We have another variation of indie rock today, this time with a much harder edge and more to my liking. “Is This It” is the debut album from The Strokes, and this was definitely an album that was a quick favorite of mine, even as I had not heard much from this band before. Any modern rock fan will recognize “Last Nite”, but the best part of this record for me were two songs I haven’t heard before, which is always a nice and unexpected outcome. “Is This It” is rated #114 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The creative force and lead vocalist for the band is Julian Casablancas, with two leads on guitar, Nick Valenti and Albert Hammond, Jr. I’m more familiar with Hammond for a reason I will note later. What I love about this record is that it has an urgency and up-tempo drive to most of the tracks that is compelling. Honing their craft in the clubs of New York City, this album represents the primary mix of songs that served as the live set they used to make a name for themselves, and based on this record, it would have been an outstanding show to see.
The title track is an appealing opener, with the metered and pained vocals straining through what I learned would be a familiar and recurring guitar drone. I really enjoy the first seven songs on the album the most, but my two favorites are tracks 4 and 5. “Barely Legal” isn’t quite as controversial as the title suggests, but it is a phenomenal up-tempo rocker that is a mandatory add to several of my playlists. “Someday” is a more melodic twist with the same distorted vocals and driving drum beat. I can see why this one was released as a single, and I love both the chorus and main verses of this track.
“Last Nite” is instantly recognizable, and a song I even anticipated and expected as I listened to this record. The sound is very much in step with the rest of the album, and this tortured love song is definitely a signature rock radio song from this era.
I come back to Albert Hammond Jr. as he made a guest appearance in 2020 on an album by a band we will discuss down the road that is an all-time favorite for me, The Struts. The song that Hammond played on, I now realize, is very much in sync with this sound of The Strokes, and I love hearing the connection in musical style almost twenty years apart. The Strokes were a pleasant revelation for me, and I’m sure some may be surprised I wasn’t more familiar from the beginning. Their album was actually released on vinyl in America on September 11, 2001, and particularly for a band from New York City, this created challenges in not only their song selection (they removed a track from the CD release titled “New York City Cops”) but their initial path forward in the world we all tried to make sense of at the time. Between that and my overall place in life, I missed out on a lot of good music for several years, but I’m grateful for a second chance with this band.