Monday, February 15, 2010

Is This It, Revisited

My Valentine gave me a present yesterday - an early printing of The Strokes' debut album Is This It? The original version of Is This It varies from the subsequent printings in two important respects: its ninth track is "New York City Cops" instead of "When It Started," and its cover art is this bitching black-and-white photo instead of the more familiar blue and gold magnified image of particles colliding.

The album was released in Australia and the United Kingdom more than two months before it was released in the United States. The band loved the original hip-and-glove cover but was worried that it might not play with large American retailers, so it changed the cover art for the American printing, meaning that one of the greatest album covers of all time was never released in the United States. The track change occurred because Is This It had the bad luck of a September 25th, 2001 release date. "New York City Cops," the album's ninth track, featured a chorus that repeats the line "New York City Cops ain't too smart." When the album's release was postponed for all of the predictable reasons, and "New York City Cops" was quickly switched out for "When It Started." Since it was too difficult and expensive to reprint the album on vinyl, the album was released with two different track listings, one for the cd and one for the vinyl. "New York City Cops" was never released in the United States, though the band has played it live for the past several years.

Is This It is one of my desert island cds, so it was a little strange to listen to a different version of it nine years and hundreds of listens after I first heard it. Its a shame that "New York City Cops" wasn't released, because its a fun song, and has an Albert Hammond Jr. guitar solo - high-pitched, seamlessly blended into the rest of the song - that is way too good to keep hidden under a bushel basket, and the stunning cover walks the line between "sexy" and "sexist" in a way that would make Nigel Tufnel proud. "When It Started" is a great song in its own right, and fits in with the rest of the album so well that you could never guess that it would have been lucky to be a B-side if not for the September 11th attacks. My iTunes now has an Is This It playlist that features all twelve songs, and I look forward to revisiting the album again after years of taking it for granted out of sheer familiarity.


Smell the Glove said...

While having the original press is pretty sweet, I think "When It Started" is definitely a stronger song than "New York City Cops." Also, the if the latter had actually been included on the album (and became more widely-known than it is now), it definitely would have fed the whole "these guys are a bunch of spoiled rich kid punks" critique that dogged them from the beginning.

That said, the album would have been awesome either way.

Senor Beavis said...

NYC Cops was the best song on the album, and nothing could have fed the "these guys are a bunch of spoiled rich kid punks" more than letting them do interviews.

Ben said...

New York City Cops sounds like a Jet song. A very good Jet song, but a Jet song.

Wade Garrett said...

@ Smell the Glove - Intersting point, but I think that, since they were going to get their reputation regardless, the song wouldn't have hurt them in that regard. I like New York City Cops more on its own terms but When It Started sounds more in keeping with the rest of the songs on the album - almost as if it was recorded in different session than the rest of the album, instead of the other way around.