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CD Reviews:  The Strokes: Is This It

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Unfortunately, The Strokes reputation, good or bad, has long since preceded them. Never in recent memory has a band or its debut release garnered so much critical praise from so many sources, weeks and even months prior to breaking onto the scene. Is This It ushers in New York's freshest young prep-school rockers with a truly unique and modern flair; the likes of which we haven't seen since Smashing Pumpkins' Gish a decade ago.

The Strokes are not canned. Their sound is quite difficult to categorize, and even harder to draw a fast comparison to anyone in the current musical landscape. Certainly, fans of The Velvet Underground will perk right up and enjoy a common tune. The low fidelity production and muffled melodies within Is This It are the same qualities Lou Reed has relied on for years. "Barely Legal" succeeds in grabbing your pop rock ear with jangling guitars and toe-tapping beats, not to mention well-thought and clever lyrics. The single, "Last Night," takes flight the first time you hear it with simple bass guitar lines underscoring ragged guitar riffs and upbeat melodies. Julian Casablancas' unorthodox vocals are the most memorable piece of The Strokes' pie but will tend to grate on you the first and certainly fifth time through this record. As the disc wears on, what once was different and fresh slowly moves toward the errant side of repetitive and forgettable. 

Reading the written press that touted these guys as "the greatest thing to come out of New York since The Ramones," one would understandably allow himself to build unreasonable expectations. Although the initial expectations were not met, Is This It provides a listener and fan of something different with enough fresh, underground, lo-fi rock to make this disc eventually take. Like drinking Old Milwaukee in search of your first junior high buzz, you get the sense that after a few tries you're going to want to like The Strokes.

~Red Rocker

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