The Strokes
Is This It?
MCA
2001
B+

when The Strokes' popularity soared about a year ago I didn't know anything about them. Except one thing. The hype. It's a fact that normally makes me reluctant towards giving the hyped band in question a real chance. So I never really probed the New York band any further- deeming them overrated without ever having heard a note. And I must admit that was narrowminded of me, but it was inevitable- when a band is hyped I can't stand it. It is a bit like the horrible guy you know who suddenly turns very ugly even if/or perhaps just because women all around you throw themselves at him. So this is how I was introduced to the youthful quintette who want to "...steal your innocence...", as they put it.


One day however, I was sent a compilation CD from a friend. Included among some lesser tracks was "Last Nite" by The Strokes. It is difficult to explain the energy and the power that song conveyed to somebody who hasn't heard it. Subsequently, forced by the sheer strength of "Last Nite" I aqcuired Is This It?.


The songs on the album are generally quite similiar, although not monotonous or one dimensional. You are introduced by the wonderful title track, starting with a conventional drum intro empowered by Julian Casablancas' voice and instrument after instrument filling the gaps of the song. This is not uncommon for a few of the tracks on the album. It has a rhythmical flow and the singer intones what the title already indicates "Is this it?". So is that it? No actually, there's much more to come. Other pearls are thrown our way such as "The Modern Age", "Barely Legal", "Someday", "Take It Or Leave It" and the irresisteble "New York City Cops" which exclaims 'New York City cops, they ain't too smart' (a song that was kept off the US version of the disc in light of the events of September 11th). And if we are not swines, we fully comprehend the lovelieness of these pearls.


One of the most significant trademarks of the Strokes is frontman and singer/songwriter Julian Casablancas’ hoarse voice. It’s the sound of late nights, late mornings, whiskeys, chain smoking but, most importantly, it’s untrained, it’s from the heart, and it’s real. You can try and imitate it if you like, but it’s more difficult than you would think. You have to have it.


Essentially this is a return to rock, pure, old-fashioned, raw, sublime rock 'n' roll, it’s not grunge, metal, nu-metal or any other fancy name you can find to define a new style of music.


As far as lyrics go, Casablancas has woven together sharp words for a man barely out of his teenage years, sometimes it’s sexy, sometimes it’s sharp, sometimes it has depth, and sometimes it’s irreverent. Keep in mind that the lyrics don’t make this album, but it is nice to hear sentences not uttered 100 times before.


Like all excellent albums this is one you can put on any time and it will have the effect you desire. Though it may not be revolutionary – it is, after all, not a new sound but more a shadow of 70s rock – Is This It? always makes me want to stand up and jump around in my solitude. Or run around if I’m among people and dance...and I have never danced like this in my whole life. The appeal of this eleven track album is that strong. There are reasons why The Strokes have become music journalist darlings. You don’t necessarily want to like it. You don’t want to conform and be just like everyone else, talk about how good The Strokes are, but you can’t help yourself. This is it.


Reviewed by: Setareh Yousefi
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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