The Strokes – Is This It

Sadly, I was never very popular in junior high and high school.

In junior high I got beaten up a few times, I was teased relentlessly, and only had a few friends(the same best friends I still have today, though!)  I remember one day having a remedial gorilla named Kyle run past me in the hall and spit an huge loogie on to my arm.  Thinking about it now makes me kind of ill but at the time it seemed so natural that I had simply walked over to a fountain, washed it off, and went about my day.

High School was a little better, but only because the beatings stopped and people tended not to say so much to your face. ( At least I kept the same friends from grade school.)

Anyway, the years of enduring this unpopularity led to my lifelong quest to one day become “cool.”  I don’t think I ever cared if I was popular, I couldn’t stand most of the popular kids anyway, but I figured I would settle for just being considered cool. That would be enough.

Whether or not I ever succeeded in this remains to be seen, but some people have.  And a few of them are called The Strokes.

Initially formed in 1998, the band began picking up members as the original trio of Julian Casablancas (vocals and songwriting), Nick Valensi (guitar) and Fab Moretti (drums)attended different schools.  Soon, with the addition of Nikolai Fraiture on bass and Albert Hammond Jr on guitar, the band began playing New York’s Lower East Side.  They made quite an impression.

Such an impression that Ryan Gentles, who booked the act at the Mercury Lounge, soon quit to manage the group. After working hard on a twelve song set, most of which would eventually become “Is This It,” the band released ‘Last Nite’ as an mp3 download on NME.comas part of a build up their their first release “The Modern Age EP” in early 2001. The bidding war that ensued soon ended with the band signing on to the RCA label. 

“Is This It” was actually released in August 2001 in the UK with this cover:

According to sources the gloved woman’s hand was a nod to Spinal Tap which, if true, would be totally awesome because who doesn’t love Spinal Tap. (I actually know a few people who don’t, but I don’t really associate with them.)  The band released the US version in October with a new cover that you see on top, and the omission of the anti-authoritarian track ‘New York City Cops,’ which if you’ve heard it would have been in extremely bad taste after 9-11.  The song does rock though and you should track down a copy.

This album rocks, and when I first heard it, it held the same energy and promise that I had felt when Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ was released.  Full of catchy hooks and rocking pop sensibilities, it’s easy to see why the group had exploded onto the scene with such ferocity

and earned reviews that christened them the new kings of garage rock.  ‘Last Nite’ is the kind of rollicking raucous pop hit most bands would die to have as a single…as are ‘Take It Or Leave It,’ ‘Hard To Explain’ and the awesome ‘Modern Age.’ 

The album simply wastes no time.

Unfortunately, the band seemed to kind of fizzle a bit after it’s release.  Their follow up, “Room on Fire” felt like a retread of previous material, but their last album “First Impressions of Earth” did give me hope though.  Even though it has been the most criticized of their works, it displayed a certain courage that only comes from trying something drastically new.  The band is on hiatus now, but plans on releasing a fourth album in 2009.

Let’s hope that it’s just as cool.


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