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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 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 pressed the band to make changes to the American version of the album. Its cover art was swapped from a leather-gloved hand suggestively resting on a woman's nude rear and hipnote  (deemed too sexually explicit for the US market) to a photograph of subatomic particle tracks in a bubble chamber, and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the American CD release was delayed by two weeks, with the ninth track "New York City Cops" replaced with the newly-written "When It Started".

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.

The album title's lack of a question mark was intentional; albeit grammatically correct, it aesthetically "did not look right" to the band.


  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:

  • Alternate Album Cover: The originally-proposed cover art depicts a crotch shot of photographer Colin Lane's girlfriend touching her nude hip with a leather glove. While this made it to the UK release, the US one replaced it with a psychedelic photograph of subatomic particle tracks in a bubble chamber. The two different versions of the album also have differing tracks between themselves.
  • 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.
  • Sexy Packaging: The cover is a crotch shot of a naked woman (the photographer's then-girlfriend), touching her own hip with a leather glove. Hence the US had to change it for the much less racy psychedelic photograph of subatomic particle tracks in a bubble chamber.
  • 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 Track: The band thought of naming it after "Take It or Leave It", but felt that going for "Is This It" sounded less pretentious.
  • 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