As the pungent aroma of cigarette smoke drifts across the space of an East Village club, the band, clad in cooler-than-thou vintage finds and top-dollar designer gear (scored for free, of course–singer Julien Casablanca’s father founded Elite Models) works the crowd and mesmerizes. And while the feel of the room and the sound of the band hark back to Warhol-era Manhattan, The Strokes haven’t so much co-opted the flavor of The Factory as they have rolled on its floor, brushing the dust from their jackets on to the mixing board.
Is This It is a fine, fine debut album. The most amazing thing about it, however, is not the fact that it has a couple of mind-blowing rockers inside (“Barely Legal” and the closing track, “Take,” make the disc worth its purchase price), but rather the fact that there’s not a single clunker on board. Tours with Guided by Voices and The Doves have honed the band’s live act–they have no problem setting backfields in motion.
Consisting of jangly, screech-effect guitars (courtesy of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, Jr.) and a tandem drum-and-bass attack (solidly mounted by Fabrizio Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture) that evokes The Stooges, The The and countless other downtown heroes, The Strokes’ real weapon lies in Casablancas’ voice and lyrical prowess. It would be easy to dismiss the wiry singer as another product of showbiz nepotism (Donovan Leitch and The Nancy Boys, anyone?), but it’s obvious that he and his bandmates are in this game more for the creative element than to model faux-funky, recherche gear. Just don’t hate them ’cause they dress better than you.