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Is This It

by The Strokes

Released July 30, 2001 via RCA Records / Rough Trade Records

Reviewed July 28, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Hard to Explain (45%), Last Nite (44%), Someday (42%)

The Strokes’ 2001 debut, Is This It, both introduced and immediately solidified the NYC five-piece as one of the most dominant forces of 2000s alternative rock. It merges both the past and present culture of NYC through a combination of generational experiences and the city’s rich musical history. The band draws heavily upon the styles of garage rock and post-punk that originated from the same place they did; this union makes Is This It familiar and comfortable—but still clearly a revitalization—as they infuse youthful energy into their compositions. Guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. provide some of the best chemistry and interplay you’ll hear on virtually any indie rock record, while Nikolai Fraiture (bass) and Fabricio Moretti (drums) round out a rhythm section that is often overlooked for its relative simplicity—but couldn’t have been executed any better, with grooves and beats that beg you to move. Julian Casablancas’ songwriting is the final piece to the puzzle of Is This It, but it hardly offers the sense of satisfaction that comes alongside a puzzle’s completion. Broadly, Casablancas’ lyrics revolve around early adulthood in New York City and the confusion that comes with an internal struggle of grappling with tumultuous relationships, dissatisfaction in life’s mundanity, drug usage, and the peer pressure that comes with it all. These visceral examinations don’t offer much clarity. Rather, they strike a sweet spot of ambiguity that make Is This It as comforting as it is sobering. – Dominick (10/10)

Nothing necessarily new or groundbreaking will be found on Is This It. No new sounds or rhythms, the lyrical content has been covered, and its tones had already been established years before. Lou Reed is exercised through “Casablanca” with a contemporary twist, and The Pixies make their presence known through the band's performances. But the slight Strokes twist is enough to render it a revival rather than a caricature, serving enough fresh air and reinvigoration for a specific sound nonetheless. Coming under the “revival” umbrella, you can expect tropes and cliches, they're a given. But for them to be executed so well is what separates the found from the profound. On Is This It exists rhythms within rhythms and melodies inside melodies—like a musical Russian doll—a gift that keeps on giving wrapped in a rough and rugged rapport. Is This It is the sound of summer condensed into three-minute bursts. – Peter (8.5/10)

Dominick: 10/10 | Pax: 8.8/10 | DeVán: 8.5/10

Jared: 8.5/10 | Peter: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8.3/10


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