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

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

Still fresh-faced and still painfully cool, it's baffling to think that the majority of The Strokes have only recently turned 40. Forming in 1998, then 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 contemporary music's forefront for nearly two decades.

And that's despite a lack of regular output - as a band at least - 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 was an inkling of a semi-reunion, people still lost their shit.

And evidently for good reason: their 2020 comeback album The New Abnormal garnered the band's most positive reviews since their opening two albums. With new material in tow, the five-piece intended to tour extensively before the pandemic but the brakes on.

Even with a brand-spanking new album in the mixer, however, it's testament to the sheer impact of The Strokes' initial albums that sees them continue to command top spots at the world's most respected music festivals. As part of their 2022 worldwide tour, they'll also headline the likes of Primavera Sound, NOS Alive, Tempelhof Sounds, Lollapalooza's Brasil and Argentina editions, TRNSMT FestivalFestival Estéreo Picnic and probably more.

So, does this decade belong to The Strokes? We'll see, but for no let's take a retrospective look as to why they are one of, if not the defining indie band 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? 


10. They're Still Indie's Biggest Band


As disinterested as they may seem, The Strokes still receive 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 we've all yet to see how bangers like 'The Adults Are Talking' and 'Bad Decisions' from The New Abnormal translate in a live setting and if they rouse the same sort of fanfare. 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.


Sign up to our newsletter and you'll get event updates and recommendations direct to your inbox. We'll also keep you informed of the latest festival news and features from our magazine.

Chevron Down
Chevron Down
Chevron Down
Chevron Down

© 2023 Lyte Inc UK Limited.

All rights reserved.