[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
Tags: Albert Hammond Jr., Billy Joel, Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, Is This It, Joy Division, Julian Casablancas, New York Dolls, Nick Valensi, Paul's Boutique, Perry Mason, Television, The Knack, The Strokes, Velvet Underground