5 January 2014

The Strokes - Is This It?


I think it is long enough after the event to return to this album - for me at least.  When this came out (and still it seems) this album has been given sooooooo much praise.  It has been held as a modern classic, hailed as one of the best debut albums ever and something that many other bands have aspired to replicate.  Hailing from New York City in 1998, this was their first album for RCA and came out in July 2001.  After the attack of New York (conspiracy theorists, feel free to comment at the bottom as it is not my place to discuss this again) the cover got changed as well as the track order as well due to public pressure.  Personally on the changing of the cover I find it hard to figure out how it was not offensive before, yet it was after the attacks.  As for the track listing, I will go on it later.  Now I will state from the outset that I have a love/hate relationship with this band and this album has been one I have been trying to figure out since I first heard it all those moons ago.  So has time done anything to actually make me come to some sort of opinion apart from - meh?

Starting with the title track, it is with a lazy vocal and simple guitar picking that this album enters the world, with the band asking is this it?  The song drifts by and I still find it hard to keep it in my head after it has been played; this is after multiple listens as well. Next is "The Modern Age" which starts off with a little bit more life, but it then drifts back into the same sort of malaise that is part of the signature of the band as well.  Musically the work here is fine, I cannot fault it and the guitar work of Albert Hammond Jr and Nick Valensi is really good, the rhythm section of Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti is solid; it is vocally where this album falls apart for me as Julian Casablancas sounds so lazy in his vocal delivery.  The same happens on "Soma" which could be a much better song if he gave a shit somewhere along the line.

"Barely Legal" is a moment where it seems to comes together a little bit better and all the elements of the band work, even with Casablancas is in good form on this track.  As garage rock songs come it is a very good one that brings the album to life, just in time to be placed back in a coma with "Somedays".  Again another good tune ruined by shoddy vocals; it makes me wonder what in the blue hell made this man such an indispensable part of the group and such a big man in the American rock community.  But I like Elton John, so who am I to judge in some ways.  The thing is when the mood takes him; he makes some great tunes on here, such as on the next song which is "Alone, Together".  When it comes together such as on that tune with the dark edges and slow looping of guitars, you can see why they were given the emperor’s new clothes. After this we come to the international hit "Last Nite", hailed as a modern classic and one of the angriest songs of its time. Bullshit on it being an angry song, it sounds too laid back for that sort of thing and it is not a case of being a modern take on the punk spirit of the 70's.  It is very much a fuck you to the other band's of the time as it sounds as if they are trying to do it in their sleep (well, vocally at least), but the band is on fire here.  

As they are with the next track "Hard To Explain", when this first came on I really did understand what the hype was about.  For a brief three minutes and forty eight seconds you have one of the best songs from the first decade of the 21st century; it is punk, full of venom and just brilliant in delivery.  Next up is the one which caused controversy at the time - "New York City Cops".  Looking back on it, I really cannot see what the fuss was.  Yes, it was a time of heightened sensitivity due to the twin towers coming down, yes people had lost their lives; but from friends over there, people had been saying similar sentiments about the police of New York for years.  So for me, the fuss seems to be an overreaction to the song.  It is not even that good as well, it seems ok, but it is just very dull indeed if truth be told.  Afterwards you have "Trying Your Luck" which comes across with much more menace that most of the album had in the three minutes or so it exists.  It is a fine moment on the album which should have ended the album to be honest, but the band went with "Take It Or Leave It".  Now I can see why they have done that, it has a more natural ending towards the end, but this is just a personal thing and I would have had a different order.  That said it is a decent little number that does not end the album on a sour note.

So, was it worth the hype?  No, not even close to it.  The band themselves musically are really good in places, but this is patchy at best; also Julian Casablancas has to be the laziest vocalist I have heard since seeing Primal Scream live and Bobby Gillespie sounded as if he wanted to be anywhere else but on stage. He ruins what would have been a decent debut.  I can see why the indie press and hipsters love this, but it is not a modern classic in anyway shape or form.  Few of the tracks reach over good, a few of them are really good but nowhere near enough to make them worth all the fuss that this gets.  When that ask is this it, the last word is missing a few extra letters.  If they ever change vocalists, I might get interested and after all these years it is still meh.

4 out of ten - Well it is alright, but still......

Top track - Trying Your Luck

You can purchase the album from Amazon here 

You can visit the band's website here 

You can listen to the album on Spotify here 

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