This week, we take a look at and listen to Is This It, The Strokes’ debut album. Released in July of 2001. It is hard to think of another debut album that had an immediate impact on the music landscape like this one. Is This It was met with critical and commercial success in an unprecedented way. There was massive hype from music media and album sales skyrocketed. Hard to say which came first. A perfect storm of Rock n Roll. The time was right for The Strokes’ fresh songs, pop-punk was fading, grunge was all but gone, and The Strokes knew that and took full advantage of their smart revival sound, with overt nods to the forefathers, like The Velvet Underground and The Cure.
Lead singer Julian Casablancas wanted Is This It to sound like “a band from the past that took a time trip into the future to make their record”. Is This It dripped with coolness. Casablancas conversationally walks the listener through the streets of New York, looking at his shoes as well as the tall buildings.
The Strokes had the image too. Handsome, leather-bound, skinny-jeaned rockers who actually helped save Converse from bankruptcy. So besides the acclaim in the world of music, these guys graced the pages of many style and fashion publications. The Strokes were here, and they were more than just a band.
NME would dub Is This It as the album that “defined a generation,” and it isn’t hard to see why. Countless rock bands emerged and followed the similar recipe. The band had struck gold with Is This It, and everyone wanted a piece of it. While few bands were able to succeed by simply copying the The Strokes signature sound, many now-famous rock bands can trace their origins back to it. Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner pointed to the album as the reason he created the band. When Kings of Leon joined The Strokes tour in 2003, music publications described the then-unknown band as the “Southern Strokes”. Brandon Flowers, while working on The Killers debut album, got so depressed after hearing how good Is This It was, and he famously scrapped all the songs he had been working on, with the exception of Mr. Brightside.
Is This It was lightning in a bottle for The Strokes, and in the following years the band tried to expand on the same sound but never achieved the same level of success. Nevertheless, the band’s debut deserves its place as a classic American rock album, not only because it featured hits like “Last Nite” and “Someday” but because of the important legacy it left behind.