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The Strokes

  • Is This It,
  • Room On Fire,
  • First Impressions Of Earth,
  • Angels,

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    The Strokes

    Is This It( 2001 )
    Is this it / Modern age / Soma / Barely legal / Someday / Alone together / Last nite / Hard to explain / New York City cops / Trying your luck / Take it or leave it

    A bunch of rich kids from New York who are at once both handsome AND rock n roll! Now, that's a combination that might just work....They aren't original, this is punk, garage rock etc etc and so forth. But, what is original - if writing good melodies can be an original thing, is just that. They write damn catchy songs. Is that original. Is this it? No. Of course not, but given the mostly sorry state of guitar bands in the early part of the new decade it is in fact original. Being a good guitar band in this day and age is a bloody thing to behold! Oh, i'm sure there are a few others :) Well, I know there are, don't jump up and down on top of me all at once! First masterpiece arrives though with only the second song on the album! 'The Modern Age' - a simple song that embodies everything that's good about Rock n Roll. Rock n Roll! God, we'd all thought that had died, didn't we? The Strokes! Loads of bands following in their wake into the charts! Yes, this did chart, straight in at number one in the UK album charts. And, besides, getting back to 'The Modern Age' it has a stupendously dumb and exciting guitar solo stuck in the middle of the song. It has drums that sound like The Fall! We have 'New York City Cops' where the introduction is so much like The Fall you could have sworn Mark E Smith was involved somewhere but no, he wasn't. I wonder if he approves?

    I do realise this review makes no sense at all. I don't care. We have 'Last Nite' and the sheer splendour that is 'Hard To Explain'. Damn, all the songs are as entertaining as breathing and smiling. Does it get a ten then? No. It isn't original and my one fear is what happens next? Some of the songs sound great but probably aren't actually great. The first and last tracks and 'Trying Your Luck' spring to mind. 'Someday' isn't so hot either. Don't get me wrong. They all sound great! But, the melodies. Those lovely little catchy melodies as contained and showcased on the likes of 'Hard To Explain'. Do they have a bunch more of those? Whatever, it's a damn good album that makes everyone smile - or at least, should do.

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    Readers Comments

    Ilya Grigoriev negative_creep@gmx.de
    To me this record did what it should: it got me into 60s and 70s rock when i was 15 and that was really needed because otherwise i would be sitting, watching MTV and i would think rap is music. I love 2 tracks on this album: "Barely Legal" - a straightforward speedy rocker with Casablancas moaning something into the mic and of course "Last Nite" - the most original track on the record (of course lyrically)

    Andy abarratt@canoe.ca
    This is it, the apex of the white stripes career. Sure, White Blood Cells probably 'sounds' better, but the peak of appeal was here on De Stijl. It's just a shame no-one knew who they were back then.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Yes the effect on the guys voice becomes repetitive , yes iggys got cause to sue , and yes they are products of an exclusive american private school , but dammit this is a great record . its packed with tunes , less than 35 mins long and kicks like a mule . Great stuff to soundtrack a walk around a busy city afternoon.

    BigBadBaby Scotland
    Saw The Strokes @ T in The Park, Scotland this year, my wife was watching Beyonce at another stage. The crowd were going wild and I didn't realise how many Strokes tunes I knew. Bought this album and have played it non-stop. Still makes me smile. An amasing Rock album. No nonsense "accessible" music.

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    Room On Fire( 2003 )
    Whatever Happened / Reptilia / Automatic Stop / 12.51 / You Talk Way Too Much / Between Love And Hate / Meet Me In The Bathroom / Under Control / The End Has No End / The Way It Is / I Can't Win

    The Strokes return with an album that is very easy to like, but also very easy to be easily indifferent towards. Bar a slight turn towards more new wave type sounds, this is it. It's the same thing, but not done quite so well. The Strokes were always going to find it difficult to artistically progress, but even that isn't the point here. The real worry is that this is pretty much a simple re-tread of the debut, albeit with minor differences, eg, increased use of keyboards. A singer who has vocal chords that betray a couple of years spent on the road. A band that sound tired, and they do. Oh, a certain amount of energy is here, but I get the impression that an amount of enthusiasm has been lost. This loss is audible in the grooves. There is little searching for new avenues and little 'hey, here we are!', aka 'Is This It?'. Yet, don't get this writer wrong, 'Room On Fire' is still a good album to listen to, very easy to listen to. It challenges absolutely nothing and invents absolutely nothing, even in Strokes terms, and god, they'd only released one album prior to this. No surprises then, but yes, still melodic, still fun to listen to. The album starts well, the first three songs carry on from where the previous album left off, as simple as that. Well, second song 'Reptilia' is a highlight, definitely. As good a song as The Strokes have ever done, really. The first single, '12:51' is strangely low-key and downbeat, but also pretty addictive. Very simple riffs and a very simple formula. Increased 'electro' or 'new wave' sounds, but otherwise, as was.

    The second half of the album is a little inconsistent. The first half matches the quality of their debut, the second half of this record lets the whole thing slip slightly. 'You Talk Way Too Much' - the vocals sound awful, quite frankly. The song sounds barely together, bar the now signature Strokes sound that links it with everything else they've ever done. But, this is most definitely the sound of The Strokes treading water. So, are there any highlights of the second half of the album? Well, a semi highlight with the catchy and interesting 'Meet Me In The Bathroom'. A nice groove, a nice feel. 'The End Has No Way' reminds me of Blondie for some reason I can't quite gather. Maybe just that The Strokes simply progress 'a couple of years' with this release. They are now in early eighties sound, rather than mid to late seventies. Fair enough, fair play to them. Don't expect me to get excited about it too much, however. And yes, the vocals do get gratingly repetitive towards the end of this album. The guy needs to take a rest.

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    Readers Comments

    Shimmer wanderinghost65@yahoo.com
    Harsh mate. There is so much going on here on Room on Fire...sure the album only goes for 33 minutes, but so much is compacted that it feels like 80 minutes. The Strokes are simple, sure...but that's their music. Give them more credit.

    Nick nicko526@aol.com
    The Strokes have released 23 studio songs and they have yet to make a bad note. 'Room On Fire', 11 more songs, 11 more great tunes. p.s.- You don't consider 'Under Control' a highlight?

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    First Impressions Of Earth 8 ( 2005 )
    You Only Live Once / Juicebox / Heart In A Cage / Razorblade / On The Other Side / Vision Of Division / Ask Me Anything / Electricityscape / Killing Lies / Fear Of Sleep / Evening Sun / Ize Of The World / 15 Minutes / Red Light

    It's kind of annoying, isn't it, that bands seemingly don't know how to make albums anymore. It's almost as if everybody is releasing their own compilation albums, albeit compilations consisting of all new songs. What I mean is clear, all the truly great albums there has ever been, are seamless from one song to the next. Truly great albums running orders are art in themselves, let alone the music contained within. Before I carry on, yes. This is a good album. Right, that out of the way, we could have lost at least two songs from this album. Fifty one minutes cut down to a scientifically proven 44 minutes perfect album length. Twelve songs then, six on each 'side' in old LP terms. Design each side on its own, and then together as a whole. Each side should contain at least two potential singles, if you're trying to make a commercially minded album. If you're not, each side should have two of the albums best songs on it. The first and last tracks on the album need to be strong. The second side needs to maintain the quality of the first side, so people keep listening right through to the end. There should also be the sense, one song to the next, that you're going on some kind of musical or emotional journey. Um, that's about it, it's really not rocket science, although it's apparently beyond The Strokes. They did it marvellously on the first album, barring the first and last tracks being great, because they weren't. Otherwise, it was a perfectly put together listening experience. 'First Impressions Of Earth' has its moments, it's got some great songs on it, but its not a great album in the sense of it being an album, it's merely a very decent collection of songs. It's a good compilation.

    First single, 'Juicebox' is superb if not terribly deep. It doesn't need to be deep, though. Right from the rumbling bass line to excellent lead vocals, the song has a momentum, it's thrilling and exciting and one of the best songs here. The opening 'You Only Live Once' is decent, if Strokes by numbers, yet another highlight arrives with the melodic, mid-tempo 'Razorblade', proving The Strokes ability as great song-arrangers hasn't deserted them. The Strokes branch out a little for a few of the other songs on the album. 'On The Other Side' is a strange, near five minute long slice of desperation, a repeated refrain, 'I hate myself for hating them', and further variations on a theme. 'Ask Me Anything' is strangely bare, an electro melodic pulse weaves in and out and Julian sings softly over the top of it. It's a song easy to dismiss, although this is the sort of material The Strokes need to produce, the kind of material absent from 'Room On Fire'. Elsewhere, The Strokes simply experiment with slight variations in song tempo, texture and structure, nothing radical but enough to ensure 'First Impressions On Earth' sounds different to the first two albums.

    The albums highlight arrives with 'Vision Of Division', an agressive darker song that contains the best guitar of any Strokes tune, ever. It's got this mad mid-section that twirls and spins and generally goes insane. I like it, The Strokes need to go insane to get the best out themselves. This proves it! The 2nd half of the album doesn't really have any outright classics, but it's a solid piece of work. You'll only find your attention dropping for the last two songs or so, as listening to fifty minutes of Julian sing is a little trying. To give him and the rest of The Strokes their due though, 'First Impressions Of Earth' does genuinely progress the groups sound forwards. It's a little darker, a little more aggressive. It's good.

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    Readers Comments

    Diarmait randynuts@hotmail.com
    Good review! Finally somebody gives this album the credit it's due. I'm not saying that it's an amazing, breakthrough album, or anything of the sort, but I still think it merits higher ratings than most critics seem to be giving it. It's obviously pretty fashionable to give poor reviews to bands that were previously lauded by the same source. I agree that the album isn't as cohesive as previous efforts; nonetheless the songs grow on me with every listen. I like your idea of the 'compilation album' - a pretty apt description. Still, I think we need to get away from the idea of albums having 'sides'. That era is gone, time to move forward! Surely we can redefine what constitutes a great album for the 21st century? The medium no longer limits us to 45minutes divided into two parts... that said, I do think that some self-restraint has to be shown. The Strokes could have saved at least two of the songs here for b-sides and a little bit of shuffling would have made the album flow! better overall. Having the four strongest songs open the album can't have been the best idea. Despite all this, and as you said yourself, The Strokes write good songs (and I always can rearrange their order in winamp!). Oh, and yes, Julian's lyrics are pretty vacuous, but I can't say that they were ever The Strokes' strong point.

    rusty rusty@socal.com
    I think you've posted a fairly objective review. I can't say I'm the biggest Strokes fan out there. I, like everyone else, thought the first album was "messianic." True, the second album was rough around the edges, but very catchy. "I can't win" has this magnetic attraction to it which I think symbolizes what Julian and the rest of the boys are pretty much trying to say about life and the world. No matter how talented I am compared to you, or how wasted a life you've lived, none of us really control any of the breaks. Sometimes, it's hard to see the final picture, sometimes, you just "can't win." This 3rd album though, "First Impressions of Earth", I think really runs with that subversive play on messages and meanings. I think a lot of the songs are extremely deep. My favorite tune on here I must admit is "Ize of the World." This song is virtually literature, with their use of Hyperbole and Pun. The Ize are the beliefs we accumulate as we go through this world. The ! -isms if you will. Criticism, Terrorism, Capitalism, etc. Yet, it is also how we've changed our minds to see the world, hence the eyes or "Ize." I could go on, but I really thing that their lyrics continue to sharpen, and you must look at the gutters between the lines to really enjoy what they're saying. "Razorblade" is both suicide and true love, because sometimes they are one and the same. You lose yourself, if you want to. When I first heard them, I really thought they sounded a lot like The Velvet Underground, but I think they've certainly defined themselves with this album. Go get the album. Put it in, play the whole thing on repeat, then get yourself a beer and a bong. At first, there seems to be no closure to any of their songs, but soon, as I've said, pay attention to the gutters. Pangs of clarity will whip to the front of your minds. In little broken whispers, you'll say to yourself, "Genius."

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    Angles( 2011 )
    Machu Picchu / Under Cover of Darkness / Two Kinds of Happiness / You're So Right / Taken for a Fool / Games / Call Me Back / Gratisfaction / Metabolism / Life Is Simple in the Moonlight

    What more is left to be said - they fell out, they got back together, band members songwriting credits are now more democratic. The New Musical Express will forever be linked with ruining The Strokes career by hyping up a solid debut to that of Beatles debut in terms of supposed influence. What influence? Franz Ferdinand Kings Of Leon and The Hives? It hardly makes 'Is This It' at all influential. And what now 'The Strokes' release an album that's varied, that contains 80s pop/rock throwbacks as well as their usual late Seventies New York punk influences. What now where The Strokes almost defiantly aren't the future of anything? Well, some people seem disappointed that The Strokes have 'only' released the most varied and cohesive album of their career.

    'Angles' contains the best playing of any of their records, the most variety yet everything is shot through with 'Strokes Hooks'. Is it new, influential - is it even terribly important? No, and if the lack of those Zeigtgeist defining items makes you upset with The Strokes, that's entirely your choice. For me, this is just and 'just' their most enjoyable all-round album to actually listen to. All this despite well publicized comments from guitarist Nick Valensi in a recent 'Pitchfork' interview, basically describing the recording of the album as something they absolutely don't want to repeat and, essentially, a disaster. Naturally then, because during one interview Nick Valensi describes the recording of the album as 'a disaster' it must be, right? Right? Wrong. You can hear the creative tension and marrying that creative tension to somewhat easy, even nostalgic sounds and melodies makes perfect sense to me. Takes the pressure off a bit retreating to your own past and influences rather than try and try again to re-develop 'Is This It' for a new decade.

    The songs then. 'Under Cover Of Darkness' is The Strokes being exactly what you would expect them to be, a slightly maturer version of 'Is This It'. Whilst undeniably catchy, there's something of a 'so-what?' feel about this. They certainly take more risks elsewhere across the albums tight, ten song, 34 or so minutes. 'Call Me Back' is miniminalist Lou Reed style experimentalism that would have worked for Velvet Underground in 1968. 'Taken For A Fool' would sit comfortably on 'Is This It' but The Strokes add here a terrific rhythm section performance as a definite plus point from their travels during the interveaning years. 'Two Kinds Of Happiness' is very 80s synth/new wave, yet fronted by Gaz from Supergrass, seemingly so. Even more eighties is the delightful 'Games' which moves from 'Pet Shop Boys' to 'New Order' styles with ease. 'Gratisfaction' is Seventies glam, again seemingly fronted by Gaz from Supergrass. 'You're So Right' pounds electronically with Julians vocals sounding like a ghost, quite apt as he was hardly in the studio the same time as everybody else. Perhaps that's why the music across 'Angles' ten tracks often sound so well-worked, albeit simple?

    Anyway, as I type this review the ad sitting at the bottom of this page invites you, for 4.50 a week, to discover which member of JLS is your dream date. Is that the type of future the NME wanted for The Strokes? As the synths of 'Life Is Simple In The Moonlight' really do sound like the dawn of nothing at all, why do I enjoy 'Angles' so much? I think basically because the melodies are often simple and familiar, because they've thrown in a couple of songs with more depth, because they do eighties pretty well... I don't know why, I don't think the album is at all important... perhaps that's exactly why. If you can listen without being prejudice by what's gone before, you'll enjoy this record a whole lot more than you may otherwise do.

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    this page last updated 09/10/11

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