Up on a hill, here's where we begin
This little story, a long time ago
Start to pretend, stop pretendin'
It seems this game is simply never-endin'
The Strokes - Is This It? changed everything for a lot of people, and I'm no exception. It is not well produced in a traditional sense, yet every song still fills me with that "oh right, THIS one" feeling when it comes on.
In Middle School my friends and I started a band. We would go over to my friend Pat's house and practice. This generally amounted to an hour of playing through our set, then hacking through a new song, and finally devolving to either listening to some music or running down to the basement to grab a Coke and play some 007 spinoff on whatever gaming system was happening at the moment.
While I was up for either, I certainly didn't realize at the time how formative digging through his music collection was for me. He had his finger on the pulse. From Radiohead to Weezer to... well... The Strokes, his small cabinet was my starting point.
Whatever Pat had, I listened to.
Mind you, this was pre high speed internet, and as my nearest neighbor was a mile down the road, it would be a long time til I personally got to the age of Limewire. Accordingly, I would borrow Pat's CD's to "burn" and the Strokes - Is This It? was early on the list. This was just post 9/11 so he actually had both versions... the seductive British version with "NYC Cops on it" and the US reissue where it was removed out of respect.
I remember this album immediately filled me with a sense of nostalgia that I carry with me today. I've never been able to put my finger on it, but for some reason I think it had to do with that Fiona Apple cover of Across the Universe that was part of the movie Pleasantville that came out around the same time. This whole album has that retro-nostalgic sound/vibe. As someone that has spent WAY too much life devoted to sonic perfection, I've gone back and forth over the production quality of this album. From "Wow, how is it so good despite sounding like a tin speaker." to "It's so good BECAUSE of that!" and I have to admit... as the Strokes grew and albums sounded better they did lose some of that raw "just some really cool lookin' dudes making it happen" quality. Which brings us to that final element.
How freaking cool are these guys?
I always felt that young, rural me could really get to know these hip-to-the-max city guys through the music alone. Their personalities coming across through the sparse production where you can really pinpoint everyone's contributions... each guitarist in one speaker with their own unique style--bass licks poking through at just the right times reminding us of the generally-forgotten-member-in-most-bands presence --hyper simple yet still somehow fun drums--and finally Julian's enigmatic "I don't care, but damn, I still somehow impart more emotion than you'll ever have" vocal style.
Anyway, the Strokes were the first band to really 'click' with me. I'd even argue Room on Fire was more important to me because that's the one where I anxiously awaited the release, and that's the one for which I went to FYE on release day. But it's really six of one half dozen of another there.