Blessed and cursed with an enormous amount of hype from the British press, the Strokes prove to be one of the few groups deserving of their glowing reviews. Granted, their high-fashion appeal and faultless influences -- Television, the Stooges, and especially Lou Reed and the Velvets -- have "critics' darlings" written all over them. But like the similarly lauded Elastica and Supergrass before them, the Strokes don't rehash the sounds that inspire them -- they remake them in their own image. On the Modern Age EP, singles like Hard to Explain, and their full-length debut, Is This It, the N.Y.C. group presents a pop-inflected, second-generation take on late-'70s New York punk, complete with raw, world-weary vocals, spiky guitars, and an insistently chugging backbeat. However, their songs also reflected their own early-twenties lust for life; singer/songwriter/guitarist Julian Casablancas and the rest of the band mix swaggering self-assurance with barely concealed insecurity on "The Modern Age" and reveal something akin to earnestness on "Barely Legal" -- a phrase that could apply to the Strokes themselves -- in the song's soaring choruses. The group revamps "Lust for Life" on "New York City Cops" and combines their raw power and infectious melodies on "Hard to Explain," arguably the finest song they've written in their career. Nearly half of Is This It consists of their previously released material, but that's not really a disappointment since those songs are so strong. What makes their debut impressive, however, is that the new material more than holds its own with the tried-and-true songs. "Is This It" sets the joys of being young, jaded, and yearning to a wonderfully bouncy bassline; "Alone Together" and "Trying Your Luck" develop the group's brooding, coming-down side, while "Soma," "Someday," and "Take It or Leave It" capture the Strokes at their most sneeringly exuberant. Able to make the timeworn themes of sex, drugs, and rock & roll and the basic guitars-drum-bass lineup seem new and vital again, the Strokes may or may not be completely arty and calculated, but that doesn't prevent Is This It from being an exciting, compulsively listenable debut. [In light of the World Trade Center disaster, the track "New York City Cops" was pulled from the U.S. release].
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares