If it weren’t for Is This It, the formation of bands like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines may have never happened, and this permanent change to the trajectory of guitar music is what makes this record an instant classic.
New York City has been revered around the world for it’s music scene for a very long time; Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth are some of the finest examples of bands who have represented such a culturally vivid city at some point in time. Just before the new millennium, grunge and Britpop had exploded in Seattle, Washington and the UK respectively, and the Big Apple wasn’t quite the nucleus for movements in rock music it had once been. This all changed when Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Fabrizio Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture all got together to form a band you may know as The Strokes and, in July 2001, released one of the most important rock albums of this century so far: Is This It.
In the midst of an awkward post-grunge/Britpop period, nothing changed the game up quite like this record. The Strokes are a band who wear their influences on their sleeves, in fact plenty of the bands mentioned above would have more than likely been the soundtrack to their formative years in NYC, but Is This It demonstrated that this band could craft a timeless sound which was wholly unique to them. The garage rock rawness found on here juxtaposes perfectly with some of the super tight, post-punk flavoured drum patterns, courtesy of Moretti (honestly, I still can’t believe that it isn’t a drum machine you can hear on ‘Hard To Explain’). There’s plenty of sonic variety on this album too: ‘The Modern Age’ is a punchy indie rock tune; ‘Someday’ has a rockabilly bounce to it and ‘Last Nite’ is an anthem with the dance floor keenly in mind. This slick, metropolitan soundscape is aptly coupled with vocals from Julian Casablancas. His lyrics paint a myriad of colourful tales and observations of growing up as a young adult in New York City- particularly centred around sex and drugs (let’s be honest, what else is a twenty-something Lou Reed fanboy going to write about?) and each line on this record is delivered with an appropriate amount of aloofness as Casablancas saunters through songs with a renowned aura of cool.
What makes this album so crucial in the timeline of indie rock is its legacy. Along with bands like The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs who all formed around the same time, The Strokes were responsible for influencing countless bands in a new wave of indie rock. If it weren’t for Is This It, the formation of bands like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines may have never happened, and this permanent change to the trajectory of guitar music is what makes this record an instant classic.