Review Summary: Simply one of the best albums ever, a modern gem with no skippable tracks.
Without a doubt the album that started the indie boom of the 00s. The Strokes, conisting of vocalist Julian Casablancas, guitarists Albert Hammond Jr and Nick Valensi, bassist
Nikolai Fraiture, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti, with their unkempt hair and tight pants, opened the doors of mainstream popularity to similar bands at the time like The Hives, The White Stripes, The Vines, and The Libertines, and even inspiring other bands like The Arctic Monkeys and The Rakes. Critics often cite Television and Velvet Underground as main influences of the band, but after getting into those two bands and comparing them with the Strokes, they don't really sound that similar. The Strokes are unique and fresh, offering just a hint of Lou Reed streetsmart-iness, Television's dueling cruncy guitars, and the precise rhythm section of proto-punk and early 70s punk.
Is This It
A slowish-medium paced song that's a nice opening track. The bass line is epecially funky, and the simple drum beat fits the song. The song doesn't show The Strokes' signature guitar duels since during most of the song both guitarists play the same stuff. Still, a great song that grows on you the more you listen to it.
The Modern Age
The song that defines this band. Albert Hammond Jr's fast precise downstrokes compliment Valensi's crunchy octave upstrokes. Moretti supports this with a thumping beat focused on the floor tom. And Casablancas shows amazing intonation and melodies very comparable to that of Mick Jagger. The song also contains the greatest solo on the album. Simply amazing.
A quiter song than The Modern age, but also shows how simple guitar lines can make a song stand out. The last chorus exhibits Casablancas screaming at the top of his lungs, and still sounding good. This is a cool walking on the street song too.
Another defining song, though the only apparent lead part is the solo, during the verse, Valensi attacks his guitar with fast downstrokes, while Hammond uses variation. However, on the chorus, Hammond plays one chord, 8th note downstroked, throughout the song, which is quite a feat, and it compliments Fraiture's sliding bass melody. Casablancas this time employs a more laid back but impressive melody that is very Lou Reed-ish. One of the catchier songs.
Another catchy song, simply because of the simple yet melodicaly complex riff by Hammond; this song has Valensi playing rhythm with barre chords. And despite the fact that this is a song without a guitar solo (it only has a short break), it is very Rock and Rollish. It's music you'd expect to be playing while legends like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, or Slash (he's in the music video btw) gets high to.
One of the rockier tracks on the album. It starts off with a simple drum beat. This features an amazing guitar duel by Valensi and Hammond during the verses, and Fraiture's melodic bass playing throughout it. The chorus sounds kind of dissonant but melodic at the same time. Casablancas did a great job with the lyrics, one of my favorites, and his filtered vocal melodies are precise and again Lou Reedish. The solo by Valensi is amazing. An outstanding track.
Aided by a simple music video that looked like it was tape in the mid 70s, with their hair and the set, and their clothes, this song isn't as catchy as Someday or Alone Together, but still great. Simple structure and guitar lines, that are ofcourse crunchy and complimenting each other. The solo, this time by Hammond, is quick, but just adds a nice perfect punch to the song.
Hard to Explain
Probably the most lo-fi in all of the songs, the drums sound like it was mic'ed and played through an old guitar amp from the 60s. The song is simply an intro, a verse, refrain and a chorus. After playing through that, there's a dramatic pause, and then it just plays through it again with different lyrics. Compared to the other songs on the disc, this feature the weakest guitar parts, but still melodic and unique; plus Nick's lead lines that sound like a synthesizer sometimes are really nice. The lyrics here are one of Casablancas' best.
New York City Cops
This is probably the punkest song on the album, starting with feedback and drum thumps, then it eventually leads to a killer guitar riff, that's simpler than 'Seven Nation Army'. I love the bass parts for this song, especially in the refrain, when the guitar's do staccatos and the bass just keeps on doing cool stuff. The chorus is quite catchy, and they feature Hammond's one chord downstrokes (like in Barely Legal). The quick solo is played by Valensi this time, in a way you'd expect someone like Joey Santiago to do so.
Trying Your Luck
The most depressing song on the album. The guitar parts here are really well done, they fit into each other so nicely. The vocals are great as usual, with Casablancas singing in a drunk slur, but still hit the notes perfectly. The whole chord progression makes the song, it makes you think about Casablancas singing in an angry upset way because of a someone. The solo here is unexpected. After listening to the songs before this one, the solo sounds too depressing and bend-less compared to the other ones; and oh, it's what I consider the best solo on the album
Take It Or Leave It
Another upbeat catchy song to get you back on your happy side after Trying Your Luck. The song is very simple and repetitive, 'cept for the solo break. The solo by the way, by Hammond, consists of less than 5 notes only, that would make the Velvet Underground proud. This time, Hammond sports the synthesizer toned guitar. And Moretti drums impressively.
When It Started
This song could've worked as the first track, but anyways: The guitars are again working together, and the bass guitar here stands out, simply because it's just not following the chords played by the guitar. The solo is two-note chords played fast and smoothly by Valensi. This song doesn't show much of Casablancas' range, instead it makes you imagine him holding a cigarette with his eyes half closed, singing drunk; but still I love his style. Overall one of the best tracks on the album.
It's really really hard to find an album like 'Revolver' or 'Never Mind the Bollocks' or 'The Doors' anymore. You know, the one where it really is an album, where each song was written well and precisely. Each song having the potential to be a single and being played on the radio. Well 'Is This It' is definetely a 21st Century gem. Some say critics gave the Strokes too much hype, and buzz, and that their album showed that it wasn't really that much to be hyped about. I consider them wrong, 'Is This It' shows how each instrument (and the vocals) interact with each other to make a great record. And the fact that you can't find another band that sounds like them, makes me even like them more.
This album deserves a perfect 5.