The Strokes
Is This It?

Happy 10th Birthday!

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since an album was released that changed modern day music and popular culture. That album was ‘Is This It?’ the debut album by New York band The Strokes, an album that rightly needs to be considered as the most influential album of 21st century, an album that really did save the world of music.

The Strokes emerged at a time when the world was desperately crying out for a band to believe in. At the turn of the century music was not in a healthy place, the glory years of Brit Pop had long died and it felt as though there was a big hangover that was never going to pass. We were being inundated with the fake ‘nu-metal’ genre, led by the likes of Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and Linkin Park. There was some good music to be found at the start of the century which gave us hope, The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, The Flaming Lips, Ryan Adams, but there was no band standing out from the crowd and breaking alternative music into the mainstream. That is why the world needed The Strokes so much.

Everything about The Strokes just epitomised the word ‘cool’. They looked the part with their skinny jeans, converse footwear, skinny ties, and haircuts. They had the look that they just really could not care less and they all had names that made them born to be stars. They had everything that was needed to be a band, all the boys wanted to be them and all the girls wanted to be with them.

The entire British music press created such hype around the band and the build up to the debut album. I can remember the excitement around Reading festival that year. Originally booked to play the Radio 1 stage, they had to be moved to the main stage due to fear that the stage would become overcrowded. When they took to the main stage the field was full and they played the entire album with very little interaction with the crowd, just letting the songs do all the talking. If you were watching the performance, you knew you were part of a moment, watching something very memorable and the world of music was being changed.

Considering all the hype and the coolness of the band the title ‘Is This It?’ was a very appropriate title. The album arrived in British shops on 27th August 2001, the Monday after the Reading Festival weekend. The album consists of eleven perfect songs, full of hooks, bouncing basslines, infectious melodies, soaring choruses and indie dance floor classics. Like Oasis with ‘Definitely Maybe’, Nirvana with ‘Nevermind’, this was the sound of a band that was taking a moment that belonged to them and setting the standard for others to follow. The album went on to influence the next generation of British bands. If ‘This Is It?’ did not happen, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand would not have broken through. Guitar music was selling again, and record labels were fighting amongst themselves to sign the next big band.

Ten years on and the question of whether The Strokes are still relevant seems a little unfair. However, the band never did eclipse what they created with their debut, and in 2011 Julian Casablancas does look like he has spent too long hanging out being cool on the New York Circuit. What’s more important than considering whether they still matter is that their relevance and influence will always be with us every time anyone listens to ‘Is This It?’ Listening to the album a decade after its release, it has not aged one bit. It still sounds fresh, exciting and inspiring. If there is a teenager picking up the album and putting it on their stereo for the first time, it will change their lives and that is what makes ‘Is This It’ such an influential, timeless and perfect album.

Steve Tay

Upside Down
Creation Records

Written by: Steve Tay
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