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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 61 - 10/02/01

The Strokes
Is This It
Rough Trade/ RCA/BMG

So what can we say after the massive saluting of this year's 'saviors of rock'? Is there a reason for all the raving and drooling? Just another hype, or substancial stuff? NYC quintet The Strokes hit the clubs at Manhattan's East Side in 1999 (the small and cool rock joints such as Spiral, Brownies, Arlene's Grocery, etc.). Then they got picked up by legendary UK label Rough Trade, and after a while The Modern Age EP (holding 3 songs) was relased. This autumn it's time for their album debut. Question is: is Is This It it? Both yes and no. Mostly yes.

Vocalist Julian Casablancas (neat name!) has written all 11 songs, and he shows skills for sure. The Strokes play rock'n'roll pop style and they show a most forceful charm, which is the most important power to have. Besides catchy songs of course. They're bringing on the spirit of NYC artists of the seventies, showing influences sucked from names like Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, Blondie. Their rock is melodic and clean, by the the perfect powered-pop-rock formula. Songs 3-4 minutes long, no walls or layers of sound. Simplicity and nakedness being keywords. Guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. don't exaggerate, and they're remarkably far back in the Strokes' sound, while bassist Nicolai Fraiture serve deliciously melodic lines. The light-wristed drummer Fab Moretti does a tremendous job on his hi-hat. Didn't cheat in the studio, did you?

The laidback title song opens the album and makes me think of Pavement for a moment, until the bouncing bass pops up. The Modern Age sounds like a 20-year-old Lou Reed fronting a, uh, band of snotty 20-year-olds. I like the staccato Alone, Together and the bouncy Someday, but I'm not so keen on Last Nite (from the EP) and New York City Cops (not included on the album in the U.S.). The latter two sound quite Iggy-ish/Stooges-esue (never been a big fan). The quickstep single-choise Hard To Explain is brilliantly catchy. A perfect rough pop song. A marvel, and the best moment on Is This It. As a whole the album is quite enjoyable, thanks to the bratish charm. Because we don't speak originality or inventing wheels, just straight rock that rolls quite good. The production is really sober, not to say dry-sounding. Casablancas' voice is also extremely sundried, somewhat sleepy, almost arrogant. Second last song Trying Your Luck is also a highlight, including the first 'real' guitar solo. Short and concise and tasty. Is This It is getting better each time you play it. I guess it'll fit many a party.

Copyright © 2001 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Strokes article/review: The Modern Age EP.

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