The Strokes – Is This It

The Strokes – Is This It

5/5

2001

Although it didn’t have quite the same success or impact, The Strokes’ debut, Is This It, played a similar role in the 2000s that Nevermind did in the ’90s. Like Nirvana’s breakthrough album, Is This It brought mainstream attention to a strain of underground rock, profoundly affecting the direction and attitude of American and British guitar rock for the following decade. The brilliance of the album isn’t that it is visionary—it’s that it sounds startlingly fresh, revitalizing rock mainstays like sex, drugs and the power of the catchy guitar riff. Adopting the effortless New York cool of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges and marrying it to CBGBs punk and new wave, the Strokes, on paper, sound like they could get by on image alone. In actuality, Julian Casablancas put his own unique spin on these influences and wrote a supremely satisfying set of songs, each of them teeming with so much sneering wordplay and so many indelible hooks, the album plays like a greatest hits compliation. “Last Nite” has rightfully become a modern rock staple; the supremely melodic “Hard To Explain” and “Someday,” with their instantly memorable guitar lines, are two of the band’s finest moments; the chugging “The Modern Age” and woozy title track propel themselves forward with the airtight rhythm section of bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fab Moretti, and Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, Jr. establish themselves as an astonishing guitar duo on the rampaging closer “Take It Or Leave It.” And though Casablancas largely limits himself to writing about dysfunctional relationships, he has a knack for writing clever, stylish one-liners, which are nearly as vital to the songs as his world-weary, Lou Reed-esque singing, itself one of the most widely imitated vocal styles of the 2000s. Though the Strokes later continued to grow and diversify, they would never again recreate the exuberance of Is This It.

[Note: As a show of respect after the September 11th attacks, the Strokes replaced “New York City Cops” with the nearly-as-excellent “When It Started” on the U.S. edition of the album.]

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Posted on November 5, 2011, in The Strokes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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