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RS Essentials: 7 Songs by The Strokes You Need to Hear

Over two decades, The New York rockers have delivered a stellar body of work

Shunashir Sen Apr 19, 2022

The Strokes redefined rock music with their 2001 debut album, Is This It. Photo: Rolling Stone US

“Is This It” (2001)

Rock music was on ventilator support at the turn of this century before The Strokes injected new life into it with their debut album, Is This It. The title track has an exquisite bass line, and front man Julian Casablancas sounds as tired as a person fed up of arguing with their spouse, thus setting the template for his characteristically weary vocals.

“Selfless” (2020)

A delightful love song, “Selfless” appears on the band’s latest album, The New Abnormal. The lyrics profess the singer’s unconditional love for a person, with the melody rising and dropping like a college kid’s heartbeat when he sees his crush walking into the classroom.     

“I’ll Try Anything Once” (2006)

More than a lyricist, Casablancas is a modern-day poet. Nowhere is this more apparent than in “I’ll Try Anyting Once,” a song so gentle that it would pacify a crying baby. Sample this verse, “There is a time when we all fail/ Some people take it pretty well/ Some take it all out on themselves/ Some, they just take it out on friends/ Oh everybody plays the game/ And if you don’t you’re called insane.”

“Ask Me Anything” (2005)

Casablancas’s world-weariness is most obvious in “Ask Me Anything,” a track on First Impressions of Earth, the band’s third album. He’s so sick of war, treachery and all the other injustices inflicted on people every day that he, literally, has “nothing to say.”

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“Tap Out” (2013)

Comedown Machine, the act’s fifth album, received a tepid response when it launched. But the first track, “Tap Out,” stands out for its bouncy bass line and Casablancas shedding his baritone for a shriller pitch, showing what a vocal chameleon he is.

“Ode to the Mets” (2020)

The melody in “Ode to the Mets,” also from The New Abnormal, might sound foreboding. But there is also a playful moment in the song when the vocalist – seemingly out of lyrics – simply sings, “Drums please, Fab,” and Fabrizio Moretti makes his first appearance on the track with a gentle touch of his cymbals. It shows how, despite all their existential intellectuality, The Strokes can be goofy as well.  

“Under Control” (2003)

A song that’s made as much for dancing alone in your living room as it is for dancing with your partner at a party, “Under Control” from Room on Fire sees Casablancas in full confessional mode, baring his heart out to his lover. “I don’t want to change your mind,” he sings, delivering a line that should be tattooed on every boyfriend/husband’s arm.

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