Updated: Jun 6
Is This It, the debut album from The Strokes, is an undeniable classic that helped to define the sound of early 2000s indie rock. From the first notes of the opening track Is This It, the album sets the tone with its raw, energetic guitar riffs and Julian Casablanca's distinctively drawling vocals. It's a sound that has influenced countless bands since its release in 2001 most notably the Arctic Monkeys, but there's still something really special about the original.
The record features a number of standout tracks, including Someday, a perfectly crafted pop-rock gem with an irresistible chorus that begs to be sung along to. The song features the band's signature interplay between guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr., with their interlocking riffs and solos creating a sound that is both intricate and instantly catchy.
Commercially speaking, the true highlight from the album is Last Nite, the band's breakout single that still sounds fresh and exciting more than two decades later. The song's propulsive rhythm, catchy guitar riff, and Casablancas's snarling vocal delivery made it an instant classic, and it's no wonder that it helped to catapult the band to fame.
But the album is far from a two-hit wonder. Tracks like Hard to Explain, Barely Legal and Take It or Leave It showcase the band's versatility and songwriting prowess, with each song featuring its own distinctive hook and memorable melody. And even the slower, more introspective tracks like Trying Your Luck and Soma have a timeless quality that speaks to the album's enduring appeal. This is of course with great help from the guitar forward nature of The Strokes, a quality embraced by indie rock pioneers like The Pixies, and Pavement.
All in all, Is This It is a masterpiece of its time, and its influence can still be felt in indie rock and beyond. It's an album that rewards repeated listens, with each spin revealing new layers of nuance and meaning. If you haven't listened to it in a while, now is the time to revisit this classic record and remind yourself why it remains a timeless masterpiece. Even some of the initial intricate criticisms of the record such as it's somewhat lo-fi production quality, or overreliance on the sounds of it's Velvet Underground influence have simply just added to the greatness of the album. A strong case could be made that this is the finest indie rock album post 2000 alongside the debut album by Vampire Weekend, or Between the Bright Lights by Interpol but between you and me, I think The Strokes take the cake.