The Strokes’ dramatic arrival at the start of the millennium was like a gift from the Gods with Britain taking to the band first, and wholeheartedly. The scene which they soon became figureheads of would bring about a new dawn in music. Julian Casablancas and his band of New Yorkers brought rock ‘n’ roll kicking and screaming into the 21st Century with their seminal debut album, Is This It.
Their arrival came following the mundane sounds of Coldplay, Embrace and Travis dominating the musical landscape, all before five guys from New York helped bring guitar music back from the brink. At the beginning of 2001, The Strokes first made waves in the UK and captured the nation’s hearts and minds even though they were complete unknowns in their home country. After sending their three-track EP, The Modern Age, to newly reformed legendary British label Rough Trade, the company snapped up the New Yorkers, and quickly they became the most important band on the planet.
Their full-length debut arrived on RCA, earning The Stokes both international commercial success and even more critical acclaim. They followed up their faultless debut in 2003 in wondrous style with Room on Fire. Their conquering of the 2000s continued with the impressive, First Impressions of Earth, in January 2006, which was another success.
They then spent the next few years in the wilderness for The Strokes. They finally made their return in 2011 with Angles, a far cry from the band who lit the world on fire a decade prior. Two years later, they delved further down this new-sound with Comedown Machine, another mixed bag by the New Yorkers. It was then another seven-years until they released another full-length project when the Rick Rubin-produced, The New Abnormal, arrived in 2020, a stellar return to form.
The Strokes are undoubtedly one of the most influential bands of the last 20-years and rightly so. In this feature, we will run down their repertoire of albums in order from worst to best. Let’s dive in, shall we?
The Strokes albums ranked from worst to best
6) Comedown Machine (2013)
By no means is Comedown Machine an awful album, it just doesn’t reach the high watermark that The Strokes previously set. Tracks like ‘One Way Trigger’ and ‘Tap Out’ are good moments which see the band putting in a fine performance, even if it isn’t reminiscent of the sound that one would associate with The Strokes.
On the one hand, Comedown Machine allowed The Strokes to separate themselves from that early garage rock sound that they perfected. It started a shift towards retro-pop, parts of the album feel new-wave which sometimes they pull off, but, more often, it doesn’t quite land. Most bands would be eternally proud of a record like Comedown Machine. However, The Strokes aren’t most bands, and it misses that gut-punching ferocity we’ve come to expect from them.
5) Angles (2011)
After five years without a record, Angles was highly-anticipated as fans couldn’t wait to hear another full-length effort from one of the finest bands on the planet. However, fans ended up feeling flat from the largely disappointing, Angles. The album failed to replicate the greatness of their previous three efforts.
The process of creating the record was a tumultuous experience. Albert Hammond Jr. was suffering from addiction and went to rehab during the process. Meanwhile, singer Julian Casablancas recorded his vocals separately from the band. Unfortunately, that lack of cohesion and being on different pages translated to the record. “I won’t do the next album like this. No way. It was awful – just awful. Working in a fractured way, not having a singer there,” bassist Nick Valensi said during the press run.
Even though difficult circumstances were surrounding the record, ‘Taken For A Fool’ is an indie-floor filler that couldn’t be by anybody else. Another classic Strokes moment arises from ‘Undercover of Darkness’. The first half of the record has everything you’d want from a Strokes record, but, as the songs go on, so does the energy on the album as it slowly peters out.
4) First Impressions Of Earth (2006)
First Impressions Of Earth is undoubtedly the darkest and most dour record that The Strokes have made, but, that switch to the dark side was one that worked devilishly well on their 2006 effort. Instead of attempting to replicate the success of their first two records, the New Yorkers switched up and showcased an entirely new side to themselves.
‘You Only Live Once’, and ‘Juicebox’ are two of the finest tracks that The Strokes have ever made, but, First Impressions Of Earth is the only record by the band that they could have felt at home.
It’s an aggressive, angry piece of work that showcases a more combative facet to The Strokes that they haven’t returned to since. A truly exhilarating and honest record that confirmed their status as one of rock’s finest.
3) The New Abnormal (2020)
It had been seven years since The Strokes had produced a full-length effort before they unleashed The New Abnormal on the world in 2020. For the first time in their career, it felt like expectations were low for an album and their 2016 EP Future Present Past didn’t help quell fears of a possible dud being on the cards from the band, but, The New Abnormal was a revelation.
The Strokes recruited legendary producer Rick Rubin, who guided the band to create their most cohesive piece of work for close to 20-years. Whilst the record is only nine songs long, there isn’t one song on the album that feels like a misstep — which has become an uber-rare thing to say about The Strokes in recent years.
‘The Adults Are Talking’ gets the record off to a faultless start, then it just flows swimmingly together and proves throughout 40-minutes that there’s life left in the old dog yet. Flawless.
2) Room On Fire (2003)
How do you follow up the record that has saved rock ‘n’ roll from the ashes? Room On Fire is how. The album followed a similar sound that they perfected on their faultless debut.
The only complaint about the record at the time was how it was Is This It 2.0, but, that’s because they went straight back into the studio and they were still the same kids that had just cooked up their debut.
Room On Fire showed that, in 2003, there was no band on the planet more vital than The Strokes. Their debut still enraptured the whole world, and they had no trouble at all serving up a new bunch of tunes that thrilled the same receptors on the brain. Moments like ‘Under Control’, ‘You Talk Way Too Much’ and ‘Reptilia’ showcase The Strokes at their absolute best, and would inspire a whole new wave of bands attempting to replicate them. Phenomenal.
1) Is This It (2001)
If somebody disagrees with, Is This It, being crowned in the top spot, please send a postcard.
The album isn’t just the most delicious piece of work by The Strokes, but, one of the truly great alternative rock records. These 11-songs would change the future of guitar music and whilst it did inspire useless imitators, without this album there would be no Arctic Monkeys and a flurry of other indie great’s whose life was changed by this album.
From the moment that the first line from the titular opener kicks in, you know that you’re in for a treat of the highest calibre. Getting to re-listen to this album in its entirety for the first time is something that I’d do silly things to do, and I’m sure I speak for a lot of people in saying that. Whilst’ Last Nite’ and ‘Someday’ are the headline stealers from the album, the whole record is an enthralling ride that ends in raucous fashion with the timeless, ‘Take It Or Leave It’. A true modern masterpiece.