Album of the Decade: Is This It?

tshirt-sweatshirtOn the 28th of January, 2002 I attended a concert by The Strokes. I bought the tickets on a whim– the only songs of theirs I had heard were “Last Nite” and “Take it or Leave it” on the radio (94.7 The Zone in Chicago, now an Oldies station!). They were good, but so what? Their first album Is This It? came out late 2001, notable for the song “New York City Cops” being removed at the last moment because of the attacks of 9/11 (you could find it on the other side of the Atlantic). They were credited, at the time, with the resurgence of rock (that never quite came).

The concert was at a place called the “Web Theatre” in Phoenix, AZ, named after a failed dot-com venture where someone envisioned synergy between live performing centers and their web site. Didn’t quite work out.

I went alone– having recently moved to a state where the only people I knew were my parents– and sat in the balcony. Of course the General Admission area below was where the *real* fans were.

Julian Casablancas, The Strokes’ singer, let me know. “Are you hear to watch a f***in’ opera?” he screamed at the people in the balcony, halfway through the concert.

Not at all.

At the time I thought they were great live, with good songs, but nothing beyond that. But I bought their t-shirt on the way out. And I bought their album soon after. Their music lodged itself in my brain, and hasn’t left since. The soundtrack to my post-2001 life, my post-college life, my post-India life.

I went back to see them live in November that year, this time at the Mesa Amphitheater. The Strokes were notorious for preferring small venues (and never playing an encore) but their popularity was begging for larger arenas.

A month hasn’t gone by in the almost 8 years since that I haven’t listened to Is This It? My father would always joke when it played in my car, “Why is he singing out of tune?” Or at least I like to think he was joking.

And I went back with my wife to see them at the Tsongas Arena in October ’03, right after their second album Room on Fire came out. They haven’t been on tour since 2006, they’re on hiatus. And there’s a rumored 4th album. But Is This It? is the soundtrack for my decade, both the album and the title track.

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