After months of hype and gushing press, The Strokes' debut full-length lives up to its unimpressed title. Febrile claims that the New York-based quintet resurrects the shade-wearing days of the Velvet Underground, Television and other cool NYC rock bands go unvalidated. The clipped and chugging guitars sometimes bear a resemblance to those groups, but the album's tinny, head-cold sonics sound cheap rather than edgy. And as great as it is to hear good rock with no indie or pop-punk or mook-metal tags, there isn't a truly great song in the bunch.
Spend a little time with "Is This It?," though, and you start to realize that the album's overarching ambivalence isn't happenstance. From the weary, sing-song title track through the up-date of Pete Townsend's "Hard to Explain" to the album-ending stormer "Take It or Leave It," the band's collective post-slacker shrugging and hedging start to sound as valid as any other rock pose in the early 21st century. Eventually, those good but not great songs start to sound like they would sound great live. The Strokes might just be for real ... but is there more?