Bathroom Reading: Documentary of NYC’s indie-rock scene will send you back to the literary source

Meet Me In the Bathroom, the documentarized version of Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral archive of the late ’90s/early aughts trajectory of New York rock ‘n’ roll revivalists like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Interpol, and LCD Soundsystem, though impressive for the sheer scale of its “you had to be there” found footage, might be better served as a visual companion to the book.

Outside of Goodman’s brief introduction, the book contained not a word of her own conjecture; 500+ pages put together as if she’d scissored up each and every sentence from the dozens (if not hundreds) of interviews she’d transcribed of NYC’s indie scene insiders, dumped them on her kitchen table, and spliced them together. 

Contrastingly, the film, while staying true to that DIY, cut-and-paste aesthetic, seems firmly set on directing the narrative. 

Arguably the last true generation of analog music-makers, the focus of the film inexplicably drifts away from this remarkable feat, and instead, 9/11 reappears prominently throughout as a running motif. 

Napster gets more page time in the book (for the record, most of these bands were pro-pirating) and the terrorist attack, while tragic, was never really a musically defining event for those at the centre of this epoch of music history. Many of the best and brightest of this generation had already written and recorded — if not released — what would be the peak of their creative output well before the ball had even dropped on Y2K.

Some bands express disbelief over 9/11 throughout the film — but their grief is noticeably more palpable mere moments later as they lament the loss of “the scene” due to gentrification, commercialization, and their own personal self-destruction. 

A 9/11 remembrance service is given more screen time than Albert Hammond Jr’s near Strokes-destroying descent into drug addiction — and no mention at all of the Strokes’ New York City Cops controversy appears in the film — the one song that actually linked the two events together. 

The beauty, though, of a film like this is the stunning amount of archival and found footage — particularly because without the immediacy of camera phones and the instant validation of social media, few people would have even thought to document the vibrancy of what was happening around them at the time. 

And few people would’ve been sober enough to do so. 

As Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson says, “I would say to those guys, ‘Are you sure you wanna get wasted? You don’t want to remember how cool this is?’ ”

Meet Me In the Bathroom screens Nov. 24 at the Globe Cinema as part of CUFF.Docs.