When The Strokes first appeared, the rock-music landscape looked very different. Rap-rock artists ruled the charts with Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water one of the best-selling albums of the year. But then came The Strokes, who revived ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll. Their first album Is This It, was one of the greatest and most influential albums of the last decade, opening the floodgates for alternative acts like The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys on the radio. Is This It’s title could be taken as an assessment of the state of rock music at the time, with The Strokes offering something that was clearly missing. With the album’s 10th anniversary this month, here are the twenty best songs by The Strokes.
20. “12:51” (Room on Fire)
The Strokes’ second album was lambasted by critics for sounding too much like the debut. But the first single “12:51”, experimented in ways that they band would further explore, making Nick Valenis’s guitar sound like a synth keyboard, perfect for the music video, an homage to Tron.
19. “Fear of Sleep” (First Impression of Earth)
“Fear of Sleep”, off the bands’ third album First Impression of Earth was another new direction for the band. The lead guitar has a much different sound than usual, and the slow build into an incredible extroverted chorus, especially for Julian Casablancas, has the lead singer screaming “you’re no fun”, while the band seems to be having plenty of it.
18. “Heart in a Cage” (First Impression of Earth)
Also of their third album, “Heart in a Cage” takes a more aggressive turn for the band, as Casablancas sings about abandonment, feeling trapped and paranoia. Also worth checking out the is the bluegrass version, by Chris Thile that surprisingly works slowed down with a banjo.
17. “Is This It” (Is This It)
“Is This It”, the opening track to the debut album of the same name, opens simply, the calm before the storm. Nikolai Fraiture’s bass line influenced Jared Followill of Kings of Leon, who has stated that when he was 15, was one of the first bass lines he ever learned, and that this album was one of the main reasons he wanted to be in a band.
16. “Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men” (B-Side)
added a feminine touch to The Strokes with the B-side “Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men.” Casablancas and Spektor’s back-and-forth is a great change for the band. In fact, the single was delayed because Casablancas believed it should be credited as “Regina Spektor and The Strokes” instead of the other way around.
15. “Someday” (Is This It)
The third and final single from “Is This It,” “Someday” is a look back at better days past. “When we was young, oh man, did we have fun” seems like a premonition of the future from Casablancas. The video showcases this good time, as the band hangs out with Slash at a bar, intercut with the band playing against Guided By Voices in a game of “Family Feud.”
14. “I Can’t Win” (Room on Fire)
“I Can’t Win” was the final song on Room on Fire and almost could be seen as a preemptive attack on people worrying about the sophomore slump as the song goes, “Good try, we don’t like it, good try, we won’t take that shit, oh I can’t win.”
13. “The End Has No End” (Room on Fire)
“The End Has No End” is a great combination of the garage-rock sound that The Strokes were known for and their future, more ’80s-inspired sound. The song and subsequent video features a man who “wants it easy, he want it relaxed,” yet sometimes things can’t quite be so simple.
12. “I’ll Try Anything Once” (B-Side)
“I’ll Try Anything Once” was actually a demo for the opening track to First Impressions of Earth, “What Ever Happened?” The track is bare bones for the band, with only Valensi on keyboard and Casablancas singing. The song’s subtle beauty worked perfectly in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, almost like it was made specifically to fit Coppola’s style.
11. “Under Cover of Darkness” (Angles)
After a five-year hiatus, The Strokes returned with “Under Cover of Darkness,” their first single from Angles. The song features a huge riff/hook that recalls the band’s earliest days and throws in a slight dig at the song that made them famous, “Last Nite,” when Casablancas sings “everybody’s been singing the same song for 10 years.”