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100 Albums: "Is This It" by The Strokes


Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: The Strokes
Title: Is This It (US Version)
Released: 2001
Genre: lo-fi garage rock


The early aughts were a confused time for rock. Grunge had died out, and while nu-metal was everywhere, it wasn't for everyone. There was a pop-rock-shaped hole in the musical discourse for people who liked rock, missed the fun side of alternative, and felt alienated by thrash-rap. Enter New York City's own The Strokes, the band that ushered in the garage rock revival that brought to prominence a whole host of acts name The [plural noun]. Their debut, Is This It was an immediate hit in the UK on its late summer release. It was scheduled to come out in October in the US with different cover art and a last-minute song swap following the September 11 attacks. The song New York City Cops was dropped and replaced with When It's Started.

Is This It has a raw energy to it. It bounces, grooves, and bops along for thirty-six minutes, relying mostly on a simply two-guitar rock formula, occasionally with drums that feel more like a loop than a player. But apart from the metronome drums and the distortion on singer Julian Casablanca's vocals, it's a very stripped down rock record. No synth pads or string sections or those little "ear candy" frills that you don't notice on contemporary rock/pop records until you know about them and then you see them everywhere. (Quick aside: next time you hear a rock song with the word "shaking" in the lyrics, listen to see if it's immediately followed by the sound of a literal shaker.) The standout track is the single Last Nite but the entire thing is listenable pop that sticks in your head.

Further Listening: The Strokes are still around, but I honestly don't listen to any of their other music. The follow-up Room On Fire is solidly meh and while I liked Juice Box from First Impressions Of Earth, it was quite a sonic departure. I haven't really followed them since.

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