How The Strokes Changed Music Forever
“I was talking to Lou Reed the other day and he told me that the first Velvet Underground record [The Velvet Underground and Nico] sold 30,000 copies in the first five years, ”said Brian Eno in 1982.“ Sales have gone up in the last few years, but I mean, this record was such an important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies has created a band! he added.
Is this this, the debut album by New York rock and roll band The Strokes, is the most influential, important and perhaps even the greatest album in the past 20 years. The bands and musicians he inspired, the effect the members themselves have had on fashion and culture, the transcontinental cheers, the endless critical praise and now the many retrospectives solidifying his divinity can all be cited. as evidence. It also only sold 16,000 copies in America in its first week of release.
Sales for Is this this can no longer be the basis of ridicule. It has since sold over a million copies in the band’s home country, and in the UK, where the band was considered gods by the music press of the time, the album peaked in second place. But just for reference: the album hit number 74 on the Billboard 200. Earlier this month, at a time when the global record sales industry was still strong, Alicia Keys released Songs in A minor via the same record company, RCA, and sold 236,000 in its first week.
There was obviously something beyond the sales numbers that translated into The Strokes, five young men in their twenties named Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, Fabrizio Moretti and Albert Hammond, Jr. With their distinctively lo-fi garage rock sound and appearances both in rags and disguises, critics and reporters have all but fallen on their own, crowning the group as the new saviors of rock and roll. So much so that for the next fifteen years the Strokes fell victim to their own insurmountable hype.
“Victims” is not exactly the right word. They were successful, they had hordes of adoring fans, and they made a succession of good big records that continued to touch, if not completely permeate, the general public. But the narrative that surrounded The Strokes as early as 2003 was that the global resurgence of Stratocaster guitars and live drums and raucous, sardonic singers singing about girls and drugs that they were unwittingly, and perhaps a little unfairly, positioned like the leaders of was not to be. Teenage pop continued to rule, hip hop continued its rise as the predominant genre of choice for suburban youth, and rock and roll stubbornly refused to become the culturally dominant force it once was.
Perhaps you would be forgiven – if you were an English rock critic or a hip New York City Mercury Lounge dweller – for thinking that Is this this was the flash point. If you had heard Modern age EP in 2001 or if you had survived Woodstock ’99 and read the writing on the wall, maybe you could feel some guard shift or trend reversal. If you were a true believer in the power of Marshall Stacks, biding your time as rap-rock, nu-metal, and post-grunge was what the mainstream considered rock at the turn of the new millennium, then yes. , Is this this Very well might have been the time to confirm that rock and roll was back and here to stay.
Some electronic buzzes and a simple drum pattern. This is how the opening of the album “Is This It” begins. But within seconds, every element of The Strokes’ signature sound takes over: the twin guitar attack of Valensi and Hammond, Jr., the alternately simplistic and complex basslines provided by Fraiture, the driving base of Moretti and Casablancas’ baritone bray that sounds like it was recorded with a broken guitar pickup. ‘Is This It’ is a bit of a slip-up as the album’s only slow ballad. For the next 33 minutes, the Strokes are lean, hungry, and fierce in their tenacity, determined to shed all excess.
The lo-fi scuzz of Casablancas’ voice is the ultimate X factor on Is this this: Recorded via a small Peavy amp, the distorted vocal performance adds a bit of bite to lines like “Like my sister doesn’t care” and “I took too many varieties”. Producer Gordon Raphael took great care to translate the immediacy and excitement of the band’s live performances into the recording. Even if the record sounds out of the blue and improvised, it is intentional. There are a million guitar bands that sound like they never came out of the garage, but The Strokes could bring the garage straight to you, and make the garage sound like a hundred foot tall monolith dedicated to abandon punk and youth ideals.
What sometimes gets lost when talking about the album is that Casablancas, the only songwriter on the album, had a good ear for melodies and hooks. “Someday” and “Last Nite” are thinly disguised pop songs, while “Soma” and “Hard to Explain” are rock tunes that extend an olive branch for those who need to hook in their favorite music. . Even the most brash and aggressive songs like “Take It Or Leave It” and “The Modern Age” retain that same catchy and memorable power. There is no fat, even when the band had to make a last second change.
The quintessential New York band, of course, had a quintessential New York anthem. ‘New York City Cops’ really has nothing to say about the serious political issues involving the police. Instead, it’s another gutter punk song about one night stands and getting caught displaying the rules that are supposed to be observed by the powers that be. But in the aftermath of 9/11, the song’s chorus could all too easily be taken at face value, so the band substituted a newly recorded song, “When It Started,” without missing a beat, sequence or theme.
Substitutions should also be made for the album cover art. A striking black and white shot of a woman’s bare hip and crotch with a black leather glove placed suggestively on her buttocks, the original album cover was a perfect representation of the grimy sexuality that the group was planning. But Casablancas didn’t like the cover and instead found a new photo of a subatomic particle to replace the original on the US and reissued copies.
The allure of sex, drugs and rock and roll Is this this had an immediate impact. Skinny jeans and blazers were back, as were long strands of dirty hair. But more importantly, the idea that a young, dangerous, debauchery rock band could take over the world was also back. Rarely photographed without cigarettes or beer bottles, the Strokes were easily identifiable with a certain sort of mystique that was sorely lacking. The last time rock music had a major cultural impact was in the late 90s, and it wasn’t cool to be cool. It was better to be mumbled and anxious and take harsher drugs. But the Strokes knew how cool they were and did nothing to diminish their own hipness. They were the first rock band in a long time to feel fun and reveled in their own good times.
As much as he was embraced and instantly canonized, Is this this also became the group’s albatross in a relatively short period of time. When Room on fire released in 2003, critics couldn’t decide whether The Strokes should have changed or stayed the same. The band chose to keep their sound and received a lukewarm approval, albeit a slight disappointment for their lack of innovation. With each subsequent album, the band had to decide whether they wanted to subvert or recognize Is this this and, subsequently, were trapped in an echo chamber of their own design. 1980s synths, drum machines, surf rock baselines, and confusing direction became the predominant aspects of The Strokes sound, and relationships frayed as the group’s reputation as saviors of the Strokes. rock and roll fades to its inevitable conclusion. The group has since returned to the top of rock and roll mountain with The new abnormal, but as older statesmen, not as revolutionary innovators.
Yet the impact of Is this this was undeniable. Just as grunge ostensibly wiped out the hair metal faction of the late ’80s, The Strokes immediately made nu-metal bands and rap-rock clowns terminally ill. Behind them, a whole subculture of bands, from the gothic sweetness of Interpol to the harassed riot blast of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the art-punk experimentalism of TV on the radio, suddenly made New York the center of the rock and roll universe. . Around the world, Is this this found his audience and inspired them to start or embark: The Libertines in London, Arctic Monkeys in Sheffield, Franz Ferdinand in Glasgow, The Hives in Fagersta, Kings of Leon in Nashville and The Killers in Las Vegas. A relatively new term, “indie rock”, has started to take hold, and the lines are still around for anyone who picks up a guitar and comes to understand how easy it is to play “Someday”.
What keeps Is this this to falter under its own weight or to move on is how out of place that seems in any setting. Sure, it reads like New York from the early 2000s to the present day, but only because the Strokes have claimed their claim so enthusiastically. Musically and lyrically, Is this this takes the best elements of rock and roll from the past 50 years, arms them, mixes a generous amount of downtown freshness and reflects it into the world. Sales would increase, narratives fluctuated but eventually stabilized in a positive view of the band’s work, and The Strokes were finally able to escape their past by embracing the more timeless aspects of their style. It all always comes down to Is this this, but the album ultimately feels like a chapter in The Strokes story, not the whole story itself.
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