I’d Like to Stroke “the Strokes”

Natalia Cooper

“Is This It?” The Strokes, RCA Records, Produced by Gordon Raphael, (www.thestrokes.com)

So, these guys definitely look like rock stars. They’ve got shaggy hair and dark circles under their eyes. But even in these teen pop, boy band heavy musical times the look is only half the battle. So, have The Strokes got the sound? They sure as hell do.

This album is pure rock and roll. There’s no wimpy whiteboy rap over macho guitar riffs. Just great rock and roll. The strong vocals delivered by Julian Casablancas are grainy and rugged. His voice doesn’t sound trained. At the same time he has a smoothness to his voice reminiscent of some bluesy rockers of the mid-70s. I hear a lot of Tom Verlaine’s band Television influence in this music. Multi-layered guitar heavy drum powered rock with solid, traditional basslines.

The record, “Is This It?” is good for cruising around or sitting around, definitely good shower music. It makes me rock out. It reminds me of all of my favorite things from new-wave rockers, especially some harder pre-disco Blondie and fellow CBGB alumni Patti Smith. Although if you were to ask them they would claim such influences are only attributed to their music by critics who want another scene like CBGB’s in the 1970s to be born from The Strokes. These guys probably spent as much time with college rock like the Violent Femmes as they did with the real classics. They make me bob my head the way I do to Elvis Costello records. They have sort of a mod feel but manage to escape the cheesiness often associated with such music.

The production on this album is perfectly matched to the music. It’s obvious that the producer, Gordon Raphael, took pains to preserve some of the garage band feel of these boys. The vocals were kept at almost the same level as the instruments, perhaps a tad lower than they would be on a more lyrics-driven record. The single “Last Nite” is the most immaculately produced track on the record with the ska punk feel of The Clash, particularly in the guitar parts, and an amazingly climactic chorus.

The song “Someday” blows me away. It also drives me to use the term post-mod. “Is there such a thing as post-mod?” you ask. I’m not sure. But, if there is, The Strokes are it. “Someday” is post-mod, with a great head-boppin’ bass line and a melodic bridge without lyrics that goes back into the main body of the song. Some of the best lyrics on this record are also in this song: “You say you want to stay by my side/ Darling your head’s not right/ Alone we stay and together we fall apart …”

“New York City Cops” is another gem you’ll find on “Is This It?” but only if you get the import version of the album. The price difference is about $6 at Newbury Comics, the import obviously being the higher priced of the two. I bought the American version, then heard this song on a friend’s copy of the import. I wish I had spent that extra few dollars. That song is truly worth it. With a chorus that chants “New York City cops … ain’t so smart,” it’s hard to go wrong.

A bunch of boys got together and made a great record. This is rock pop to be proud of, pop like The Kinks not like N’Sync.