Is This It – The Strokes

Released July 31, 2001 the debut album peaked at #33 on the U.S. Billboard charts and #2 in the UK. It was a commercial and critical success being praised for its charisma and influence by 1970s garage bands. It ushered in a new sound of post-millennial rock and is on nearly every “best of” list.

Jason: Before we review the album itself can we talk about the album cover? I like the US version (above) but the reason for the change is soooo ridiculous.

Brad: I agree. I don’t think the original album cover was explicit at all. 

Jason: It’s basically a black gloved hand on a latex hip. I forget how crazy sensitive we all were post 9-11. 

“I’m too sexy for the shelves. Too sexy for the shelves.”

Jason: Which is also why they removed “New York City Cops” song from the album after September 11. The scratch off image at the very bottom is a very bad drawing of the original cover.  It looks like a hand on a knee.

Brad: I think the album cover was changed before 9-11 due to retailers not wanting to carry the album. However, the song was removed after 9-11. 

Jason: Either way… dumb. That is the only thing I can say in defense of this album.

Brad: So I’m guessing you don’t like this album?

Jason: Nope. Not. At. All. Every song sounds the same and I really don’t like how it sounds like he is singing into a tin can tied to a string.

Brad: Ugh…you are making me grumpy. This is one of my favorite albums of the past 20 years. Every song is great!

Jason: Convince me.

Brad: If you don’t like the way it sounds, then there is not much I can say to convince you. I love that this album sounds like it could have come out in the 70s or could even have come out today and still sound great. It is lively. It is rock and roll without a lot of unnecessary production. 

Jason: My main beef is how they weirdly altered his voice. When they play live do they do that as well? 

Brad: Altered voice? That’s pretty much how Julian Casablancas sounds. There is a little bit of echo to give it the sound of a live show in a basement but mostly this is how it sounds when they play it live. I love their live shows. I got to see them again last summer when they headlined Lollapalooza. 

Jason: I’ll listen to a live song to compare. It’s the tinny reverb that I don’t like. But aside from that their sound just isn’t for me. I’m not ragging on them because I know that they are very popular and critically lauded but when I was listening to this, half of the time I couldn’t tell when one song ended and another began; they all sound the same to me. That being said I knew the main singles. What is your favorite song on this album?

Brad: I think “Is This It” is one of the best opening tracks of any debut album. My other favorite is “Someday”. But like I said earlier, I love every single song on this album. 

Jason: Would you say this is your favorite album in their catalog or is it just a very strong debut and they’ve gotten better over time?

Brad: This is my favorite of their albums. We have perfect timing for this discussion because they just released a new song today called “At the Door” and announced that they are releasing their 6th album “The New Abnormal” in April. 

Jason: Hmmm…so you aren’t saying they’ve gotten worse just that this was a strong debut. Tell me some interesting facts about the band or bandmates.

Brad: They came out of the early-2000s New York City rock scene that included Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem and others. One of my favorite music books of recent years is ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ by Lizzy Goodman which is an oral history of that scene. 

Jason: I remember you loving that book. For this album what would you say to someone who isn’t familiar with them but wanted to listen?

Brad: If you want to feel like you are watching a great rock band in a small club give this a listen. 

Jason: That’s a good description of this album. It definitely has the feel of being in a small venue.

Brad: By the way, one of my favorite concert memories was seeing The Strokes in 2003 at Aragon Ballroom and their opening acts were Kings of Leon and Regina Spektor. Seems so crazy now because both opening acts have since become so successful. 

Jason: That’s cool! What letter grade are you giving Is This It?

Brad: I would give this album an A. What letter do you give it?

Jason: D+. I’ll sleep in the guest room.

Click here for the complete 100 list.

Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.

Is it a hand on a knee or a hip? Even the artist doesn’t know.