While ‘Is This It’ was an exemplar of the debut-album-as-greatest-hits philosophy, The Strokes have kept us smiling over the last 15 years with a steady trickle of classics to add to the mantelpiece. We scanned the band’s albums to see how the best tunes stack up.
‘Reptilia’ caught flak on release for retreading ideas better explored on ‘Is This It’, but it’s since been loaded into the Strokes’ canon and fired into indie disco legend. The song proves as irresistible to Converse-wearing thrill-seekers of a Friday night as multi-buy Red Stripe offers and other people’s cigarettes.
9 Machu Picchu
Word around fourth LP ‘Angles’ was that the Strokes needed to step well outside their comfort zone to hold our interest. Well, ‘Machu Picchu’ seemed to take the hint literally, starting out with a cocktail-in-a-coconut riff before sashaying into a chorus that soars like a happy toucan.
With their debut LP, The Strokes had conquered rock, trespassed on pop and redefined indie forever. The reception to follow-up single ’12:51’ was, aptly, is that it? Thankfully, within a few listens the song had proven so infectious its Cars-y synth riff had crept in through your ears, settled in to your brain and started dangling its Converse in your ribcage, shoelaces tickling your smitten heart.
7 Last Nite
Ranking Strokes songs is a dangerous game, and there are those in our midst who’ll consider such lowly placement of ‘Last Nite’ to be the mark of an irredeemable bastard. What with that riff, that melody, that bit about spaceships that ‘don’t understand’, it’s a surefire banger, but does anything else happen in this song? Not really. Still, it’s the one we’ll be jiving to in our 50s and that’s gotta be worth something.
6 Trying Your Luck
“At least I’m on my own again, instead of anywhere with you,” Casablancas sings on ‘Trying Your Luck’, convincing nobody with a sighing vocal that drips with yearning. Tucked in the back of ‘Is This It’ like a secret, it’s the most disarmingly enduring track on a record full of them.
5 The Modern Age
The single that started it all, ‘The Modern Age’’s combination of off-beat guitar jabs and fuzzy chords is a time-machine to an era when all this sounded breathtakingly new. Sure, it took a page or twelve from late-‘70s NYC’s lookbook, but when the tunes sounded less like a tribute band at your local than midnight at God’s own loft party, no one was complaining.
Like Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Someday’ is a song that sounded nostalgic from the very first listen, but has since grown into a certifiable time-capsule so potent it should come with a warning. Lines like “my ex says I’m lacking in depth, oh well, I’ll try my best,” still sound hilariously matter-of-fact, but let’s face it, this one’s all about that Nick Valensi magic.
3 Ask Me Anything
Post-‘Is This It’, some began to suspect The Strokes to be little more than extremely talented Velvet Underground and Television copyists. In response, ‘Ask me Anything’ saw Casablancas undergo a radical reinvention and… well, make a song that sounds an awful lot like Lou Reed’s ‘Street Hassle’. But that’s why it’s great: as hard as the song tries to reject the Strokes’ status as retro-blinkered one-trick-ponies, it still sounds desperately limited.
2 Take It or Leave It
‘Take It Or Leave It’ is all things at once: upbeat yet wistful, simple yet action-packed, resigned yet triumphant. For devotees, it’s also a bacchanalian staple of their live sets, and, in practical terms, a musical reminder, after 35 minutes of musical euphoria, that it’s time to get up and hit repeat.
1 Hard to Explain
With its insistent, drum-machine beat, loopy it’s-raining-riffs verses and zippy, breakneck chorus, ‘Hard to Explain’ is the ‘Is This It’ single you’ll always play and never grow tired of. If we had a penny for every time that sudden stop at 2.08 made our heart skip a beat, we’d be rich enough to build a shrine to Julian Casablancas in our back garden. Okay, okay, we did it already.