The Strokes - Is this it
probably not...
The Strokes – Is This It – Rough Trade Records

RTRADELP/CD030

Julian Casablancas – vocals
Nick Valensi – gtr
Albert Hammond Jnr – gtr
Nikolai Fraiture - bass
Fab Moretti - drums

Production – Gordon Raphael

Management - Ryan Gentiles

You’ve heard the one about all rock journalists being frustrated musicians at heart, so where does that leave us failed strummers that just wanna write? Staring @ a blank page & a copy of "Is This It", (notice the lack of a question mark – there is no doubt) is where – this is now it pans out;

The first thing you notice about the Strokes is that they make rekkids – not cd’s (the gaps between the cuts on the cd are actual vinyl length - the tape slip intro is also a lovely start). Their music sounds as if it was recorded on 8 track in a garage & mastered straight to vinyl. They come on like they mean it, man. The vocals sound as if they’re breaking up the moment they leave Casablancas’ mouth – the melodies harsh but gradually overwhelming. The gtrs are a collage of the greatest gtr sounds you’ve ever heard in yer life, ever – Hammond & Valensi go together like Thunders & Verlaine. The bass playing is melodic & inventive but retains more than enuff power to ride Moretti’s excitingly minimalist kit abuse. (His use of a similar break to one employed by Tom Petty on "American Girl" surfaces on both "Someday" & "Last Nite" - NB: it was a top break then & it’s still a good turn today, it don’t mean we been caught stealin now, does it? Mr Peel?). Strokes tunes all clock in @ around 3 minutes, the lp lasts just over half an hour – why hang about?

The second thing you notice about the Strokes is that they look like the best rock & fuckin roll band you’ve seen in a 100 or so months of soggy Sundays. They look as if they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards from the set of PATTI SMITH - THE MOVIE (where they’re playing the part of her band). Casablancas is a young Iggy with a touch of the early Jaggers (particularly in some of the stage moves) petulantly thrown in for good measure. He has a healthy disrespect, that’s a good sign. Valensi also has an apparent Stones jones, with the Mick er Keef er Ron hair scene & the moves to match. Fab Moretti is THE coolest drummer – he is having a fuckin ball behind that kit & the smile you know is there even if you carnt see him is the smile you smile when you’re drumming for one of the smartest rock combinations since Morrisey & Marr featuring Thunders, Verlaine, Lou Reed & The Stooges. Albert Hammond Jnr also has a whole bunch of fun playing in the Strokes – he wears his gtr way high & comes on like a Modern Lover on amphetamine. Nikolai Fraiture doesn’t look quiet so happy, this doesn’t stop him holding proceedings together with his intimately expressive bass runs. The chemistry is sooo right between these five fantastically named individuals, that old New York romance is in town & every note is pregnant with intent – every gap intentional by its very virtual existence.

The third thing you notice about the Strokes is the hype - it’s omnipresent; from the insistent clamour & justified praise of the NME (10/10) to the pipe & slippers reassurance of a trusted Mojo scribe. From Radio 2 celebrity comedy jocks to youth-quake Radio 1’ers, Steve Lurpack & Jo Whiney - even old Unkle Joe Strummer, n’all. Possibly the most important rock & roll garage band since the Ramones – everything’s alright forever – every thing works the way it should do in garageland round @ the Strokes. Whatever you hear about rich kids & ivory towers, the Strokes cut it the way it’s meant to be cut & deal it on weight. They’re value for your adoration; they may look like a combination of every kool punk that ever strapped on a gtr in NYC in the mid to late 70’s but they still appear completely contemporary. Some say retro, some say cool – others say cool is tomorrow’s cold. We say; "Is This It" is one of the strongest debut lp’s of any time & is destined to be viewed as a masterpiece in retrospect. That’s how fuckin retro the Strokes are – with songs that will stand the test of time - that walk it, talk it & tear it up live. They don’t do encores because they haven’t got any more fuckin songs – that’s punk rock.

Is This It – TrakMRAX.com trak by trak appraisal;

"Is This It" – Tape slip rolls into snare, hi-hat & muted gtr arpeggio, bass floats verse towards an understated chorus – Casablancas is keen to keep it short, he’s just way too tired.

"The Modern Age" – Re-recorded from 45 – has grown considerably in stature since. "This game is simply never ending".

"Soma" – Stop & Go. Close yr. eyes & feel the anger rise with the tune – tried it once & I like it.

"Barely Legal" – A tune written with savings – "Why won’t you wear yr. new trench coat". Again re-recorded from the EP – "I wanna steal yr. innocence" – indeed! Classic feedback & out outro.

"Someday" – The current student fav – soundtrakking "fresher" balls @ a campus somewhere near you as you read this. All together now; "Darling, yr. heads not right."
"Alone, Together" – trakMARX fav grower on the lp – more NYC than steam rising from grates in the half light of a Bowery morning.

"Last Nite" – Laaaaaaaaaaast Nite – ok, so you know this one already, already. New vershun rocks the Petty & breaks our hearts every single time – "on top of this I ain’t never gonna understand" - indeed.

"Hard To Explain" – Back 2 back on the 45 & the same again here. Driven by a nagging lead riff Marr-ed & scuzzed all over. "The traffic you see is hard to explain"

"New York City Cops" – Another song stronger than Rocky Erriksons’s preferred brand of LSD – the chorus has a chilling irony considering recent events; "NYC Cops – they ain’t too smart."

"Trying Your Luck" – Take a chance, what have you got to loose. Gtr solo to heaven. Dreams come true, here’s the proof.

"Take It Or Leave it" – Crap or get off the shitter – yr. choice entirely. Punctuated with angels gtrs – slashed by plectrum abuse – strummed by the hand of god. We’re gonna let you down. Is that a threat?

10/10

They have the whole world in their hands right now – sure hope they don’t drop it.

Evan Halshaw 2001


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