To mark their return to the stage this Summer, Daniel Jeakins ranks The Strokes’ five albums so far from worst to best…
They are five insanely cool New Yorkers who transformed the music industry at the turn of the new century in a flurry of hype – and 14 years on from the release of their debut album, the news of their live return has initiated a new wave of excitement.
To celebrate the announcement of The Strokes’ Hyde Park gig on June 18, let’s take a look back at the five-piece’s widely-adored discography.
What were the band’s best and worst releases? And what were the stand-out tracks throughout the band’s career?
Disagree with our ranking? Vote in our interactive list below…
5. First Impressions of Earth (2006)
First Impressions of Earth marked the first time The Strokes attempted to alter their signature garage rock sound, and despite the record’s placing in this list it wasn’t a complete disaster. ‘Heart In A Cage’, which initially sounds like it would be a better fit on a Dragonforce album, is one of the band’s most out-there recordings. Elsewhere the power chord hooks on ‘You Only Live Once’ are pretty irresistible, whilst the darker lyrical themes on ‘Vision of Division’ present a different side to Julian Casablancas’ song writing.
That said, this was the record that put the future of the band in jeopardy – and bands rarely split after making good albums. For every ‘Juicebox’ on the album there is an ‘Electricityscape’ – it’s safe to say that the Strokes’ third LP is a patchy effort that wasn’t up to the standards of their otherwise consistently strong discography.
Best Track: ‘You Only Live Once’
4. Angles (2011)
No one had heard much from The Strokes in 2011, and the announcement of their first LP in five years came with stories of a band in crisis. Nick Valensi described the recording process as “awful”, allegedly due to the fact that singer Casablancas barely turned up. From all the tales of inter-band resentment and turmoil, however, came an imperfect but fun pop record that marked another evolution in the band’s sound.
Eighties synths were immediately apparent on the likes of ‘Two Kinds Of Happiness’ and ‘Games’, but Angles also produced its fair share of indie disco staples. ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ should go down as one of the band’s best singles, whilst ‘Machu Picchu’ and ‘Taken For A Fool’ also saw the band recover their mojo. A really strong closer in ‘Life Is Simple In The Moonlight’ put a full stop on an album that, strangely enough – considering the context of its inception – put The Strokes back on track.
Best Track: ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’
3. Room On Fire (2003)
How do you go about following up one of the most influential albums of all time? Keep doing what you’re doing only not quite as well probably isn’t the answer you had in mind, but for The Strokes it kind-of worked. Room On Fire is a heavier record than Is This It, but for the most part it doesn’t mess with a winning formula, and is an extremely enjoyable listen.
‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’ became an instant fan favourite (if only because of allegations that it’s about Courtney Love) and ’12:51’s futuristic riff is one of the band’s best pop moments. The real highlight is of course ‘Reptilia’ – in my mind the band’s very best song – and whilst there are a handful of bland moments The Strokes’ sophomore effort remains an enjoyable listen.
Best Track: ‘Reptilia’
2. Comedown Machine (2013)
The band’s latest release, 2013’s Comedown Machine, was unleashed unexpectedly with almost no promotion or live dates to support it. It’s a shame really, because the Strokes’ fifth LP is a remarkably good album doomed to forever fly under the radar of their discography.
‘One Way Trigger’ acted as a curveball of a lead single, with the song’s keyboard riff drawing comparisons to A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’, but it fits in well in the context of an experimental yet engaging record that consistently impresses. The fruity pop of Angles combines brilliantly with the electronic synths of Casablancas’s solo debut on the likes of ‘Welcome To Japan’ and ‘Tap Out’, whilst ‘All The Time’ harks back to the band’s early-Noughties glory days. For my money Comedown Machine is one of the most under-appreciated records of the decade.
Best Track: ‘Welcome To Japan’
1. Is This It (2001)
I really couldn’t pick anything else. Is This It, 14 years on, still possesses the raw power and innovative songwriting that made it such an adored release at the time. It’s a record jam-packed with indie-disco classics, from the powerful distorted guitar lead on ‘New York City Cops’ to the inescapably catchy melody of ‘Someday’.
Is This It is an album that made bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Killers possible – it kicked down the door for guitar music on mainstream radio and is influential to large portions of contemporary alternative music. It’s as close to a perfect album as I’ve heard, and will certainly go down in history as a modern classic.
Best Track: ‘Someday’
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