Is This It
Released: July 30, 2001
Peak: 33 US, 2 UK, 50 CN, 5 AU
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.05 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: garage rock revival
Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by Julian Casablancas.
Total Running Time: 36:28
4.231 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)
Quotable: “A pop version of the Velvet Underground with totally 21st-century lyrics,” ZS it was “crucial in the development of other alternative bands and of the post-millennial music industry.” – Wikipedia.org
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
“If there’s one album…[from the 21st century] you could say ‘saved’ rock and roll, this might be it.” GL “When Y2K arrived, MTV VJs and saccharine-pop enthusiasts told us rock ’n’ roll was dead. But then, out of nowhere, came this back-to-basics guitar-driven record made by five leather-clad hipsters (before that was a thing).” GQ Rolling Stone’s Joe Levy said their debut album was “the stuff of which legends are made” WK while NME’s John Robinson called it “one of the best debut LPs by a guitar band during the past 20 years.” WK
“The Strokes didn’t so much pick it up off the floor but rather thrashed around in the gutter a bit, and aside from the rhythmic brilliance that splashing about in the mire produced, they very importantly made it cool again.” FO “The Strokes took the world by storm with their underground and lo-fi sensibilities, paving the way for bands like The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs to take their similar sounds right to the top of the music world.” GL
“It takes a keen eye on culture and a depth of originality to seize the seething passions of youth, thrives on naïve recklessness, colour it in the sound of the New York rock music that inspired you in the first place, and make the sort of art that usurps the status quo and spawns a new generation of its own.” FO
These “mod ragamuffins” RS “mixed Velvet Underground grime and skinny-tie New Wave jangle” RS with “late-‘70s New York punk.” AMG The music was “sometimes acidic, always full of great melody,” RS and marked by “off-kilter guitar solos,” EW “primitive tom-tom rhythms (shades of the Velvets’ Moe Tucker),” EW and “an insistently chugging backbeat.” AMG On top of it all were the “raw, world-weary” AMG and “half-buried vocals (à la ‘Louie, Louie’)” EW and “attitude-heavy slurring” EW of singer Julian Casablancas.
The Strokes intentionally sought out “the raw, muddy sonics of garage-band 45s.” EW Casablancas said they wanted to sound like “a band from the past that took a time trip into the future to make their record.” WK Electronica duo Daft Punk said the Strokes “followed in the footsteps of the Velvet Underground, Television, Suicide, the Ramones, and Blondie, creating the fresh, distinctive sound we’d been waiting for over a decade.” GQ THe Strokes updated “the propulsion of the Velvet Underground and the jangle of Seventies punk with Casablancas’ acidic dispatches mixed to the fore and ringed with distortion like he was singing from a pay phone.” RS’20 However, “the Strokes don’t rehash the sounds that inspire them,” AMG but “remake them in their own image.” AMG
“They inspired a ragged revolt in Britain, led by the Libertines and Arctic Monkeys.” RS’11 The Strokes became “the most hyped band [in the UK] since Oasis in the mid 1990s,” TB the New Musical Express “placed the Strokes at the head of its ‘new rock revolution.’” TB In response, “haters threw whatever they had at them” SY scoffing that these scruffy posers were actually straight out of “the exclusive Dwight School in Manhattan” TB and decked out in “expensive leather and denim.” SY However, “the Strokes prove to be one of the few groups deserving of their glowing reviews.” AMG This was “the rare case where the advance buzz was warranted.” EB Is This It showcased a band that was more than just a handful of pretty faces and privileged New York City brats.” PM The band’s “daily twelve-hour practices are…blindingly evident” SY on an album marked by “unfussy arrangements and skillful approach to pop songcraft.” PM “As it stands, the hype proved well deserved” PM as the Strokes “surpassed all expectations with the release of this instant garage-rock classic.” EB “The measure of it now is that it’s just about the work of the century where many people listen to the whole album more often than a single song from it.” FO
“Is This It”
The subject matter behind their songs “reflected their own early-twenties lust for life” AMG and made “the timeworn themes of sex, drugs, and rock & roll and the basic guitars-drum-bass lineup seem new and vital again.” AMG The title track “sets the joys of being young, jaded, and yearning to a wonderfully bouncy bassline.” AMG It also “features a simple, metronomic drum line, a recurring feature in the rest of the record. Containing one of the slowest tempos, Is This It is the Strokes attempt at a ballad.” WK
“The Modern Age”
“The band mix swaggering self-assurance with barely concealed insecurity on The Modern Age,” AMG “a rant about the oddness fo modern life.” WK It “includes a prominent guitar riff accompanied by a complementary drum line. Its staccato verse is followed by an upbeat, singalong chorus and a technically difficult guitar solo.” WK
The band “reveal something akin to earnestness on Barely Legal,” AMG which “concerns the subject matter of a girl who has just arrived at the age of consent.” WK It also “containes some of the album’s softer guitar melodies inspired by Britpop as well as drumming patterns that evoke the sound of primitive 1980s drum machines.” WK
“Alone Together” / “Trying Your Luck”
“Alone, Together continues the sexual theme by dropping hints about cunnilingus” WK and is “driven by a staccato rhythm, and climaxes first with a guitar solo, then a repeat of the central guitar hook.” WK That song and “Trying Your Luck develop the group's brooding, coming-down side.” AMG The latter is “the album’s mellowest point…and shows more melancholic vocals.” WK
Last Nite is another “guitar-driven song, but leans towards pop music influences. At its core, there are reggae-inspired rhythm guitar lines played by Hammond, and studio noise effects. The rhythm section plays simple interlocking notes and beats.” WK
“Hard to Explain” / “Soma”
The Strokes combine “their raw power and infectious melodies on Hard to Explain, arguably the finest song they've written in their career.” AMG “Explain” and Soma both contain “processed drum tracks using dynamic range compression and equalization studio techniques to make them sound like a drum machine.” WK The latter “incorporates jerky rhythms and starts and ends with the same guitar and drum chimes.” WK
“New York City Cops”
“Explain” and New York City Cops incorporate “spliced ad-libbing extras from Casablancas.” WK The latter is a “pastiche of rock band Aerosmith,” WK which also “revamps [Iggy Pop’s] ‘Lust for Life.’” AMG “
“Someday” / “Take It or Leave It”
Meanwhile, “Someday “is infused with rockabilly elements and interlocking guitar lines, …a recurrent element of Is This It.” WK That song and “Take It or Leave It capture the Strokes at their most sneeringly exuberant,” AMG both managing to “overcome the muddy, low-budget production.” EW The latter “is the only song in which Hammond used the bridge pickup of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.” WK
Notes: Despite being New York-based, the Strokes’ Is This It was released in the U.K. a month earlier than in the U.S. In between, New York’s World Trade Center towers were destroyed by terrorists and the less than flattering New York City Cops was pulled in favor of B-side When It Started. In addition, the initial cover photograph was deemed too sexualy explicit for the U.S. market and replaced with a “microscopic close-up of particle collisions.” WK
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First posted 3/29/2008; last updated 4/28/2022.