Decade :: The Strokes, Is This It (2001)

There could be a lot to resent about the Strokes before ever listening to their music. A bunch of wealthy, well-traveled prep-school kids from Manhattan hit a bit of luck and became an overnight sensation. The money, the pedigree, the luck -- all potential sources of envy, cynicism and ire for an everyday Joe like you or me who may feel, at times, short on all three and who may wonder why good fortune seems to be bestowed on those who already have it by the truckload. But that's all before you listen to Is This It, and most likely you probably didn't know most of that anyway when you first heard it.

My first introduction to the band was by way of their video for "Last Nite" featuring the band kicking around a soundstage reminiscent of the bygone days of television programs where the guest musicians might've been the Monkees or the Carpenters, or a maybe a young Mick Jagger, bangs and all. (Its haloing, intentionally low resolution led me to believe it might be the start of a Mentos commercial. Seriously.) But by the end of the video, I was scrambling to buy the record. I wasn't alone. Labels reacted similarly, as "Last Nite" leaked/teased ahead of The Modern Age three-track EP, which ultimately ignited a bidding war that resulted in the release of Is This It on RCA.

Even now, "Last Nite," as familiar as it is, feels simplistic. It's short, to the point, rough and free of any layered production effects. The album, of course, is much in accord, and it's this that makes it difficult to describe the Strokes' immediate and lasting impact on the decade, and likely far beyond. Because how can something so small be so big? Shakespeare says "brevity is the soul of wit," and so too, may it be the heart of music.

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