Once Is This It finally landed in America (its release here had to be delayed so the band could replace the blistering — and not exactly flattering — “New York City Cops” after 9/11), the response was immediate and seismic. There were plenty of rave reviews, naturally, as critics marveled at the young band’s astonishing confidence and the record’s clockwork efficiency. But more amazing by far was the great rumbling tremor that Is This It sent through the music industry itself, a change so desperately needed that the Strokes should be considered humanitarians. At the time, remember, bands such as (brace yourself) Limp Bizkit, Staind, Slipknot, and Linkin Park — along with a heavy dose of Creed — absolutely dominated the rock charts. With one sweep of their Chuck Taylors, the Strokes kicked the nu-metal blight to the curb, clearing the way for other garage-influenced bands like the White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and spawning many imitators, among them Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand, and the Killers.
Not only are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a better band than the Strikes, their debut EP was released on July 9, 2001 several months before “Is This It”’s UK release and, obviously, months before the Strokes’ 9/11-induced chickenout over “New York City Cops.”
What’s more, the general effort to use chronology as a stand-in for quality doesn’t make much sense. There’s no reason to think the first hip-hop album was the best hip-hop album. And it’s particularly nonsensical when you’re talking about a deliberately backward-looking, referential sound. You give innovator points to genuine innovators, not to people who may or may not have hopped on a garage-throwback trend slightly before someone else.
What’s more, while “garage-influenced” may be an adequately reductive account of the Strokes, I defy you to explain why it’s a good account of, say, “Heads Will Roll”:
The big problem with the article, though, is that it doesn’t even attempt to compare “Is This It” to anything. You get no context, no sense of what other albums the author considers worthy contenders.