The Strokes’ debut album, Is This It, will be discussed for as long as humans are still breathing oxygen. Far Out named it as the number one album of the century so far, recognition of its ability to resuscitate the grimy world of rock ‘n’ roll from the grave. Yet, surprisingly, their singer Julian Casablancas doesn’t even rate it as his favourite album by the group.
Is This It sparked a change, turning the world of music on its head as it proved to be the catalyst for a riveting era, one that hasn’t been rivalled since. You’ll struggle to find any true muso who doesn’t hold an eternal fondness for the New Yorkers major breakthrough. It arrived on RCA at the turn of the century, and the record earned The Strokes bucket loads of international success, plus an even vaster level of critical acclaim.
After the unexpected adulation was shot in their direction, the newly acquired messiah status could have weighed heavy on their shoulders, but The Strokes lived up to the hype by presenting Room On Fire in 2003. The album didn’t divert from the sonic of their debut, and for Julian Casablancas, it’s a more significant source of pride.
At the time, there were murmurings of discontent by their fanbase complaining that the second record was simple Is This It 2.0. However, that’s because they were still the same kids that had just cooked up their debut, and Casablancas later confirmed it was always intended to be the sequel rather than an entirely new entity.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2014, Casablancas explained why he prefers it to the band’s first effort, detailing the personal turmoil he was fighting against during the recording process, which only made the final result more pleasing.
“I wanted to finish the Is This It thought,” the singer noted. Even when we were doing it, I always thought it was part two [of Is This It]. I remember when we started ‘Reptilia’ and ‘The End Has No End,’ I was like, ‘This is the new vibe.’ I think we always felt like we were in jeopardy. When we did Room on Fire, things were established, but things were internally, at least from my perspective, not healthy.”
Whether seven years later his opinion remains the same on the matter is unknown. Maybe the more extended time has gone on, the more his appreciation for Is This It has grown, but ever the contrarian, he’d probably still stick with Room On Fire. Although, while he was on the promo trail for 2020s The New Abnormal, Casablancas did let slip it was his “fourth favourite record I’ve ever been a part of” during an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
After the interviewer tried to get the singer to divulge his top three, Casablancas refused to go into any detail about the order of the albums but did say that Is This It and Room On Fire were two of them. “You’re going to get me in trouble. Let’s leave it a mystery,” said Casablancas.
Even if we don’t all agree that Room On Fire is a better record than Is This It, Casablancas is why they are both in existence, which makes his opinion about as valid as humanly possible, yet, he’s got this one wrong. It’s a closed case, and there is only one correct answer when it comes to the best album by The Strokes… and we all know it.