Celebrating the decade's best album...
jason gregory

12:34 28th July 2011

2001 marked the year that five young NYC residents got together and created an album that would go on to shape much of the musical landscape for the rest of the decade. Ten years later The Strokes' debut album 'Is This It' is as important and timeless now and it was when it was released, its indie, lo-fi recording setting a benchmark for the bands that would form and follow in the wake of its arrival.

To coincide with the release of The Strokes seminal album 'Is This It' Gigwise takes you through the recording decisions and process that the band went through during the creation of an album that inspired, and still continues to inspire guitar music 10 years later.

From initial writing ideas, recording processed and getting a record label deal, through to the decision to omit the grammatically correct question mark at the end of the title and the censorship of 'Is This It''s original, and now iconic album cover, the gallery below explores the life of 'Is This It' from inception through to critical response.

Is 'Is This It' the best material that The Strokes ever made? How do you think it compares with 2011's 'Angles'? Let us know what you think by using the comment box below.

  • The July and August 2001 cover art for 'Is This It', and the one that has remained the most famous, was shot by The Strokes' friend Colin Lane and features a photograph of his nude girlfriend.

  • The album's original cover photograph courted controversy for being too sexually explicit and was replaced with the above artwork for the American market.

  • Talking of the early stages of the group, drummer Fab Moretti has said: 'Our music was like The Doors, but trying to be classical. We all took music classes and tried writing songs, and when we put them together they were this crazy amalgam of insane ideas that we thought was really cool.'

  • Prior to 'Is This It' Rough Trade Records was impressed by The Strokes' three tracks 'The Modern Age', 'Last Nite', and 'Barely Legal' and released them as 'The Modern Age' EP in January 2001.

  • Julian Casablancas, on his aim for ‘Is This It': 'I just wanted to write music that could touch people. As a songwriter, you play a few chords and sing a melody that's been done a thousand times, and now you're a singer-songwriter. I think it takes a little more than that to do something that matters. And I wish I could write a song where all the parts work. When you hear a song like that, it's like finding a new friend.'

  • The band deliberately left out the grammatically correct question mark from the album title because they believed that aesthetically it didn't look right.

  • After The Strokes signed with RCA, they began work with Gil Norton. However the band were unhappy with the results of early sessions which they said sounded 'too clean' and 'too pretentious'.

  • 'Is This It' was finally recorded with Gordon Raphael at Transporterraum in Manhattan, New York City using Pro Tools Digital Audio Workstation hardware.

  • At one stage during the recording process, Gordon was almost evicted from his Transporterraum studio, but once the band received backing from RCA, it was no longer a pressing concern.

  • During the recording of the album, the band usually recorded songs only once, based on Casablancas's preference for 'raw efficiency'.

  • Before recording began, the band decided to take what was happening in music at the time, and go in a completely different direction. Casablancas wanted 'Is This It' to sound like, 'a band from the past that took a time trip into the future to make their record'.

  • Inspired by The Velvet Underground's production and the direct approach of punk rock band Ramones, the miking scheme for the drum kit included only three microphones - one above it, one for the bass drum, and one in the corner of the studio. It was crafted to capture 'a compressed, explosive sound'.

  • Moretti stated in NME in 2001, ‘In Britain, people are much more responsive. I'm so psyched to be going back, every show we played people were enjoying it. There's a lot of people here in America who think we've had it too easy, but they have never really heard the music.’

  • A newly recorded song, 'When It Started', replaced 'New York City Cops' on the CD version of the album after The Strokes witnessed the 'valiant response' of the city's police department during 9/11. The vinyl release retained the original track list. (MTV).

  • ‘Is This It’ was named the best album of 2001 by Billboard, CMJ, Entertainment Weekly, NME, Playlouder, and Time.

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