If you have read any music-related magazine or website in the past month, you've probably already heard of the Strokes. They are the latest in a long line of Next Big Things that England has sent our way, starting with the British Invasion of the Beatles and the Stones back in 1965. The strange twist with the Strokes is that they aren't an import after all, but rather native sons from NYC whose record was released to great critical and popular acclaim in England months ago, and who have been using their popularity on the other side of the pond to whip the music press back in their homeland into a frenzy of anticipation.
The sound is stripped down garageland 1970s rock, with plenty of guitars but very little fuzz. Their music almost always compared to the Velvet Underground and Television, and to some degree, those comparisons are apt. But rather than just aping the sound of these bands, the Strokes instead piggyback on the same vibe that those bands produced: hearing the Strokes for the first time is just like hearing the Velvets for the first time. It is revelatory and familiar, sincere and sarcastic, meticulously crafted and rough around the edges, all at the same time. After you listen to "Is This It" a couple of times, you won't be able to remember your world before it; it's the kind of album that seeps into every corner of your musical memory, and it's impossible to get it out of your head (or your CD player). It is angst and joy and ego and passion, and everything else that is good about not being grown up.
I could go into details about the relative merits of each song, but it would really be pointless (although I will give a special mention to my favorite, "Hard to Explain", with a heartstopping pause right in the middle and a simple but souldeep line: "I like it right here/But I cannot stay"). Everything on this album fits just as it should; "Is This It" is just one of those perfect records that come along every few years, like Nirvana's "Nevermind" or Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville".
I don't give out five stars easily, but I can't find a reason not to give all of them to this record. The hype is real for once, but don't take my word for it; just go out and buy this record right now. And get ready to fall in love.