz in the fabulous 2005 film, Everything Is Illuminated (see Further learning)

As the fate of large swathes of Eugene Hütz’s home country tragically descends into a fog of Russian-Ukrainian acrimony (partially reflected in New York City’s geography between Brooklyn’s ‘Little Odessa’ and Manhattan’s ‘Little Ukraine’), his band remain active, famed for persistent touring and elaborate stage shows, with their current line up now seeing their Eastern European roots complemented by Ethiopian and Ecuadorian members. Linking us nicely to our previous chapter, US mega-producer and early founder of new school hip hop, Rick Rubin, worked with them on their 2010 album, Transcontinental Hustle, three years after the release of what I consider to be the definitive Gogol Bordello masterpiece: 2007’s Super Taranta!, so relentless in its energy and so joyful in its vibe, excites me like few other albums (see Further learning). When not on the tour bus, Hütz himself is now said to be residing in Brazil, the continent of South America seemingly striking a chord with him sometime ago, while sadly his Kiev entrepreneurial venture and not at all laboured pun Gogol BARdello seems not to have lasted long. As per ‘Further learning’, Hütz can now count Elijah Wood alongside Madonna as a celebrity admirer.

As alluded to prior, like so many of the neighbourhoods of New York City, the Lower East Side is gentrifying at a rapid pace – perhaps to the extent that it may eventually not be considered distinct from the East Village once more. As an example, Orchard Street, once termed a ‘bargain district’, is now lined with upscale boutiques thanks to one particularly opportunistic developer, while Clinton Street has transformed from a centre of heroin and prostitution to becoming one of the ‘hippest restaurant rows’ in New York City and, as rents skyrocket, Polish and Ukrainian immigrant communities are said to have been supplanted. Most controversially, The Blue Condominium, a luxury apartment block of questionable architectural taste (pictured), rises above streets traditionally defined by hustle, bustle, and working class flavour: only a few months prior to launching its $850,000 one bedroom apartments, music venue Tonic next door, known for providing a platform for avant garde, creative and experimental artists, permanently closed it doors, its owners stating that they “simply can no longer afford the rent and all the other costs associated with doing business on the Lower East Side”. With the NYU Furman Center having published a landmark report on the subject, which concluded that 15 of New York City’s neighbourhoods are gentrifying, the debate as to its benefits vis-a-vis the evident drawbacks on its host communities rages on, not least on our US100 pages. 

Arctic Monkeys in 2006. Many credit The Strokes with the indie explosion from which they came

Switching back to the music, if the merits of The Strokes’ Is This It’s overall quality can be chewed over (see How do they sound?), then many in the business will insist that there is no debate to be had on its impact: after finding initial success in the UK, The Strokes sparked inspiration in the likes of The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, and later, back in the States, Kings of Leon, as a generation of youths flocked to their nearest skinny jeans supplier. In part supporting my view that critical enthusiasm was largely borne out of a weak musical field at the time, Is This It crops up on lists along the lines of ‘best albums of the 2000s’, or ‘50 albums that changed music’ – but fails to figure or rank highly on ‘greatest albums of all time’ lists (with the exception of NME, whose 500 greatest albums of all time list is very, well, NME). Casablancas himself has expressed disappointment that their success has been restricted to the upper limits of the ‘underground’: “we never got as big as Green Day or Creed or any of the bands we were supposed to be replacing in 2001”. Saying this, one legacy The Strokes can be said to represent is the band name zeitgeist definitively switching from the single word impactful style of Britpop (Pulp; Blur; James; Oasis; Supergrass) towards the The Plurals format which has defined 21st century indie on both sides of the Atlantic (The Hives, The Bees, The Killers, The Zutons, The Cribs).

Bassist of The Strokes, Nikolai Fraiture, in his Nickel Eye guise

After Is This It, came efforts (Room On Fire, 2004; First Impressions of Earth, 2005) that I believe would have had the same impact had they happened to have come first, but for many fans they are disappointing follow ups, with single Juicebox from the latter making a point of throwing the low fi / minimalist style fully out of the window. Angles (2011) and the uninspiring Comedown Machine (2013) came next, but over this period all members of the band were consumed with various side projects – Albert and Julian (whilst struggling with various forms of drug and alcohol abuse) separately put out two solo albums, while the latter also performs with the quite weird Julian Casablancas+The Voidz as well as running his own label, Cult Records; drummer Fabrizio Moretti has teamed up with some Brazilians to form Little Joy; guitarist Nick Valensi fronts up CRX; while my favourite is easily the downright cool yet fun sounds of bassist Nikolai Fraiture’s 2009 record, The Time Of the Assassins, put out under the name Nickel Eye*. The New York City Cops, for what it’s worth, continue to have their smartness questioned, with the cases of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Eric Garner leading to huge institutional question marks over police brutality and a severe dispute with Mayor Bill De Blasio – not to mention over $15m paid out in compensation to victims’ families.

Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist, Nick Zimmer, 2013

The extent to which The Strokes’ legacy is a truly long term phenomena can be questioned, with much of today’s indie scene defined by experimental electronica rather than garage guitar, whether we’re talking MGMT, Metronomy, or Glass Animals, and to this end I would cite Yeah Yeah Yeahs as a more profound influence (it’s also worth noting that The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells was also released in 2001, without which I question whether we would have the blues rock success of The Black Keys or Cold War Kids). This owes a lot to the band’s adaptability, and their Muse-like evolution (not including Queenesque novelty wankiness) continued into 2013’s Mosquito, which switched the focus of their ‘sex and death’ quality from fantastical surrealism towards something a bit more alien and monsters, with a bit of gospel thrown into the opening track for good measure.

Karen O, meanwhile, is signed to Julian Casablancas’ aforementioned label, putting out 2014’s Bjork-in-a-well effort, Crush Songs, while guitar Nick Zinner formed a ‘noisegrind supergroup’ titled Head Wound City – and if you’d like to find out what noisegrind is, I would advise that it’s an acquired taste. Along with a few other noticeable one-off projects – her song for 2005’s Hello Tomorrow Adidas advert is a doozy, while the soundtrack she wrote to the Spike Jonze’s heart-tugger of a film, Where The Wild Things Are, is uplifting and moving in a kids music class kind of a way – Karen O’s personal fate contrasts nicely with the usual descent into drug-fuelled self-destruction that we often detail in Where Are They Now; she has been happily married to British film director Barnaby Clay since 2011, with their first son, Django, arriving in 2015, Karen proudly sharing his arrival on Instagram (pictured).

But as the US100 remains a primarily personal project, perhaps the most pertinent consideration when looking back on how things have evolved is to consider how these bands in many ways represent the end of a short lived era: in 2008, two years after moving to London for university with mp3 player very much in bag, Spotify was launched. Within half a decade, the way I and most others consume music would be dramatically transformed, almost the entire back catalogue of the planet’s recorded output opened up for the price of a couple of pints per month, with smartphones akin to mini-computers consigning the humble mp3 player to the dustbin of history. Now our relationship to discovering new music is one free of financial risk, our decision to access an artist’s output no longer an investment. To this end, these three albums are among a collective that represent the last of those who I would have initially consumed in a physical form, with a CD collection that once promised to number the thousands now frozen in time. (Spotify, meanwhile, has enabled the US100 to exist.)

One thing remains from those innocent years however – that first ever stereo hi-fi invoked at the start of our write up, a gift from my mother (who was also responsible for the first ever CDs played in it – Gorillaz’s 2000 debut album FYI), remains easily the best technological investment in my lifetime. Having been moved between some ten different properties, 16 years or so later it still sits proudly in the living room, now utilised more for AUX output than CD, but still producing wonderful clear sound with a distinct lack of wear and tear. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

* – Fraiture it should be added is my favourite member, simply for this quote from one interviewer which made me want to be him:
The interview over, Nikolai has one final thing to say. “The only way to understand The Strokes,” he stresses, “is to hang out with us. Keep up with us.” So, for the record, Nikolai sat drinking with friends until around 5.30am before wending his gracefully drunk way home where he sat up until 9am, sipping Bombay Sapphire with a beautiful young girl, teaching her to play chess.

Further learning

Trivia
It is said that Courtney Love counts Karen O among her enemies: allegedly Karen once accidentally shoved Courtney into a bowl of potato salad at a Texas music festival.

Watch

A great early 2000s rock n roll moment as fellow garage rock revivalist Jack White joins The Strokes on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 2002, with Julian Casablancas, hobbled by a broken leg, leading vocals from the comfort of a bar stool.

Times Square without the lights on

The video to Heads Will Roll, complete with suited wolfman dancing and Karen O decapitation, offers an insight into the creative surrealism of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Everything Is Illuminated (2005)
Super Taranta! aside, this is probably my favourite piece of post-Gypsy Punks Hütz output, released only a month after the album. Starring Elijah Wood as the lead alongside Hütz, this is an at-times-hilarious and at-times-painfully-sad story of comic mistranslations, Ukrainian-US cultural divergences, and sickening memories of Nazi atrocities.

Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
This relentless heartstring tugger, courtesy of Spike Jonze, is complemented fittingly by Karen O’s softer folkier side on the soundtrack. A sincere tribute to childlike imagination, this is a film that will make you feel sad for about 85% of the time; meanwhile the character voiced by James Galdafini, despite being a furry mythical animal with the innocent mentality of a toddler, still manages to resemble Tony Soprano on several occasions.

Read
The gentrification of New York City: a local perspective
“I’ve had so many friends move to the likes of Nashville or Portland or Austin … the absurd increase in cost has made it less accessible for so many.”

Not feeling qualified to comment on NYC gentrification from a suburban house in Surrey, I instead asked for the thoughts of Lauren Bowden, a teacher who currently resides in Brooklyn – the borough perhaps most associated with hipsterism and its affects.

Perspectives of a blackout
“You are running blind and and you are stuck. If you do something you’ll make things worse, but if you don’t do something it’ll continue to get worse. You argue with those around you, management shout that you need to do something … But ultimately you know there is not a single constructive thing you can do.”

One engineer forgets to restart a monitoring tool; 55 million people lose power; Gogol Bordello write great song. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of both the engineer and one of those 55 million – so I spoke to control systems engineer, Ranjit Chagar, and New York City resident (and the US100 podcast’s very own Fact Checker), Ethel Bessem.

The Musical Moron reviews Is This It by The Strokes 
“On the surface, there is a lot to like. … Look a little deeper and I couldn’t help but question the substance that sits behind the style. The album is designed to seem under-produced, conjuring up images of scrappy recording sessions in locales with enough derelict charm to foster authenticity. In reality, the whole enterprise feels a little sterile … The parts are definitely there but the sum, for me, leaves a little to be desired.”

As detailed in ‘How does it sound?’, despite being a fan I myself struggle with the ultra-reverence of this particular album, and it seems the Musical Moron agrees. Which leads one to question: it is us or they who are the real Morons?

‘Clayton Patterson’s Music Week’ – Vice, May 2013
“One of the beauties of the Lower East Side was the cross pollination of all the different kinds and layers of culture … Gentrification changed the concept … Instead of ideas, creating, gathering, brainstorming, experiments, making, traveling, and so on, everything became related to money.”

A glance at how gentrification affects the music scene in the neighbourhoods they transform, via the thoughts of Clayton Patterson, a photographer of the area for decades.

New York City Blackout 2003: Remembering The Power Outage 10 Years Later – Huffington Post, August 2013
Relive the blackout through the Huff Post’s very own photo gallery.

‘Putin’s Ukraine Push Causes Big Fight in Little Odessa’ – Newsweek, June 2014
“They want to fight, they want to pour out Russian vodka, protest on the Maidan, when they all have the same grandfathers. Having seen war, I would suggest a second opinion.”

A fascinating glimpse into how the Ukrainian conflict impacts upon immigrant communities in New York City.

NYU Furman Centre’s ‘Focus on Gentrification’ as part of 2015 report
The first chapter in a wider State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2015 report. Among other things, the Furman Centre concludes that gentrification has swept through two-thirds of New York City’s formerly low-income neighborhoods in the last decade and a half, that gentrifying neighborhoods saw an increase in white population (despite a citywide decrease) and a decrease in black population, and that the non-family household share increased in gentrifying neighborhoods and grew three times faster than in the city as a whole.

David Bowie’s secret recording studio ‘The Magic Shop’ closes after 28 years – The Independent, February 2016
Gentrification does not just affect communities and private residents, and this interview offers an insight into the impact of sky high rent increases on the music industry in New York City. Steve Rosenthal of The Magic Shop, a small independent music studio as featured in Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways series and where David Bowie chose to record his final two albums, explains how he has been forced to close its Soho doors due to the unsustainable cost of upkeep.

Listen
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta! (2007)
Spotify
YouTube
An utter tour de force of gypsy rock insanity. Bounce off the floor and soar the skies with Wonderlust King, have a Slavic mosh to Forces of Victory, direct your ears to the underground movement of Dub the Frequencies of Love, and give yourself a heart attack trying to dance to My Strange Uncles from Abroad. A true 5 star effort.

The Lonely Island feat. Julian Casablancas – Boombox (2009)
Spotify
YouTube
If you need 3 minutes mindless distraction from day-to-day life, you could do worse than this surreal comedy effort, with oddly enjoyable novelty Casablancas choruses.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Little Shadow (acoustic) (2009)
Spotify
YouTube
This gorgeous little bonus track from the It’s Blitz! deluxe edition highlights Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ versatility, orchestral strings blending with the soft comfort of Karen O’s vocals to produce something quite mesmerising.

Julian Casablancas – Ludlow St. (2009)
Spotify
YouTube

Faces are changing on Ludlow St. / Yuppies invading on Ludlow St. / Night life is raging on Ludlow St. / History’s fading.

Well look who has a song about gentrification. One of his more enjoyable solo efforts to boot, Julian reminds us that American Indian tribes were the first to be forced off this land by New York’s very first gentrifiers.

US100 interviews

The gentrification of New York City: a local perspective
“I’ve had so many friends move to the likes of Nashville or Portland or Austin … the absurd increase in cost has made it less accessible for so many.”

Not feeling qualified to comment on NYC gentrification from a suburban house in Surrey, I instead asked for the thoughts of Lauren Bowden, a teacher who currently resides in Brooklyn – the borough perhaps most associated with hipsterism and its affects.

Perspectives of a blackout
“You are running blind and and you are stuck. If you do something you’ll make things worse, but if you don’t do something it’ll continue to get worse. You argue with those around you, management shout that you need to do something … But ultimately you know there is not a single constructive thing you can do.”

One engineer forgets to restart a monitoring tool; 55 million people lose power; Gogol Bordello write great song. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of both the engineer and one of those 55 million – so I spoke to control systems engineer, Ranjit Chagar, and New York City resident (and the US100 podcast’s very own Fact Checker), Ethel Bessem. 

< Track 8

Track 12 >