They’re the band that defined the transition from ’90s to ’00s, put New York back on the musical map and made most British people wish they were called something cooler, like Fab Moretti.
Will The Strokes make another album? Albert Hammond’s dad reckons they’ve already made a start, but with a five year gap between ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ and ‘Angles’, it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll get to hear it. So in the meantime, it’s time to reappraise the band’s back catalogue. Here are The Strokes’ albums, ranked.
4‘Room On Fire’ (2003)
Looking back, you have to wonder if ‘Room On Fire’ was evidence of a bit of self-sabotage, an attempt to clip the wings of the enormous, hyped-up monster that The Strokes had become due to ‘Is This It’. It’s essentially the first album again, but a thinner version: the tunes are less memorable, the singles aren’t as interesting, the vocals scuzzier. Even the sleeve seems phoned-in. There are moments of greatness: the sweet, catchy ‘12:51’, the robotic guitar riff in ‘The End Has No End’, the passionate ‘What Ever Happened’; but generally, ‘Room On Fire’ followed the age old rule of: brilliant debut, vaguely disappointing follow-up.
Around the time ‘Angles’ came out, The Strokes were a difficult band to see in concert: the tension between the band was palpable even from the crowd – glances were fired, Casablancas’s stage banter was bordering on the bizarre and big tunes were thrown away. If the band were falling apart during the making of ‘Angles’, a little bit of friction did them good: this album introduced intricate songwriting, an element of Cars-like power pop and an ‘80s influence that bled over from Julian’s solo album. Thin on singles it may be, a little directionless too, and in parts bloody weird (looking at you, ‘You’re So Right’), but for all of us who’d been waiting five years for another Strokes album, it filled the gap nicely. Cool Marble Madness-like sleeve too.
2‘Is This It’ (2001)
Is this one of the greatest debut albums of all time? Is this the reason we all fell in love with the band in the first place? Is this really at number two? Well, yes – to all three. ‘Is This It’ is an album that was the catalyst for a decade of indie music. It’s the reason we all spent the 2000s walking around in Converse. It’s a one-album indie disco. It is, quite simply, brilliant. But it’s an album that spent most of the 2000s in my DJing box and none on my record player. Most of the tracks on it – amazing as they undoubtedly are – were already burned into my brain before the album came out. It’s a greatest hits more than a debut. As a sharp, 35-minute stick of dynamite up the bottom of the music industry, it was brilliant. But familiarity is the enemy of appreciation: even that ‘Smell The Glove’-like sleeve is just part of the wallpaper. The result? It’s never the Strokes album I reach for.
1‘First Impressions Of Earth’ (2006)
I’m prepared for the tsunami of disagreement here, but I’m saying it: ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ is the best Strokes album, and not just because the opposite of some of those things I said about ‘Is This It’ applies. There’s depth and texture here, from the power pop thrills of ‘You Only Live Once’ (still the best power chord chorus of the 2000s, without doubt) to the adrenaline rush of ‘Juicebox’, the weirdness of ‘Ask Me Anything’ and the brilliant ’15 Minutes’, which sounds like Casablancas, drunk, singing a sea shanty to Shane McGowan. The riffs are angrier and more intricate, the lyrics more troubled, the melodies just as strong (even if ‘Razorblade’ sounds a little too close to Barry Manilow’s ‘Mandy’) and it hangs together like a complete work. Go on, give it another spin and tell me I’m wrong. (Gulp).