Reconsidering the Strokes

Back in the day (2003), I purchased the Strokes’ second album, Room on Fire.

And I absolutely hated it. Despised it with every fiber of my being. I ranted and raved about it, ripped it to shreds to anyone who would listen, and refused to listen to their stuff for the next, oh, almost 16 years. The vocals were buried in the mix, the bass was weak, and I thought the lyrics were insipid. If this was the future of guitar rock, I reasoned, it was time for guitar rock to die.

Earlier this month, I downloaded their first album, Is This It?, on a whim. I listened to it a few times, and something has happened to me since those early days of 2003: I kinda liked it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the whole “saviors of rock’n’roll” nonsense is just that: nonsense. But maybe an older, wiser me recognizes what they were trying to accomplish now, and can appreciate it for what it is: damn fine garage rock. The guitars are chugging, the vocals (while definitely buried in the mix) are evocative and fitting, and the songs are tight and almost hyperactive (their first two, 11-song albums clock in at around 30 minutes each).

Are these albums going to become my go-to for rock’n’roll? No. But they’re damn fine examples of the early-aughts garage rock revival aesthetic, one that I like more now than I did at the time.

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