Early 2000s pop culture is often defined by its proximity to the destruction of the World Trade Center. It’s hard to fully articulate how instantaneous the effects of the event were, but the moment shook the Earth in policies, societal mentalities, and of course pop culture. In the shadows of 9/11, a new scene emerged. Some called it garage rock, while others thought it was more disco infused. While Emo was still on the horizon, bands like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem conquered the world. Told with a series of interviews, Meet Me in the Bathroom delivers the origins of some of music’s most popular acts.
Based on the non-book of the same name by Elizabeth Goodman, filmmakers William Lovelace & Dylan Southern chronicle a rock and roll era. With grunge long gone, and hip-hop becoming aUnique from other films, Meet Me In the Bathroom gets buy-in from those who changed the scene. Figures like Karen O, James Murphy, and others deliver their testimony on the era.
Meet Me in the Bathroom does it’s best to let the footage collected speak for itself. However, there are excessive clips from interviews to tell the story. While this does create a Rashoman vibe to the history being told, it also opens the door to questions about the need for this documentary. This struggle, to both tell a history of an era already fully chronicled in the book, hurts the film’s ability to collect interesting moments.
In fact, some relationships that became messy through the release of the book leave us without some interesting narrators in the documentary. People like Ryan Adams, who became a critic of the book and those who spoke out about his role in the scene, is almost absent. That is not to say that the filmmakers could not find footage and interviews depicting his action, but there’s less information than could have been compiled if he’d agreed to interview. Julian Casablancas does little to contribute as well, leaving two of the stars of the book out of the documentary.
Unlike their last team-up with LCD on Shut Up and Play the Hits, Lovelace & Southern are unable to distill the feeling of being a fan of the scene into the doc. Instead, we are focused on immortalizing a scene that is still very active. In the past few years alone, Karen O, The Strokes, and LCD Soundsystem have made somewhat big returns. While this one will be rewatchable for fans of the bands (like myself), it does little to offer an olive branch to those who know little about this scene. Dropping discussions of bands like Moldy Peaches and Interpol only highlights the problems. Ultimately, this is a doc meant for fans of these bands, but if you do not already life and breath this history, you’ll find yourself wanting more.