Is This It was one of the first records I ever bought. Even back then–nearly ten years ago–the album had already earned its place in rock ‘n’ roll’s pantheon. Like the “classic” records it nods to, there isn’t any other way to consume it: Is This It was made for wax.
Maybe it’s because The Strokes arrived before the social media era, or because I was just a teenager in Wisconsin at the time, but, on its debut, the band felt fully-formed. From the downwinding tape that kicks off the title track to Julian Casablancas’ closing howls on “Take It or Leave It,” Is This It emanates effortlessness, self-assurance and, in a way, perfection.
Of course, Is This It is basically the work of a classically trained musician (Casablancas) hell-bent on rehearsing and rehashing his favorite garage and rock records until he’s achieved said perfection. “Rock ‘n’ roll” is supposed to be unrehearsed and raw, and this record is technically anything but. Somehow, though, the Strokes pulled it off, releasing a nearly-untouchable, instant-classic debut.
We all know what happened next: For the Strokes, Is This It was it. But, when your biggest hit blatantly rips off Tom Petty and he responds by inviting you to tour with him, you can really only go downhill from there.