Review Summary: The best album of the post-punk revival.
So with news surfacing of a Strokes comeback and new album, I feel it necessary to give a review of the album that put them in the public eye in the first place. While I only recently discovered this album, i'm going to give a few details about it's history, for those who are in the same position I was. This was released in 2001 to almost universal acclaim, and generated a fairly large hype bubble which this album, at least, lived up to. Their next two efforts, while good in their own right, weren't nearly as consistent as this, nor did they show much expansion on the bands songwriting formula (although, they both still contained a few gems to equal the gems on this record, I would still reccomend getting them if you don't mind skipping the occasional average track). But anyway, this was the album that basically set the wheels in motion for the post-punk revival scene, still pretty prominent to this day, although The Strokes themselves have somewhat faded away, as they went on indefinite hiatus in 2006. They are working on a comeback album as we speak, and if they do something like this again (although that would be a difficult feat indeed), they could perhaps achieve the status they initially seemed destined to acquire.
Anyways, the record as a whole is a confident, memorable effort. It contains both blazing indie anthems, such as the instantly recognisable and memorable "Last Nite", catchy yet expertly crafted songs such as "Someday", and "Hard to Explain", and atmospheric songs such as "Trying your Luck". The music in general follows formula, but they rarely repeat their ideas and and as a result, even though the band can be easily labelled "indie rock" with no real differentiating characteristics, they still have enough variety and identity to keep things interesting throughout. The guitar riffs are simple, yet memorable and well crafted. There are a few interesting solos, but for the most part the band's main focus is to make interesting, memorable songs, rather than comitting to flashy musicianship, while still retaining the instrumental parts and licks. This pays off on virtually every track, as you are never left thinking "yeah, that was good, but a little more ____" would have been nice.
Perhaps the most recognisable (if subtle) element to the bands sound is Julian Casablancas' vocal style. On most tracks, he keeps things fairly low range and quiet, yet still manages to get his melodies stuck in your head. It sounds so effortless, and fits with the music perfectly. His lyrics, while hardly profound, are extremely well written. The topic of choice throughout is his social and sex life (which may be why this album rang so heavily with the public - rather than focusing on something abrasive, The Strokes just wrote about ***ing girls, failed relationships and nights outs). This means that for most people the album isn't going to exactly hit any emotional buttons lyrically (we all love clubs and nights out, but if it's your main interest in life, you should probably get some new hobbies), but this album definitely beats out just about any i've heard for feel-good anthems and catchyness. It's almost too
memorable, the songs becoming ingrained on your subconcious after repeated listens.
So what is it that seperates this from the albums of all the other post-punk revival bands playing the same style? Well, for one, this album is the main reason there is even interest in those bands and probably a blueprint for their initial sounds. While those bands no longer need to rely on The Strokes popularity to keep interest in them, they are certainly only getting recognition because Is This It brough the style into fashion. Secondly, the melodies here are quite simply (and I know I keep mentioning this) much much catchier and better written than anything else you'll hear of the genre. It sounds effortlessly so, but it's clear that they spent a lot of time working on the arrangements to make everything fit together so potently. Thirdly, the production on this captures the bands sound perfectly - the band clearly realised this and decided to almost replicate it for their next effort, "Room on Fire" (Hear Reptilia before this if you want to check the band out, by the way - it's not on Is This It but it's definitely my vote for the band's best song). And lastly, the band simply knew exactly who they were and what they were doing. I simply haven't many records with more pure identity than Is This It.
With musical styles, you'll find that the innovators are almost always also the best bands of the bunch. And while no, The Strokes weren't the first band to play their style, they certainly were the first band to play it in the modern age (no pun intended, however that is a great song). Thinking of getting into indie rock? (indie rock as the NME would call it, or as you would think when you think of.. Well, a band like The Strokes). Look no further than this album. It's a modern day classic (obviously it's not quite perfect, but it's still definitely influential and potent enough to be called a classic). Almost anyone could enjoy this, and if you don't, you needn't look any further into the genre. Because this is the best album of the post-punk revival, and one of the best of the decade.