the cover is a psychedelic photograph of subatomic particles in a bubble chamber

The Strokes: Is This It Album Review

By Paris Foster
Music Journalist

In the early 2000s, a figure hung around the streets of New York City smoking cigarettes and drinking 40s. With two glazed eyes, unkempt hair, and a post-punk leather jacket, this individual represented The Strokes. Everyone wanted to be one….

Arguably the most important plural indie rock band of their time, (i.e The White Stripes, The Killers, The Arctic Monkeys, etc.) The Strokes obtained much of their critical acclaim through the seminal, Is This It debut.

With the release of their first album, the indie collective offered a fresh take on rock music. Citing direct sonic influence through post-punk bands of the 70’s such as Television, The BuzzCocks and the proto alternative Velvet Underground.

With producer Gordon Raphael, frontman Julian Casablancas wanted to sound as “if a band from the past took a time trip into the future to make a record.” This explains some of the band’s epithets such as the minimalist lo-fi production, twin-headed guitar attack and fizzy vocals that run straight through the tracklist.

At first, the band’s US label was critical of the production owed to Raphael, stating it was “crappy and unprofessional and [he] was ruining Julian’s voice.” The label proved to be wrong in their belief that The Strokes’ unconventionality wouldn’t reap success.  

Not long after its release, the album found huge success with several different critics and album sales. Rolling Stone included it at number 199 in its updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list and it has since gone platinum in the United States and 2x platinum in the U.K.

Part of what makes this album so special is its deceptively masterful songwriting. Nearly every song features fresh instrumentation that provides a “push and pull” for the listener.

This push and pull can only be achieved through an effective relationship between the rhythm, melody, lyrics and dynamics that in turn, make for an album with virtually no skips.

The harmony between these musical facets provides for material that can be listened to multiple times, even after 20 years. The songs still retain a catchy greased shine.

In addition to the raw and exciting instrumentation, the lyricism and melodies by frontman Julian Casablancas encapsulate all the emotion attributed to a late-night party in the middle of New York City.

With searing highs such as “Last Nite” and “The Modern Age,” to introspective whirs such as “‘Hard To Explain” and “Is This It,” too rough morning-afters such as “Soma” and “Trying Your Luck,” this album is simply well put.

Lastly, what ultimately brought success to this album were the loveable characters that put it all together.

All of The Strokes: Julian Casablancas (vocals), Albert Hammond Jr. (guitar), Nick Valensi (guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), and Fabrizio Moretti (drums), had not only the coolest names but the coolest style out of anyone coming out of the 2000’s rock scene.

Immediately after their debut, haircuts got shaggier, thrift stores got more crowded, and guitars became cool again because everyone wanted to be like The Strokes.

Featured image via Is This It album cover.

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