Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Debuts rarely come with as much fanfare as the hype that surrounded The Strokes and their debut studio album, Is This It. "The greatest rock band since The Rolling Stones" and "the second coming of The Velvet Underground" are hardly throwaway lines banded around casually, even for music critics at the turn of the millennium. As it turned out, The Strokes were no Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground, but then again nobody will ever come close, so they can't be too bummed about that.
What they did do though, was create an album that totally shifted the musical landscape of the early 21st century, paving the way for a much-needed rock revival in the form of indie-rock, influencing the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Libertines, Kings of Leon and just about everyone else. DJs and pop music were thankfully shafted for skinny jeans and guitars.
Influenced heavily by 70s art-rock and The Velvet Underground in particular, thanks to a Velvet Underground tape given to lead singer Julian Casablancas, along with British rock and punk of the same era, The Strokes made it cool again to play in a band with your friends and spearheaded the New York music revival. Twenty years on and Is This It remains a turning point in music and cemented their place as the godfathers of indie-rock, not to mention that the album still holds up as fresh as it felt back in September 2001, remaining both influential and timeless.
Casablancas insisted the record retained a raw efficiency, with most of the tracks recorded in one take, the entire album only taking six weeks to record. Producer Gordon Rafael would mix the track live as the band were playing in order to provide a finished version by the end of the track. The stripped back garage sound that epitomised The Strokes was initially berated by their record label as sounding "unprofessional" and that Rafael was "ruining Julian's voice and killing any chance the band had of a career". The studio may have gone on to regret that statement if The Strokes hadn't made them millions upon millions.
The Strokes may not be the next Rolling Stones, or The Velvet Underground, but they sure as hell come just about as close as you can get. In fact, they don't even need to be. It's going to be pretty difficult for anyone to even get close to the impact and influence that a bunch of New York kids had on the musical landscape, even twenty years on. Is This it, it really is.
As Alex Turner once said ;“I just wanted to be one of The Strokes, now look at the mess you’ve made me make” We all do, Alex