After the band’s outstanding headline set at this year’s Reading Festival, The Edge looks back at the album which kicked off The Strokes’ career and set the tone for many indie bands to follow. Ten years ago, the music scene was littered with pop bands from the likes of S Club 7 to N Sync, and pop-punk bands like Blink-182. But in 2001, The Strokes emerged from New York with their debut album Is This It, and managed to create a new enthusiasm for indie rock and roll; and with its simple rhythms and raw feel, it was certain to be one of the biggest albums of the last decade.
Although this was the first Strokes album, they had previously released an EP a few months earlier called The Modern Age. This provoked an extremely positive response, especially amongst the British press, and the band was immediately signed. All three of the tracks appear on the album, including one of The Strokes’ best known songs, ‘Last Nite’. The second single released from the album, ‘Last Nite’ draws you in instantly with its catchy guitar riffs. The song still manages to fill a dancefloor whenever it is played, and is one of the standout tracks on Is This It. ‘Trying Your Luck’ is one of the slower tracks: the softer and more melancholy vocals from frontman Julian Casablancas show the band’s versatility; whilst ‘Barely Legal’, with its risqué lyrics, sounds live and has a gritty, raw sound to both the instruments and Casablancas’s vocals. The live feel of the track is reflected throughout the whole album, and this gave The Strokes a very distinctive sound.
The sound of the band was not necessarily new, as they hail many of their influences from bands of the 70s alternative rock era such as The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls, but they made it their own and certainly sounded different from any other band around at the beginning of the 21st century. Although now the music industry is full of guys with guitars in skinny jeans, in 2001 this was not the case and it has been said that Is This It is one of a few albums which helped indie get back to the forefront of music, and thankfully may have stopped the domination of pop music and led to the success of bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines and Kings of Leon.