The Strokes
Is This It


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kiet Truong USER (18 Reviews)
May 26th, 2012 | 30 replies | 2,789 views


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Though it's not the classic many make it out to be, The Strokes debut effort is very, very good and is still their defining effort.

6 of 6 thought this review was well written

The Strokes, led by Julian Casablancas, came onto the music scene with this album in 2001 and absolutely blew everyone away. Their wonderfully simple 70s throwback sound, filled with catchy guitar lines, seduced both fans and critics alike, leading it to be named in a majority of the best of the decade lists released by many critics. While it is indeed a very enjoyable listen, it’s not quite the classic that many claim it to be, for there are simply too many flaws.

While the brilliance of the album may have surprised many, if one looked hard enough, he could see many indicators of the storm of popularity that the band created. Once the band released their EP “The Modern Age”, a massive bidding war began for the band, one of the biggest in recent memory. This was probably lost on many people, which adds to the surprise of this album being brilliant. The surprise could have something to do with why people are so quick to love this album. They hear the songs, are shocked at how simple and enjoyable the music is, and over-rate the album as a result. They become attached to the album, and by the time they have listened to it enough to a point where they should notice the flaws of the album, it’s too late, for the album now is ingrained into their brain as a classic.

I know it sounds like I’m bagging on this album completely, but I actually like it a lot. The guitar parts interchange wonderfully, and even though they are not incredibly technically difficult, you would be very hard pressed to find an album filled with so many catchy riffs as this one. Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi are constantly on the same page, making the guitars for this band easily some of the best guitar parts around today. Casablancas’s voice is good, when it’s not being needlessly distorted. Nikolai Fraiture is a good bassist, writing what is possibly the catchiest bass-line ever written in album opener “Is This It”. The song is a definite highlight. It starts out with what sounds like the sound effect when you lose a video game. Light guitars come in over a simple beat from Fab Moretti and singing from Casablancas. A decent opener, the listener thinks, when suddenly this wonderfully catchy bass-line comes in and pulls everything together.

Another flaw that is to be found in the album is Fab Moretti’s drumming. He is absolutely incapable of playing anything but simple beats. Sometimes a band can work around a drummer’s deficiencies, but not in this case. In some songs , his drumming actually detracts from the sound. Not only this, he doesn’t even use a lot of different simple beats. His repertoire of beats consists of, at most, 7 different beats that he interchanges throughout the album. Sometimes the band lets him start the song and he does something decent, but he always goes back to comfortable, dreadfully simple beats.

All momentum that could’ve been generated from the strong opener is lost after the next two tracks. “The Modern Age”, though acclaimed by many as a highlight of the album, is, in my humble opinion, one of the worst songs on the album. The drums don’t really match the guitar part all that well, Casablancas can’t be understood, and, aside from a nice solo, nothing great instrumentally is really going on. “Soma” is another definite weak point in the album, suffering from being very similar to the previous track and not being a good track on its own as well.

From here on out though, it’s almost all good. “Barely Legal” and “Last Nite” both are very good tracks, and are very similar, featuring very powerful vocal parts which drive the song. The instruments complement Julian’s voice very well, but allow him to take center stage. “New York City Cops” is a very humorous song, and is instrumentally good as well, featuring a surging lead guitar line and a driving, powerful beat from Moretti . The highlight of the song is the chorus, where Casablancas sings, “New York City cops, New York City cops, New York City cops, they ain’t too smart,”, although the part where everything drops out except the drums works quite well too.

“Someday” is a beautiful track lyrically and musically. Laid-back guitars set the stage for the best and most meaningful lyrics on the album, concerning many topics. The lyrics seem to have a very deep meaning that I can’t quite put my finger on. This is followed by the powerful, “Alone, Together,” which features one of the best, most concise guitar solos I have ever heard. "Hard to Explain" is another one of the few tracks to feature a nice, driving beat, even if it is simple.

All in all, this is definitely worth a listen. Anyone who has not heard this album needs to, for it has the potential for anyone to pick it up and think that it’s a classic immediately. Though it doesn’t quite do it for me (considering that I really listen for technically sound, or at least intricate drumming, this never really had the chance of become a classic for me), maybe it will for you. The Strokes would have such great success with this album that they would release what was essentially the same album only a year later and still have critics and fans fawn over it. It has it flaws, but every debut does (except maybe Funeral). So get it, put it into your car, roll the windows down, and blast it. And enjoy.

Recommended Tracks

Is This It
Someday
Alone, Together
Hard to Explain



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user ratings (1956)
Chart.
4.2
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other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
barcafan21
May 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The Strokes discography, part 1/4

Digging: The Antlers - Hospice

PeterKlaven
May 26th 2012



280 Comments


fun album, don't care much for the other albums

barcafan21
May 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

there are songs on every other album that i enjoy just as much as this

KILL
May 26th 2012



70298 Comments


Out of Genre: 2
In Genre: 4
For its Time: 4
These Days: 2.5
Instrumentally: 3
Vocally/Lyrically: 2
Influence Level: 4.5
Personally: 2.5

Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2012



4372 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Barcelona fan and likes the Strokes?- I already like you.
Good review too, POS'd. I personally enjoy Room On Fire and Angles more than this, but thats just me.

Adabelle
May 26th 2012



4213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Solid review for a brilliant album, shame about Pep

outline
May 26th 2012



563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed with the review. A lot of this is just really good, although there are 3 or 4 amazing songs.

barcafan21
May 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@paperback writer
i think angles is their best, but this defines their sound better. also, it is a shame about pep, but i respect his reasoning for leaving.

@outline
i think my recommended tracks are clearly a level or two above the rest.

johnnyblaze
May 26th 2012



2595 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

last nite is up there with your rec's imo

but ya, i agree, it's not the classic so many people think it is. an incredibly solid debut though. pos

Twelve51
May 26th 2012



108 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"In some songs , his drumming actually detracts from the sound."

I have to disagree, he stays out of the way for the most part and never detracts from the sound. Also, if you feel like The Modern Age is a low point of this album then I have to question whether the Strokes sound really fits your taste at all. That song pretty much sums up every positive aspect of the band. All that being said, this review still deserves a pos.

barcafan21
May 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i feel like everyone likes The Modern Age but me. oh well

dcalderon
May 26th 2012



289 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You got it right. The word that better define this album is that: "fun". And even the most technical listener should always have a fun album at his disposal. Great review.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 26th 2012



7311 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't like The Modern Age all that much either.

I pretty much agree with this. I enjoy this record every time I listen but I don't think that it's a classic by any means.

DoubtGin
May 26th 2012



6748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it's a classic


agreed

bloc
May 26th 2012



34660 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Always bounces between a 5 and 4.5 with me. I prefer Room On Fire though, either way.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

barcafan21
July 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that bass in the title track never ceases to amaze me

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2012



1584 Comments


Title track be my fav, has been for years.

barcafan21
July 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

its the best off this album, but it's been topped by other stuff

barcafan21
July 26th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

?????????????

barcafan21
November 16th 2012



1909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

spun this today for the first time in forever

still great

nyc cops is amazing



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