Music Article

Arcade game inspires the Strokes

When lead singer Julian Casablancas saw the ''Centipede'' image while at Drew Barrymore's house, he thought it'd make great cover art for ''Reptilia''

Videogame junkies don't have much occasion to thank Drew Barrymore, but they'll get an opportunity after seeing the cover of the Strokes' latest single, ''Reptilia.'' The artwork, which depicts a hostile-looking alien insectoid, is taken from the cabinet of the trackball-tastic Atari arcade classic Centipede. ''Drew has [the game] at her place,'' says Julian Casablancas, the band's mush-mouthed lead singer. ''It's such a cool image. I saw it on the side of the machine and said, 'Hey, look -- it's Reptilia. [The cover's] done!'''

The 50 First Dates star is, of course, the current main muffin of floppy-haired drummer Fabrizio Moretti, who, it must be noted, was born just months before Atari released Centipede in late 1980. Casablancas himself was only 2, a fact that might lead older vidiots to sigh at his decision to use an image that much of his ironic-T-shirt-wearing fan base won't even recognize. By his own admission, it's not for love of the game. ''I die so easily,'' he says. ''I'm just not so good at it, you know?'' (He claims to be ''pretty damn good'' at Golden Tee, however.) The rationale lies somewhere in this inscrutable statement: ''There are always so many different parts in a song that it's like some indistinct monster. The image sort of matched. It just all made sense. So why fight it?''

One would think that there would be countless pop-music shout-outs via cover art to the hugely popular -- not to mention visually driven -- videogame industry. But ''Reptilia'' turns out to be just one of very few: A familiar dot-chomper adorned Buckner & Garcia's 1982 novelty album, Pac-Man Fever; the Who posed in front of Atari's Space Duel on the front of their 1982 album, It's Hard; and the cover of Redman's 1998 album, Doc's Da Name 2000, depicted a Mario look-alike (wearing blue overalls, Timberlands, and a red ski cap) busting through a brick wall. Given the rarity of such geek-friendly ephemera, might the Strokes have found a way to broaden their appeal? ''I wasn't thinking about demographics,'' says Casablancas, before reconsidering. ''But now that I think about it, maybe. Someone who loves Centipede more than anything might be like, 'What the hell is this?' and buy it.''

Originally posted May 14, 2004 Published in issue #765 May 14, 2004 Order article reprints
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