Here's the problem with "Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011," Lizzy Goodman's oral history of the indie revival that included the Strokes, Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem and so on: it's exclusionary as hell. (Yeah, I know the book came out a year ago — I have small children, so it's a wonder I had time to read it at all.)
There's plenty about the book that is fascinating for fans of pop culture. Goodman traces the backstory into the mid- to late-'90s, long before hipsters had discovered Brooklyn, when the New York City rock scene in Manhattan was pretty barren. It's also a unique account of what was happening in music right as the bottom fell out of the record industry. Plus, for me, it was a slice of recent history that I lived through and was, very peripherally, part of: I was writing about a lot of those bands at the time, but being in Hartford at the Courant, I didn't get to see many of them unless they came through Connecticut. (I saw the Strokes open for the Rolling Stones in Hartford in 2002, and caught a phenomenal Mooney Suzuki show at Toad's Place in New Haven in 2003, where two of the musicians ended the show riding around on each other's shoulders, chicken-fight-style).
On the other hand, "Meet Me in the Bathroom" derives much of its coolness from the sense of scarcity at the heart of the story. Sure, anyone can download "Turn on the Bright Lights" or "Is This It," and hear the music. But the concept that underpins the book is how small, tight and communal the New York City scene was in those days, and unless you were one of the 38 regulars drinking with the Strokes at 2A on the Lower East Side during a six-month stretch in 2000, you missed it all and it's never coming back sorry not sorry. And since then, I often have the sense that latter-day indie-rock is too often fueled by striving to capture that feeling, to re-create some latter-day version of that scene. After Manhattan, it was Williamsburg, and then Montreal, and then Portland, and then Nashville, and kind of Denver, and then the Internet made the whole notion of a local scene outdated.
Also, and maybe this is naive, it was dismaying at how large a role drugs played. Whoever wasn't into needle drugs was doing coke, which sort of undercuts the whole notion of creative ferment: was Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. into music to make music, or because it was a permissive lifestyle that let him be an addict? For that matter, was Interpol bassist Carlos Dengler into music to make music, or because it made it easier to have tons of skeevy sex? Maybe the answer in either case is "both," but it's pretty clear from reading "Meet Me in the Bathroom" that drugs had deleterious effects on intra-band relationships. It's also clear that what now seem like outdated gender norms were still the rule. With the exception of Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O and Eleanor Friedberger, men were the rock stars and women were the fans/nurturers/enablers (though some of the women were also journalists writing about the scene). It would be refreshing to read about some of the women musicians who came up around the edges of that scene, like St. Vincent or Sahara Hotnights or the Donnas. None of them were in New York at the time, but neither were the Hives or Franz Ferdinand, and they're represented.
Ultimately, maybe reading "Meet Me in the Bathroom" is a fair representation of the New York-centric indie scene at the time: it was exciting, but also frustrating, and there was certainly room for improvement. At least the music was great.