The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
The Strokes : Is This It
All you've heard is true. One of the best debut LPs by a guitar band in 20 years
Simply put, Strokes have every quality rock'n'roll requires from its finest exponents and 'Is This It' is where they come together. Some are obvious: the drawling narratives of singer Julian Casablancas, the clanging of Albert Hammond Jr and Nick Valensi's guitars, the uncomplicated recording, bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti joyfully getting on with the business of making music. More than that, though (and like, say, 'Definitely Maybe' by Oasis before it), 'Is This It' is a document of a group seizing a moment and making it entirely their own. Like any indispensable invention, you're forced to wonder how you got by without it. This album is filled with examples of Strokes' indispensability. That these songs for the most part represent material that the band have played since their inception tells you a lot about its quality: the band were inspired from the beginning, and that spontaneity has been captured.
It's a mood that is the backbone to the songs, too - they represent an account of life (their lives, anyone's lives) as hectic and full of incident as their own career. If there's a theme, then it's of inarticulacy ("I say the right thing/But act the wrong way", in 'Hard To Explain', is one lyric that sets the tone), but the songs themselves are perfectly articulate. They're in the right time, in the right place, and they provide as many epiphanies as they're trying to describe.
There's nothing unnecessary here. 'Is This It' is an album by a band that knows its strengths, knows its collective mind. It doesn't sound like one songwriter and some other donkeys. The highest compliment you can pay this record is that it sounds like Strokes, sounds as good as that whole concept. It's a New York story, a Los Angeles story, a London story. Anyone and everyone's story.
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