Oh dear — a critics’ darling record.
Pan it, and risk being called hopelessly out of touch. Or praise it, and risk being called hopelessly fashionable.
Fuck it —
Is This It by the Strokes is a masterpiece. It’s OK to like the Strokes because they make it easy to like them.
Is This It has the same selfless vibe that made Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand so refreshing back in 1994 — decidedly lo-fi, totally focused and wonderfully simple.
And the best part? The Strokes slavishly sound like their idols. You’ve heard them before — maybe 20, 30 years ago when they went under such names as The Velvet Underground or Gang of Four or Television.
But in this case, they haven’t just put these bands on the sonic equivalent of a photocopier machine — they’ve captured their spirit, their urgency, their rough-around-the-edges aesthetic that emphasizes attitude more than technical prowess.
Is This It is cool because it just cuts through the grandoise bullshit of latter-day cock rock to get back to the basics — I, IV, V. (Actually, V is most often optional on these tracks.)
The album breezes by in little more than half an hour, pounding out one three-minute gem after another. Singer Julian Casablancas alternately croons and snarls through an intercom, while guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond hammer fuzzy two-note, two-chord riffs in quick succession.
It’s hard to pick one track out from another — the songs have such a nice homogenous sound, the whole disc feels like a complete work onto itself.
Yes, I’m resisting the urge to throw out such terms as “symphony” and “opus” because these New York City prep school-bred lads are barely thinking on those terms.
In other words, the Strokes keep it simple. This music is brainless in the best of ways. It doesn’t demand anything of you, and it doesn’t require much in return, except maybe some serious pogo-ing.