The Strokes are an American pop-rock outfit who have been in the music industry for just over 15 years, perhaps taking the crown alongside Arctic Monkeys as the kings of indie music. When they released this debut album ‘Is This It’ in 2001 the band went from relative unknowns to global names thanks to upbeat bounce hits such as ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Someday’ and they’re perhaps best loved for the style of music they delivered. With Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi playing dual roles with electric guitar they became a legendary duo who created some of this century’s most memorable riffs. Partner that with a cool, stylish and edgy lead singer with a fantastic rock and roll voice (Julian Casablancas) and you have one hell of a band, not to mention Julian had one of the best names on planet Earth.
Is This It – 9/10
The title track is often the one they start their headline shows with and it is plain to see why with it’s steady start and gradual instrumental build up as they individually add different aspects of the band the further the song goes on, starting with a slow drum beat before adding the first guitar which compliments the drums well before Julian comes in and adds such a calming influence on the track. The bass and the second guitar’s inclusion make this song very well-rounded and create a glorious sounding band in the end, particularly the bass riff which is full of funk.
The Modern Age – 9.5/10
Plenty more energy here let me reassure you. The drums are frequent and the guitars sound crisp and clean as the song builds into the verse. Once again, you feel encapsulated by Julian when he begins to sing and it is such a phenomenal trait for him to have, baring in mind he was in his early 20’s when this was recorded and came out. Immense talent on display in the guitar solo which shreds very hard alongside the typical clockwork sound of the rest of the band and the solo seems to prompt an increase in tone and volume for Julian who suddenly seems to sing with more urgency about a summer love affair “in the sun, sun, having fun” which is a quirky and happy line. One of the album’s best tracks for sure.
Soma – 9/10
The guitar riff is sweet and slick and kind of takes centre stage to begin with but once Julian raises the volume he shows how great of a rock singer he is by demonstrating that brilliant range he has without losing control of the song’s tune and atmosphere. The whole song just puts a smile on your face even if the song title is quite confusing, I still to this day don’t know what ‘Soma’ is but I won’t complain if this is the sort of quality it produces. I can guarantee you that after listening to this song you’ll have the riff stuck in your head it is just so catchy it borders upon obsessive.
Barely Legal – 10/10
Very unique sound to this one and it is tracks like this that made The Strokes such a huge hit so quickly, nobody sounded like them for the simple reason that nobody had the ability to sound like them. Everyone was just simply brilliant at what they do and this song demonstrates it better than ever, the guitar riff seems fairly subtle until that crazy lick in the first pre-chorus which is just beautiful, it’s like a drug. Julian sounds better than he ever will do on this song, especially about half way through the song where he steps up and makes the song his own while allowing the band to take a back seat and watch him go. The lyrics are very witty regarding the love of this girl who may be out of his reach for whatever reason, perhaps it’s her sister, who Julian says in the song he “doesn’t give a fuck” about? Who knows. One thing we do know is that this song is bloody brilliant and it takes some serious skill to play those instruments like that.
Someday – 11/10
My love for this song knows no bounds, a simply timeless piece of music and that opening drum beat will be the soundtrack of my life I am sure of it. It is literally impossible to pick a fault with this song and lord knows I have listened to it enough to try. That is probably the greatest strength of it, I have never once tired of it, even after hundreds of listens it sounds as enjoyable and as good as it did the very first time I heard it, that’s a rarity for me as well. The verse sounds like a chorus the lyrics are that memorable, the whole song makes you feel warm inside and just makes you want to get up and dance, the words’ meanings are strong and passionate, flawless.
Alone, Together – 10/10
Another memorable riff thanks to Albert and Nick who seem to create these in their sleep there’s that many of them that I can remember. It is very easy to get lost in the wonderful world of that guitar riff and completely forget that other things are going on, such as a brilliant supporting bass riff and a masterful vocal performance from Julian where he tells the tale of rushing into a relationship with a girl and the dangers of taking things too quickly and getting caught up in the moment. It is a very clever concept indeed and makes for very intriguing and above all, pleasant listening when you hear it back.
Last Nite – 10/10
You’ve all heard this one and if you haven’t then please direct me to the cave you have been living in as this is without doubt one of the most well-received and cherished indie anthems there has been, whether it be the progressive riff or the rasp of the first line of the song, everyone should know and love this track. There’s not a lot that can be said about it that hasn’t already but in terms of my own opinion I would describe it as the first day of spring, or the summer smell of freshly cut grass, it brings back so many memories of youth and enjoyment and that is what The Strokes will carry with themselves for so many people, not just myself. Probably their most recognisable song and there’s no prizes for guessing why that is and long may this be played at every indie night across the globe.
Hard To Explain -10/10
The first single they ever released and wow what a way to announce yourselves, it is also the title of the EP they handed to record labels in an attempt to get signed. Anyone who would’ve turned them down after hearing a track like this needs to leave the music industry at once because for a first single this is special, it has all the credentials of a band who are destined to great things and they have duly delivered. I absolutely love the pace and the overlapping in the chorus where the whole thing just seems to fall beautifully into place. The song is about breaking up with someone and all the dramas that follow, trying to prove you aren’t a bad person despite the mistakes you make, explained brilliantly in the “I say the right things but act the wrong way” line. What a belter of a tune this is.
New York City Cops -9/10
A bit deeper of a guitar riff to start things off and the vocal is muttered more than usual but once the song really kicks in it is stunning the way they just click instantly into that upbeat mode again with the high-pitched guitar riffs and the elongated vocals. Even the chorus which literally just repeats the song’s title is so catchy and what follows is a fantastic guitar solo courtesy of Albert Hammond Jr and we thank him dearly for that piece of heaven to our ears. The pre-chorus has a stunning piece of guitar and bass playing where they link together in fantastic harmony without drowning each other out. The song is just fantastically advanced and shows the skill set they all have.
Trying Your Luck -9/10
This song is brought in very nicely by the previous one as the guitar riffs seem to follow suit for the most part and stick to a similar format but the drums are a bit quicker and more distinct which I think is a good thing to help create that well-rounded band sound The Strokes are so renowned for. The lyrics are fairly hard-hitting too as it seems like Julian is begging either for forgiveness or for an initial chance with this girl but deep down knows he isn’t going to get what he wants. The lyrics are very sad which juxtaposes the riff of the guitar which sounds so clean and innocent to imply everything is okay, perhaps papering over the cracks of Julian’s true emotions and feelings. Strong stuff if you look deep enough into it but it’s a bloody good song regardless of the deep analysis.
Take It Or Leave It -9.5/10
Stunning way to end the album and you can hear yourself singing the words to the chorus before a word has even been muttered thanks to that guitar riff which is a brilliant skill to possess and once the chorus does start, no matter how often you listen to the song, the severity of Julian’s pitch and tone still takes you by surprise as he opens the grenade pin and unleashes his emotion onto the microphone while screaming the song’s title a few times. I like how with this change in speed from Julian is matched in perfect co-ordination by the drummer who kicks it into overdrive in an instant. A fantastic way to end a fantastic album, really.
This album just doesn’t have a weakness, at all. It is the most fresh and original album you will have heard in years and that is 16 years after it’s release so imagine how trendy it would have sounded back in 2001. It’s an album full of classic hits, classic riffs and classic memories that are attached to the band’s stigma and that much is enough to give this album the highest possible form of praise. In case you hadn’t noticed already, I have a slight man crush on Julian Casablancas and probably rank him alongside Jesus Christ as the coolest JC there has ever been.