Sacred Cows – Is The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ Over-Rated?

The first of a new series in which writers argue against the standard view of classic albums. Here, Ben Patashnik does battle with NME’s praise for ‘Is This It?’ and lets rip at The Strokes.

Do you agree, or has Ben got it totally wrong? Join the melee by posting a comment below.

align=”left” />In 2001, as we are reminded with the constancy and rude volume of a 2am car alarm, the world of music changed forever. The Strokes! Five skinny mannequins from NYC with a penchant for leather and scowling! Words like angular and garage becoming fashionable again! Oh sweet world, how you bless us with such gifts.

Except, of course, for the Great Unsaid: The Strokes were and are unmitigated crap, and ‘Is This It’ a by-word for everything hateable about music.

Crack it on nowadays and you might be filled with nostalgia, but that’s practically all. None of the tunes, bar perhaps ‘Someday’ stand up today, and it’s because of their nagging ubiquity eight long years ago. The title track is a yawn of boredom strung out for two and a half minutes, ‘Last Nite’ an exercise in taking the constituent elements of a half-decent rock song and beating the life out of them by thinking ‘insouciant cool’ means ‘stand there like a cunt trying not to let your nose bleed over your guitar’, and the likes of ‘Soma’ and ‘Trying Your Luck’ are eminently forgettable; masterclasses in empty arrogance that say nothing of import and mean even less.

To people desperate for something that wasn’t fucking Travis, yeah, there was a modicum of appeal. But to those of us who didn’t and don’t treat music as a series of bandwagons to hop on and off, ‘Is This It’ is a fucking abomination, a sinister example of how The Emperor’s New Clothes are brighter than ever. And speaking of clothes, if the music wasn’t boring enough – and perhaps that’s the problem, ‘Is This It’ is a carnival of dullness rendered by a bunch of goons too distracted to even put a fucking question mark at the end of their non-statement statement – it’s The Strokes’ fault that indie discos, for practically the entire decade, have been full of unimaginative Topshop-humping geeks in skinny jeans, shirts and skinny ties. They allowed a generation of sheep to ‘go indie’ and unwittingly doomed guitar music into being a going concern for department store buyers rather than, y’know, something to believe in.

They did get better, mind. ‘Heart In A Cage’ and ‘Reptilia’ are borderline listenable, and their hiatus since the middle of the decade has been perhaps the best thing they’ve ever done as a band. Julian’s solo record has three and a half nice melodies on it, but Albert Hammond Jr still persists in making music when he doesn’t have to (the bastard!) and The Other Three still hang around like a nagging cough in March.

So, moral of the story: it’s OK to not like The Strokes. Hell, in a sane world they’d have been flayed years ago, so let’s have some indie revisionism and set the record straight.