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Music / Is This It

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The original cover.
The updated album cover for the U.S. version.

Is This It is the debut album by American rock band The Strokes, released on July 30, 2001. After recording a demo in 2000, The Strokes caught the attention of future Strokes manager Ryan Gentles, who scheduled them for four gigs in December. Encouraged by this opportunity and supported by associates, the band released The Modern Age EP and attracted the attention of multiple record companies. A drawn-out, pricey bidding war ensued before RCA Records won the rights in March of 2001, inducing attention and hype for the band within the music industry.

The sound featured on Is This It came about as protest against the then-mainstream sound of music, since the band focused on making a raw, gritty and energetic sound. Many techniques used in production, inspired by The Velvet Underground and The Ramones, emphasized distorted, low-fidelity noise - singer Julian Casablancas sang through a Peavey amp - and a compressed drum sound which retained the pickup noise from the guitars and bass. The result was a bare, minimalistic sound that eschewed the heavy clipping present in many rock albums in favor of unrefined pop sensibilities. Executive Meddling, however, pressed the band to forgo the original album cover, and the band replaced the track "New York City Cops" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.


Upon its release, Is This It earned rave reviews from critics and major commercial success. It proved to be massively influential within the next few years, with its sound being considered a fresh alternative to Post-Grunge and Nu Metal, and inspiring a wave of Garage Rock bands. The album would open the floodgates for a New York scene that would come to be a centre for 2000s rock music, with bands like Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem bursting into the world later, while also serving to inspire the UK indie rock scene; Bloc Party's Silent Alarm, The Libertines' Up the Bracket, and Arctic Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not would follow in the wake of this record's success, introducing further elements into the genre.

Unfortunately, the album proved to be a Tough Act to Follow, as the Strokes' followup albums did not receive critical acclaim. Despite this, Is This It is considered to be the most pivotal moment for rock music of the 2000s, and one of the greatest albums of all time. It continues to earn high praise from publications such as Rolling Stone, which listed it as the #199 greatest album of all time, and NME, which listed it as #4 on its own list.



  1. "Is This It" (2:35)
  2. "The Modern Age" (3:32)
  3. "Soma" (2:38)
  4. "Barely Legal" (3:54)
  5. "Someday" (3:07)
  6. "Alone, Together" (3:12)
  7. "Last Nite" (3:18)
  8. "Hard to Explain" (3:48)
  9. "New York City Cops" (3:36)note 
  10. "Trying Your Luck" (3:28)
  11. "Take It or Leave It" (3:16)

Principal members:

  • Julian Casablancas – vocals
  • Albert Hammond, Jr. – guitar
  • Nick Valensi – guitar
  • Nikolai Fraiture – bass guitar
  • Fabrizio Moretti – drums

It seems these tropes are simply never ending:

  • Album Title Drop: Happens in the Title Track. The band originally wanted to name the album after the final track, but felt that Is This It sounded less pretentious.
  • Contemptible Cover: The original album cover is a picture of the photographer's girlfriend, who posed for the photo after coming out of the shower. While UK stores reluctantly sold the album, the band was hyperaware of Media Watchdogs in the States who would censor it, and thus went with a picture of subatomic particles.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Soma":
    Try it once and they liked it, and tried to hide it
    Says I've been doing this twenty-five years
    Well I'm not listening no more
    And these friends they keep asking for more
  • Garage Rock: Easily the biggest album to come out of the garage-rock revival.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Done to an extent, predominantly with Nick Valensi's guitar mixed in the right channel, and Albert Hammond, Jr.'s in the left, although occasionally this is inverted.
  • Intercourse with You: "Alone, Together" drops not-so-subtle hints of this.
  • The Jailbait Wait: "Barely Legal", obviously:
    And all together it went well
    We may pretend we were best friends
    Then she said "Oh, I can wait"
    They ordered me to make mistakes
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Soma" is a reference to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where a drug called soma is used to keep the population docile and complacent.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Someday".
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: "Barely Legal": "For the record, it's between only you and I".
  • Metal Scream: "I said just TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, AND TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT..."
  • One-Word Title: "Soma", "Someday".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Once a staple of Post-Grunge, the lo-fi voice featured a revival thanks to this album.
  • Questioning Title?: The album is a subversion, since the band felt that the question mark "didn't look right." This hasn't stopped some critics from placing it in.
  • Stop and Go: "Last Nite" and "Hard to Explain" both stop halfway through before continuing on.
    • "Soma" is not a direct example, but it does mention the trope verbatim in its chorus.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Is This It", "Take It or Leave It".
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: "Is This It" and "When It Started" both reference Julian Casablancas' father, who gave him a privileged upbringing but wasn't often there for him. The lyrics describe having to follow in the wake of a father's success while acknowledging one's own privilege.
  • With Friends Like These...: "Is This It"
    We're not enemies, we just disagree

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