As The Strokes look set to acknowledge another decade passing under the expert leather-clad guidance of the New York quartet, we thought it was time to recognise their new position within the music world. While the band may not like to hear it, when you can count two decades at the top of the rock game, the chances are you’re nearing a permanent role as a legacy act. Of course, the release of the 2020 effort The New Abnormal did a lot to rectify those recommendations – and to confirm that the band weren’t quite done yet – but there’s no doubt they have ascended towards becoming ubiquitous icons.
A confirmation of that role as a serial influencer can be seen and heard within the covers the band have inspired. When the group arrived at the turn of the century, The Strokes confirmed that not only was rock and roll far from dead, but it was about to take the world by storm once more. Using an effortless cool and an unstoppable knack of delivering searing indie gems, the group gathered up fans and changed how they looked, spoke and, of course, what they danced to. It has seen The Strokes emerge as bonafide indie rock legends.
If we put aside the validity of such a band being recognised as iconic, though the group are up for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame contention in just a few years, we can all agree that The Strokes represented the definition of cool in the 21st century. Whether it was their leather jackets or ripped jeans, the band, led by Julian Casablancas and backed by Albert Hammond Jr, Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti, were the gang leaders.
Together, they strolled around New York and London as the Kings of Cool, never flinching from their role; they brought some classic songs as well as looks. The band’s style is unquestionable, but it was their music that left the largest imprint on society. It can still be heard today as countless artists such as Billie Eilish count them as significant inspirations.
There’s no better way to pay homage to those inspirational figures than by sharing a cover of one of their songs. Below, we’ve got the best covers of The Strokes of all time for your listening pleasure. Don the jacket and rip those jeans; we’re going back to the noughties.
The best covers of The Strokes:
8. ‘Last Nite’ – Adele
Before becoming an undoubted global superstar, Adele was a singer-songwriter trying to make it in a predominantly indie world. The rock ‘n’ roll revolution started by The Strokes had swept into the mainstream with the ease of one smoky breath. It meant that the BRIT school graduate would have to find her own niche within the industry, namely, her supreme talent.
Adele’s grasp of almost any song is more than impressive, but the way she transforms The Strokes breakthrough single is truly impressive. An instant classic upon release, ‘Last Nite’ confirmed The Strokes as the saviours of American guitar music, sweeping away the debris of nu-metal with a jangle-pop jaunt and the devilish smile of a late-night whisky chaser. Somehow, Adele makes it her own.
Paying homage to the original with good wishes only, Adele takes the track into her own powerful pop realm for a scintillating rendition of the indie dancefloor filler.
7. ‘Last Nite’ – The Detroit Cobras
Now, if we were DJs, we’d space these covers out a little bit, but The Detroit Cobras version of the seminal Strokes release is so far removed from Adele’s rendition that it feels like the perfect refresher in why The Strokes should be covered at all. They did so by largely paying tribute to the original.
Led by Rachel Nagy, The Detroit Cobras are specialists at providing rip-roaring blues covers that will tear your face off. For their 25th anniversary release for Rough Trade, the band turned their attention to the New Yorkers with devastating effect.
Nagy’s vocals are intoxicating. An ambivalent snarl that few can perfect with authenticity gives this cover a ragged edge that was missing from the pulsating original. Though it may feel a little similar to the original to really stun you, it’s a seamless piece of musicianship nevertheless.
6. ‘Is This It’ – Peter, Bjorn and John
When Stereogum recruited their nearest and dearest indie pals to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band’s seminal album, this cover stuck out among the pack, largely because it arrived with such a piercing lead line. While Albert Hammond Jr. was famed for his incisive notes, Peter Bjorn and John deliver something closer to a Scandinavian Suicide recreation.
The indie-pop outfit have been contemporaries of The Strokes for most of their career but found a solid audience following the indie explosion’s arrival. The band are happy to pay tribute to the foursome then, but this cover feels like a huge departure from the original, replacing the swaggering confidence of Casablancas with a nervous vulnerability.
It only adds more gravitas to the final solo when it crashing down confirm the vibrant difference between the bands.
5. ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ – HAIM
BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge has often been fertile ground for famous covers, but it was Huw Stephens’ Piano Sessions that bore HAIM’s version of Strokes song ‘Ill Try Anything Once’—and it will live long in the memory.
The cover is actually of an early demo of the song that would become ‘You Only Live Once’, the opening track from the band’s 2006 First Impressions of Earth. The demo is truly spectacular and puts Casablancas undervalued vocal tone under the spotlight. Naturally, the HAIM sisters take the song back to that original spot.
The gentle piano adds richness to Danielle’s luscious singing voice, who runs point on this effort. It feels like a delicate but deliberate balance of reverence and modernity which can sometimes be missed in the fast-paced world of maximum content.
4. ‘Call Me Back’ – Billie Eilish
“Julian Casablancas is just a genius,” Eilish recently said of the band’s return to the studio, 2020’s The New Abnormal. “Every time I hear his lyrics, I think, ‘I would never think to say that’. That’s what I love about them — they’re so unexpected, but also relatable. Every single song is good.” The world’s newest superstar had her say on the band and backed it up with this unique cover.
2011’s ‘Call Me Back’ isn’t exactly likely to peak in a list of The Strokes most revered songs of all time, but Eilish’s cover is a testament to her innate talent. She transforms the track into a murmuring lullaby that hangs with a subtle warmth. Recorded as part of The Tonight Show’s Cover Room, Eilish showed she’s capable of making any song her own.
It’s a real talent to make a song your own — time and time again, Eilish proves she’s got more talent than anyone ever expected.
3. ‘Under Control’ – Rostam
When the former Vampire Weekend man, Rostam, was invited by Stereogum to contribute a cover to their indie love-in, the musician picked a slightly left-field choice. One of the less spoken about moments of Is This It, ‘Under Control’ was a rock ‘n’ roll romance jam that rarely saw the attention it deserved.
Rostam saw that bet and raised it with a hazy and laidback R&B jam that will be certain to feature on romantic playlists for years to come. If the original was a slow dance on the floor of your local bar, spilling beer between cigarette breaks, then Rostam’s version is playing with each other’s hair between edibles.
There’s no doubting the New York band’s influence on Rostam; without The Strokes cracking the industry nut, there’s a good chance Vampire Weekend would never have seen the light of day.
2. ‘Take It Or Leave It’ – Arctic Monkeys
“I just wanted to be one of The Strokes/ Now look at the mess you made me make,” the words of the Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner as part of their recent album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. It’s not really surprising either. It’s a story that we’d bet was true for most teenagers who found the garage rock revivalists’ New York charm too much to bear. Having both been thrown into the limelight shortly after beginning their careers, they have travelled similar paths.
It means the Sheffield boys have shared a few Strokes covers in their time, most notably when touring the aforementioned record, but this cover of ‘Take It Or Leave It’ from 2007, in the salad days of the group, is particularly brilliant and worthy of its place on the list.
Taken from French television, it was a somewhat brave move for the newly anointed kings of rock to pay tribute to their predecessors, but that’s just how massive The Strokes were. The Sheffield boys give the most honest account of a fan favourite with this searing performance.
1. ‘Someday’ – Julia Jacklin
Thank the Lord for Triple J’s Like A Version, a show which has produced some of the greatest indie covers we’ve ever heard. And we’d bet the station has rarely seen a song performed with such potent honesty as when Julia Jacklin stepped up to cover the iconic Is This It track ‘Someday’. Ask most fans of The Strokes, and this song will be included in their top five songs from the quartet.
It’s jangling summer evening sound soundtracked partiers across the globe, but we’d go as far as to suggest that Jacklin does a great job of matching it by flipping it upside down. Jacklin performs the track with timeless ease that suggests she’s not only sung it before — in the shower, on the bus, at home with her headphones on — but felt the very vibrating loneliness she uses to punctuate the song’s sadder sentiments.
The slurring delivery of Casablancas on the original has always hidden the more poignant moments of the track, allowing the melody’s momentum to guide the listener, but Jacklin hits every word with powerful veracity and a simply stunning vocal performance.