Footage of The Strokes playing “Take It or Leave It” from MTV2’s Two Dollar Bill concert is used in the video. Amongst stock footage, the video contains clips from Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider (both of which are credited), a clip from the film Brainstorm, a commercial for the 1970 Dodge Charger 500 (scene of a woman sitting in a car), a clip from the film WarGames, NASA footage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in orbit, the rocket engine firing of the Saturn V and image of particle tracks in a bubble chamber (which forms the American album cover for Is This It). Some of the stock footage was taken from the film Koyaanisqatsi, which was presented by Francis Ford Coppola. (according to Wikipedia)
I almost wasn’t going to write about “Hard To Explain”. But it’s one of my favorite songs, and it felt wrong not to talk about it. It’s so clean and orderly sounding - they’ve often been described as having a metronomic sound - which is something you can really hear here. It’s very precise. And yet the lyrics, by contrast, are messy, disorganized, chaotic. All of these things that are wrong and difficult about life is packaged together into this neat, clean soundtrack.
Something that comes across to me in this song is how much of it is about trying. “Saying the right things but act the wrong way”, “pretend to be nice so I can be mean” - it’s full of contradictions. You’re sort of meandering around, trying to act like a human being the way you are supposed to, but feeling like you’ve been shortchanged somehow. You’re trying to convince yourself, as well as everyone around you, that you aren’t like them at all.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a naiveté to this thought process. It really worked for me in high school because I was convinced that I was the same way - I was different, I wasn’t going to be like the rest. It’s a superior attitude, one I’ve thankfully grown out of. Now I just hear a lot of desperation and loneliness in this song. At times, it sounds like a break up song. But what are you breaking up with? A dead end relationship? Society? Your past? Where are you going from here? I just want to put this song on repeat and take a long road trip, never looking back.