Is This It

Album: Is This It (2001)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the title track from American indie rock band The Strokes' debut album. Vocalist Julian Casablancas explained the song's title to the NME November 21, 2009: "How it came about is that we had the song and it was done without a chorus, so I was like, 'I'll wing it, I'll figure something out' and one day I sang that over the chorus and that song was done."
  • Casablancas explained to the NME why the album was named after this song: "When we were trying to find titles for the record it could've been called 'Take It Or Leave It' or any of them, but I thought it sounded cool in more ways than one. It's deep without being pretentious."
  • The album cover is a photo taken by Colin Lane of the posterior of his then girlfriend. He shot it on a whim after she got out of the shower. The glove that rests suggestively on her had been left by a stylist in his apartment. Two years later, whilst snapping The Strokes for The Face magazine, the band discovered the image, as they flicked through his portfolio.
  • The group intentionally left out the grammatically correct question mark from the album title because aesthetically, it did not look right. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Producer Gordon Raphael told The Guardian: "I recorded 'Is This It' with one microphone for the voice and one for the snare drum: everything minimal. It wasn't sonically perfect, but it had some magic and emotion that was missing in the big studio stuff other bands were doing. Julian had so many ideas – and a freakishly controlled concept of rhythm and timing. Even when he'd drunk 13 beers and was asleep on the couch, one eye would open and he'd go: 'The hi-hat's not right.' He was a master of the cryptic instruction. He'd say: 'This song, can you loosen its tie a little?' He wanted his voice to sound 'like your favourite blue jeans – not totally destroyed, but worn-in, comfortable.' While recording the album, we had a visit from the band's new US label. They said it was crappy-sounding and unprofessional, and I was ruining Julian's voice and killing any chance the band had of a career. It was very satisfying when the album became a modern classic." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The Killers scrapped almost every song they were working on for their debut album Hot Fuss after hearing Is This It. "That record just sounded so perfect," Killers frontman Brandon Flowers told NME. "We threw away everything [we were working on] and the only song that made the cut and remained was 'Mr. Brightside.'"
  • To celebrate the album's 10th anniversary, Stereogum commissioned a tribute album, Stroked: A Tribute To Is This It, with different indie bands covering each track. The Swedish pop/rock trio Peter Bjorn & John recorded the title tune. John Eriksson, the group's drummer, recalled his first encounter with the song:

    "The only time I have agreed with some of the many, many stupid music journalists in Sweden was when The Strokes appeared on a Swedish website about 10 years ago. One of the most stupid journalists said that this new band for New York was the rebirth of rock or something, and when I for the first time listened to three of their tracks on this Swedish web page I almost wanted to hit myself in the head with the computer. It was kind of a new thing for me to listen to music on a computer machine and this was the very first time I remember getting goosebumps from hearing music on such a thing. It's a strong memory believe it or not and It felt like magic that something this good had been created maybe just some month ago and that I could hear it on my computer at work. The idiot journalist was right, this was amazing and for me it was almost like when I heard 'Jump' with Van Halen for the first time back in 1984. When we recorded our cover of 'Is This It' we didn't want to do anything crazy or weird like turning the song into a acid jazz P-funk power ballad. We just wanted to play it as good as we could."

Comments: 2

  • German from Medellin, ColumbiaJared Followill of Kings of Leon notes that the album was one of the main reasons that he wanted to get into a band; he states, "The title track was one of the first basslines I learned ... I was just 15 at the time."
  • Sarah from Yuba City, CaReally, no comments?? Wow, this is an amazing song. Very sad. I like how they opened their debut album with such an emotional tune. Is This It has to be one of the greatest albums ever :)
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Kevin GodleySongwriter Interviews

Kevin Godley talks about directing classic videos for The Police, U2 and Duran Duran, and discusses song and videos he made with 10cc and Godley & Creme.

DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

Booker T. JonesSongwriter Interviews

The Stax legend on how he cooked up "Green Onions," the first time he and Otis Redding saw hippies, and if he'll ever play a digital organ.

Yacht Rock QuizFact or Fiction

Christopher Cross with Deep Purple? Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack? A Fact or Fiction all about yacht rock and those who made it.

Michael FrantiSongwriter Interviews

Franti tells the story behind his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and explains why yoga is an integral part of his lifestyle and his Soulshine tour.

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.