Who would’ve thought that a five-piece indie rock band from New York would change the music industry, and become the poster-child of skinny jeans and used guitars? We doubt The Strokes knew what was going to happen, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have let it show through their cool swagger anyway. With this year’s Splendour in the Grass festival being headlined by indie rock’s saviours, we look back and rank each of the five albums that The Strokes have put out so far.
5. First Impressions of Earth, 2006
Seeing as how everyone thought Is This It and Room on Fire were more or less the same thing, First Impressions of Earth felt like an attempt from the band to try something new. While we’re all for musical evolution, The Strokes’ attempt to really alter their signature garage rock sound resulted in a mixed bag of a record. After starting off very strongly with the pumping ‘You Only Live Once’, the dirty-yet-rocking ‘Juicebox’, and the hard-hitting ‘Heart in a Cage’, First Impressions of Earth immediately tailspins into roughly 30 minutes of filler and half-baked musical experiments.
Underrated Gem: ‘Fear of Sleep’
4. Comedown Machine, 2013
The band’s most recent effort is a bit of a black sheep in their discography. Recorded in a relatively short span of time and released with little to no promotion, would Comedown Machine be a return to form or a let down? The answer is probably a little of column A and a little of column B. The band took those disco and electronica elements present in Angles, and pushed them even further in Comedown Machine. From the jittery ‘One Way Trigger’, The Strokes’ tribute to A-Ha‘s ‘Take on Me’, to the the electronica-infused ‘Welcome to Japan’ the band definitely wore their new influences on their sleeve this time around. For the older fans who’ve been holding out for some old-school Strokes rock, the thumping ‘All the Time’ should satiate those wishes. Not everyone will enjoy every song on this album, but you’ll at least find a couple you will like.
Single: ‘All The Time’
Underrated Gem: ‘Tap Out’
3. Angles, 2011
To say that Angles had quite the difficult birth would be an understatement. After five years of radio silence, whispers of a new album were marred with rumours of in-fighting and frontman Julian Casablancas isolating himself from his bandmates. It wasn’t looking too good for The Strokes – until the absolutely rocking ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ was released. For all the pre-release talk about creative differences, Angles felt like the next logical step in the band’s evolution. The band’s knack for writing endlessly-catchy songs was still there, but now there were some new-wave elements to go with the intricate guitar interplay. ‘Machu Picchu’ was weirdly awesome with its dance beats, ‘Games’ was about as disco as The Strokes were going to get, and ‘Taken for a Fool’ would’ve easily slid into Room on Fire without anyone noticing. There were a few duds here and there (looking at you ‘You’re so Right’ and ‘Metabolism’), but the album’s highlights rank up there as some of the band’s best work.
Single: ‘Under Cover of Darkness’
Underrated Gem: ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’
2. Room on Fire, 2003
When you’re tasked with making a follow-up to one of the most influential albums of the post-millennial era, how do you avoid that dreaded sophomore slump? For The Strokes, that meant following the old adage of “don’t mess with a winning formula”, which resulted in Is This It‘s near-identical twin, Room on Fire. When stacked up against its predecessor, Room on Fire was always going to disappoint, but when taken as a singular piece of work, it’s a fantastic listen from start to finish. Heavier and structurally more complex, Room on Fire built on the foundations of Is This It and added in a some new sonic flourishes. From the synthesised guitar tone of ’12:51′ and ‘The End has no End’ to the slow and surprisingly moving ‘Under Control’, Room on Fire pushed the band’s sound further while not straying too far away from its strengths. Plus it gave us ‘Reptilia’, which is probably the best Strokes song ever recorded.
Underrated Gem: ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’
1. Is This It, 2001
This most certainly is “it”.
From the raw distorted guitar opening of ‘New York City Cops’ to the absolutely grooving ‘Someday’, Is This It was the album that reintroduced 70’s garage back into the mainstream. The Strokes’ debut album is a modern masterpiece that simultaneously manages to be surprisingly intellectual in it’s lyrical approach, yet accessible to everyone with its raw charm. Beyond being one of the best indie rock albums ever recorded, Is This it was also the catalyst for the shift from snapback caps to skinny jeans, and the development of some of today’s best indie rock bands. Equal parts world-changing and effortlessly cool, there wasn’t anything like quite like Is This It, and there may never be something like it ever again.
Single: ‘Hard to Explain’
Underrated Gem: ‘Alone, Together’
I may never win a Grammy, solving the piracy issue is way out of my skillset, and I'll probably die of joy if left alone in a room with The Strokes. All I can do properly is write words about music stuff, and hope that people will read it. If you want to debate why 'Is This It' is the best album ever, or you're just bored one day, hit me up on Twitter @alexandervpanView all posts by Alexander Pan