The Strokes

The Modern Age [UK CD]

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Initially released on the U.K. Rough Trade label in early 2001 (and later on the U.S. Beggar's Banquet imprint), the Strokes' seemingly innocuous three-song Modern Age EP turned out to be one of the more important releases of the early 2000s. Aside from being the opening salvo that introduced the Strokes to a largely unsuspecting world, The Modern Age sparked a renewed interest in other like-minded garage revivalists such as the White Stripes and the Hives, and also managed to fuel a Seattle-esque record label feeding frenzy in the emerging New York scene. Through the spring and summer of 2001, the Strokes and their EP amassed an immense amount of buzz (particularly in the U.K. press), which lofted the anticipation for the group's full-length debut album, Is This It?, into the stratosphere. Now, looking back at The Modern Age EP, it might not be readily apparent what all the fuss was about -- even a cursory listen reveals all three tunes to be in considerably cruder form here than the versions that would later appear on Is This It?. However, this rough-around-the-edges sound was precisely what appealed to many tired rock listeners who were searching for something fresh amid the slick pop groups and faux-grunge revivalists that pervaded the musical landscape of 2001. Those already familiar with Is This It? will notice many small differences in the three songs that appear on the EP -- all contain slightly different lyrics from the album versions, while the tempos also differ from track to track ("The Modern Age" flies by at a considerably speedier clip, while conversely, "Barely Legal" plods along at a much slower pace). "Barely Legal" is perhaps the most structurally different of the three songs, with a guitar solo added to the composition and a chromatically descending bass figure leading into each chorus. On the other hand, "Last Nite" still sounds like a ready-made single here, and is very close to the version that appears on the full-length. Even given the fact that these three songs can be found on both releases, this EP still merits considerable interest as both a historical piece and an insight into the evolution of singer Julian Casablancas' songwriting.

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