Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Strokes - Is This It


All of Them

In 2001 my record collection was running on fumes. Most of that great music I had collected from the 90’s had been destroyed or stolen. All that was left was a tattered lot of punk and emo records, most of which were perpetuating my frequent foul moods. The mainstream landscape, being inundated by shitty “bling”-rap, bubblegum pop and agro hard-rock, was even worse. MTV was dying, the radio had been dead for years -- my one true hobby was becoming warily dull.

But then, in one of MTV’s last redeeming moments, a buzzworthy video unlike anything they had played in over a decade was aired. The quintet, ragged and dirty and appearing on a stage resembling classic bandstands or Ed Sullivan shows, seem a bit aloof, a bit distracted, some might even say a bit lifeless. But they looked cool as shit. And once Julian Casablancas begins with his distorted voice and nonchalant cadence, you realized rock’n’roll hadn’t been this danceable in decades. Nodding your head as Albert Hammond, Jr. throws us back with a great solo and Casblancas comes in with one last chorus -- “Last Nite” was a reminder music is supposed to be fun. In songs like “The Modern Age” and “Someday” Casablancas tells tales of heartbreak similarly to most of the sappy shit I was listening to, but he does it with sincerity instead of superficial earnestness, attitude instead of whiny self-pity. Perhaps The Strokes' strongest trait, the guitar interplay between Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi isn't necessarily masterful, but it's incredibly melodic and expertly written, my favorites of which can be heard on “Soma” and “Take It or Leave It.”

A whole new realm of music opened for me with the release of Is This It. I rediscovered a lot of great 70’s rock they had borrowed from. It turned out music didn’t need constant drum beats, hard rock breakdowns, or electronic blips and beats after all. Although, as Chavez stated in his Albert Hammond, Jr. solo post, The Strokes aren’t one of the most original bands, they completely reinvigorated the sound they pay homage to. I hadn't had that much fun listening to a record since being a teenager. I think most everyone felt the same way, and perhaps it wasn’t pretentious himpsterism that set The Strokes and indie revivalism in New York City in motion, but a conjuring of excitement for good music again.

Easily one of the best records of the past twenty years.

(Guided by Voices appearance in this video for extra hip points)

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