8.) The Strokes - Is This It (2001)
It's difficult to try and explain the insanity that surrounded the Strokes just before they hit to people who weren't around for it. They were the only band anyone wanted to talk about. They were going to be the biggest band in the world. They were going to save rock 'n roll and, for a minute, they were and they did.
That the Strokes didn't necessarily make good on the promise that was made for them by a music media that loves to build a band up just to knock it down, is not their fault. As a matter of fact, the Strokes' two subsequent records following this, their outstanding debut, are actually way better than they were given credit for. But all that's moot because Is This It is still a glorious, alive and dirty rock 'n roll record. One of the best of its kind, actually. Is it derivative? At times, but so was Let It Bleed and, for that matter, Let It Be. In order for rock 'n roll to break new ground it needs to be unlistenable (see major Strokes influence Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music) and nobody wants that.
It's way too easy to hate on The Strokes - manufactured and rich and purposefully disheveled - yep. Living off trust funds. Mmm hmm. Posers. I guess so. But you know what, no band embodies the early 2000's NYC scene better than the Strokes. All of the, as Craig Finn of the Hold Steady puts it, "sniviling little indie kids", who try to pretend they're boho Brooklyn Animal Collective types, are actually just like the Strokes. These are the people that criticize the band - posers themselves. Which is ironic. I think.
But, as per usual, I digress. Is This It is an undeniably perfect rock ' n roll record. Completely of its time and yet unquestionably timeless. It's dirty with a sheen making it okay for the indie set but palatable for the rest of America. That a song like "Last Night" wasn't the biggest hit in the history of rock 'n roll America just proves that regardless of how "big" we can perceive a band to be, America still doesn't love rock 'n roll they way it should. Is This It is filled top to bottom with absolutely perfect songs. The title track being perhaps the best of all, but don't forget Julian's beautifully detached rasp on "Soma" or the fantastic organized chaos at the end of "Take it or Leave It" and the dip-out of "Hard to Explain". These are all indelible moments in rock 'n roll at this point. They've now taken up space in my head reserved for things as familiar as my ABCs for god's sake and, tell me if I'm wrong, but if that's not the sign of something utterly brilliant then fuck me, I guess I don't know shit.
Posted by Pat Driscoll