10 Reasons Why The Strokes Remain This Century's Defining Indie Band

10 Reasons Why The Strokes Remain This Century's Defining Indie Band

It's still baffling to think that the majority of The Strokes are still the right side of 40; forming in 1998, bursting onto New York's rejuvenated indie-rock scene with seminal debut album Is This It in 2001, the Manhattan five-piece have remained a mainstay at the forefront of contemporary music for nearly two decades. 

And that's despite a lack of output, as a band, in recent years. Mixed-reviews for 2011's Angles and 2013's Comedown Machine saw Julian Casablancas and co pursue other artistic ventures or extra-curricular activities entirely, yet once there's an inkling of a semi-reunion, people still lose their shit. 

It's testament to the sheer impact of their initial albums, that The Strokes continue to command top spots at the world's most respected music festivals, headlining Primavera Sound, Best Kept Secret, NOS Alive, Garorock, III Points, and Festival Estéreo Picnic this summer. With potentially more to come.

Is there new material waiting in the wings? We'll have to see. But for now, let's take a retrospective look as to why The Strokes are one of the defining bands of this century:

1. The Modern Age


Rough around the edges as are most EP's from unsigned bands, The Strokes started a bidding war once it caught the attention of the prominent independent labels. 'Bands' were drastically out of favour, so a tug-of-war over a little-known indie rock band was unprecedented at the time. 

One of the songs that stuck out from The Modern Age was it's title-track; though re-worked and re-recorded for their full-length debut as you can hear below, the raw talent was quickly realised.


2. 'Last Nite'


The track that truly shifted the cultural zeitgeist away from DJs and back to scruffy guitar-playing kids wearing skinny jeans. Indie music made an unprecedented comeback with The Strokes leading the renaissance, alongside prominent bands formulated in the New York City scene at the time including Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, and Yeah Yeah Yeah's.

Forever a staple in their sets, 'Last Nite' still incites the same feverish singalongs nearly twenty years on from it's initial release. Indie club nights were never the same again.


3. 'Someday'


An indication of the young band's blossoming maturity and self-imposed expectations of their then-fleeting career, 'Someday' documents the jump from easier, idle teenage-dom into a much bigger future. "I ain't wasting no more time", barks Casablancas, leaving the baggage and boredom behind, in what is an emotive highlight from Is This It.

The track's recent makeover from Julia Jacklin only emphasises these sentiments, testament to Casablancas' songwriting chops.



4. Headlining Reading and Leeds Festival in 2002


Very rarely does an artist achieve the hallowed headliner status after just one album, but such was the cultural impact of The Strokes' debut album, Reading and Leeds gave them the chance to prove their mettle in the big leagues. Considering Reading and Leeds were the most prestigious alternative rock festivals in the UK, if not Europe, it was a big deal.

Despite only being able to draw from a back catalogue of one album, each individual track was (and still is) a bonafide anthem in it's own right. The rest as they regularly say, is history.


5. '12:51'


When an artist's debut album resonates so broadly that it changes the fortunes of said artist, the sophomore album proves a tricky obstacle - 'second album syndrome' as it's most commonly referred to.

Initially accused of sounding suspiciously similar to their breakthrough, '12:51' was a slow-burner. On closer inspection, what became apparent was their interlocking rhythms were much tighter, drawing greater influence from Casablancas' favourite band Television yet remaining distinctly lackadaisical on the surface. 


6. 'Reptilia'


Room On Fire exemplified The Strokes' knack of creating complex compositions that were equally accessible, leaning away from the bubblegum-rock/untidy indie that personified Is This It

'Reptilia' is a force unto itself; surprising many a fan with their technical prowess, the song merges readily memorable verses with intricate, interweaving lead guitar lines. Were The Strokes still on the ascendancy? It appeared so.


7. 'Juicebox'


With a video even parodying their perceived lack of success stateside (though, that wasn't actually the case, it's just the UK seemed to embrace indie guitar bands at a much quicker rate i.e. Kings Of Leon, The Killers, the list goes on.), it seemed as though a new kind of boredom was setting in to The Strokes vocabulary.

Their sound, however, evolved - weird, off-kilter post-punk riffs accompanied by lyrics detailing the backstories and vibrancy of New York City's underworld underpinned third album First Impressions Of Earth. A noticeable departure from previous efforts, though they were producing their most interesting material yet.


8. The Resurrection (of sorts)


After touring their third album, The Strokes disappeared. Presumably bored (there's that word again...) with their output, their direction, their relationships with one another, each member went their separate way. Needless to say, their absence was noticed.

When they confirmed their first live performance in four years at 2010's Isle Of Wight Festival, the UK indie-scene was in hysterics. The prodigal sons had returned, and it was like they'd never left. Even after nearly a decade since their phenomenal debut hit the airwaves, they were sounding fresher than ever. Not a lot of bands have that pulling power.  


9. 'Threat Of Joy'


There was a meek critical and commercial response to 2011's Angles and 2013's Comedown Machine; The Strokes sounded disenchanted, disengaged, and it came across in their music. Add this to constant rumours of their in-fighting and side-projects/solo ventures galore, I don't think anyone felt The Strokes were coming back. 

Out of the blue, their Future Present Past EP appeared in 2016; three songs that felt reinvigorated and fun again, including highlight 'Threat Of Joy'. Did this mean they'd buried the hatchet with one another? Did this mean there was new material on the horizon? It's been four years to date, so not quite.


10. They're Still Indie's Biggest Band


As disinterested as they may seem, The Strokes still garner unwavering fandom and command festival headline slots with the click of their fingers. But there's ample reason to see them live; of course they have the classics in their arsenal, but at a recent show Julian Casablancas confirmed that a new album will arrive in 2020. Exciting times ahead.

Having floated in and out of self-imposed obscurity in the 10's, is the 20's the next decade of The Strokes' domination? May as well see for yourself.

See which festivals The Strokes are playing this summer here.


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