The Strokes are proving to be something of an enigma of the modern age. Their music helped define the Indie generation but from the perfection of ‘Is This It’ to the indifference of ‘Comedown Machine’, Julian Casablancas and co. have experienced numerous highs and lows since they arrived onto the music scene in the early 2000’s.
It’s been 13 years since their debut phenomenon, and the alternative music scene has undoubtedly changed, but the admiration and fanbase for The Strokes has never dwindled despite competition from a certain Sheffield quartet who are now looked upon as the kings of the indie-alternative genre The Strokes used to rule.
The question is, do The Strokes have anything left to give, or has their time come and gone?
There won’t ever be a perfect music album, but Is This It, the first offering from the New York City quintet, is about as close as you’re going to get. Whether it’s the stripped back title track, the anthemic ‘The Modern Age’, the infectious ‘Someday’ and the rip-roaring ‘New York City Cops’, The Strokes’ first album was packed with memorable toe-tappers. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a bad song on the album which was voted the best of the decade by NME, but despite 13 years since their first record was released, it’s safe to say ‘Is This It’ has never been improved upon.
2003’s Room on Fire didn’t match the astounding heights of it’s predecessor but it was still one of the best albums of the year, with ‘Reptilia’, ‘Automatic Stop’ and ‘I Can’t Win’ containing the melodic rhythmic shifts and catchy riffs their fans had come to know and love.
‘First Impressions of Earth’ was below-par, an almost lazy third album. It started off brightly, with ‘You Only Live Once’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Heart in a Cage’ possessing all the traits of some classic Strokes tracks, but the other 11 songs were predominantly forgettable and lacklustre. Can you even remember ‘Ask Me Anything’ or ‘Red Light’?
2011’s Angles was an improvement on 2006’s First Impressions, but it still isn’t a patch on the earlier stuff Casablancas, Fraiture, Hammond Jr, Valensi and Moretti created.
‘Machu Picchu’, ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ and ‘Taken For a Fool’ combined the early 2000’s Strokes with the more modern version to great effect, but ‘Games’ and ‘Call Me Back’ fail to stay in the memory.
Finally, 2013’s Comedown Machine. Not a bad album, but it seemed like a careless release from the New York City slickers; with no public appearances or tours supporting the album it’s as if they didn’t care.‘Tap Out’ contains nice rhythms and ‘50/50’ is full of distorted melodic riffs, but it’s simply nowhere near their earlier works of musical art.
The Strokes may not be the same musical presence they were in the last decade but, somehow, they are simply too iconic to disregard. They have an aura that’s hard to explain, it’s one that can make listeners permanently fall in love with them; not many bands can take a five-year hiatus and return to have over a hundred thousand fans singing along to their indie riffs at Reading and Leeds Festival in 2011.
They do deserve all the admiration and adoration they receive but a reminder of their talents wouldn’t go amiss, and if they want to re-claim their spot at the top of indie/alternative music, they need a new, game-changing album and a thunderous live show to go with it.
The Arctic Monkeys have revolutionised themselves with their sublime fifth album AM which boasts sharp and surreal lyrics, smooth hip-hop style rhythms and monstrous guitar riffs; it’s a masterpiece on an Is This It scale, and one that easily eclipses their previous material. They were described as ‘The New Strokes’ when they first arrived on the scene, but when comparing albums and live shows it’s safe to say that the Sheffield quartet have overtaken their New York City cohorts.
Whether The Strokes can return to their early 2000’s prime remains to be seen, but with their first live show in almost 3 years receiving rave reviews (at The Capitol Theatre in New York) there is a chance that The Strokes are invigorated and ready to burst into life once again.