Masterpiece: Is This It

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[Today: Take it or leave it...]

The Strokes broke so big with their 2001 full-length debut Is This It that they had critics accusing them of ripping off a laundry list of musicians that includes Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, Television, New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Knack, and every New York musician this side of Billy Joel – a veritable who’s who of punk and new wave bands. Now, I’m no fancy pants criminal defense attorney, but if I were I’d have to wonder how many artists one group can be accused of ripping off before it becomes apparent that they haven’t stolen anything. By marrying a number of different influences into a snotty, sharp, post-punk New York City sound, The Strokes made music that reflected a lot of touchstone bands, while plundering none of them. If this band was guilty of anything in 2001, it was spending too much time on magazine covers and not enough preparing their follow up album.

But enough of that – if you’re a hater you’ve probably moved on by now. For the rest of us, Is This It was a blast of fresh air from the Big Apple. Julian Casablancas sings with a cool boredom that ought to grate – instead it squares perfectly with Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr’s jagged, sleepless guitars. Not since Paul’s Boutique had an album so effectively captured the rhythm and attitude of NYC. “New York City cops/They ain’t too smart” is part of what got the song ‘NYC Cops’ yanked from the album at the last minute, in the wake of 9/11. Less clear is why the original cover art, featuring a woman’s gloved hand resting against her naked hip, was exchanged in the US for a piece of pseudo-Zodiac artwork. Bad move. The original cover (pictured above) was a much better match for the sass and strut of the music, but either way, this album breathed life into the stone dead corpse of post-punk, and gave us something to get excited about. And sometimes that’s all you need your music to do…

Listen: Is This It

Listen: Last Night

Listen: Take It Or Leave It

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7 Responses to “Masterpiece: Is This It”

  1. alejandro Says:

    Man, I actually think Room On Fire is also a great underrated record. Don’t know why I didn’t get the attention it deserved, maybe overexposure on the first record like you say?

  2. functional hermit Says:

    This album still gets a lot of play from me from beginning to end.

    To me, it always felt just like one of my drunken nights running around the Lower East Side getting into as much trouble as possible and having way too much fun doing it.

    Also agree Room On Fire is underrated and am curious about what the Julian Casablancas solo record is going to sound like. I feel like they ended up paying the price for the hype that the industry created around the band.

  3. Blaise Coctoastan Says:

    This band and George Harrison’s death will always be intertwined in my head, simply b/c of timing. As a result, I can barely listen to them anymore. Too bad, cool band.

  4. Mr. Footnote Says:

    The “pseudo-Zodiac” artwork is actually a close-up of particles colliding. According to Wikipedia:

    For the American market and the October 2001 release, the cover art of Is This It was changed to a microscopic close-up of particle collisions. RCA product manager Dave Gottlieb commented that “it was straight up a band decision”, while Gentles indicated that Casablancas had wanted it to appear globally. According to the band’s manager, the frontman phoned him before the Japan and Europe release and said, “I found something even cooler than the a … picture.” Unfortunately, the Lane photograph was already at the presses and was included in the August 2001 version.[15] Moretti has called the Japanese and European cover art a “horrible coincidence” that the band members deeply regret.

    Whatever. I still like the original cover better…

  5. Alain Says:

    Personally I think the Strokes album is the best of the whole decade it re-invented indie music on both sides of the atlantic. read my piece on why its the best and vote for it on a poll on my blog

  6. The 25 Best Albums Of The 00’s « dk presents… Says:

    [...] 5] The Strokes | Is This It (2001) – Is This It was a blast of fresh air from the Big Apple. Julian Casablancas sings with a cool boredom that ought to grate – instead it squares perfectly with Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr’s jagged, sleepless guitars. Not since Paul’s Boutique had an album so effectively captured the rhythm and attitude of NYC. “New York City cops/They ain’t too smart” is part of what got the song ‘NYC Cops’ yanked from the album at the last minute, in the wake of 9/11. Less clear is why the original cover art, featuring a woman’s gloved hand resting against her naked hip, was exchanged in the US for a piece of pseudo-Zodiac artwork. Bad move. The original cover (pictured above) was a much better match for the sass and strut of the music, but either way, this album breathed life into the stone dead corpse of post-punk, and gave us something to get excited about. And sometimes that’s all you need your music to do… [Read Full Review] [...]

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    Masterpiece: Is This It | dk presents…

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