Media hype follows the Strokes like a hungry dog. But with its classic-inspired uptown-grit rock, it's undeniable that while they aren't exactly the saviors of rock'n'roll, they are a solid and enjoyable chunk of it. "Is This It" offers the answer to its own drawled question.
A pounding rhythm and several variations of the question "Is this it?" kick off the title track, a swaying rock melody. Following it are a catchy, gritty collection of lo-fi rockers. The uniquely-named Julian Casablancas drones in a delicious monotone through the fast-moving "Barely Legal," the uneasy "Leave Me Alone," the deceptively simple-sounding "Last Night," and the skipping percussion of "Hard to Explain."
Due to the lavish praise heaped on the Strokes, they've become a love-'em-or-hate-'em phenomena. They're obviously influenced by the legendary Velvet Underground, Stooges and Television, but with a twenty-first century twist of New Yorker ennui and art-rock underpinnings.
Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond's complex guitar riffs are the gems of this album -- they drone, they skip, they reverberate, and they sear. Nikolai Fraiture's bass is a good dark edge, and Fabrizo Moretti's drumming sounds like little strikes of lighting -- fast, sharp and out of the blue.
Julian Casablancas has now become the reference point for male singers who sing in a bored monotone, as if too jaded to show emotion in a song. The only time he breaks out of it is in "Barely Legal," where he almost sounds excited at times. "I wanna steal your innocence/To me my life it don't make sense," he says, and sounds like he means it.
The Strokes are far from being the saviors of rock'n'roll. But their punk-tinged New Yawker rock is still some pretty good music, and "Is This It" remains a likable if spotty debut.