The Strokes: ‘The Singles – Volume 01’ Review


The Strokes’ ‘The Singles – Volume 1’

Maya Alexander

New York City’s greatest sons are having an eventful year. The Strokes, reeling off of their first full-length album in seven years with 2020’s “The New Abnormal,” have been touring as an opening act for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ stadium tour that’s set to end this summer. With the news last October that the band had started to record their seventh studio album and first compilation album, “The Singles – Volume 01,” it is more than enough to satiate eager fans by taking it back to the beginning.

“Volume 01” is just as much of an explosive walk down memory lane as it is an auditory evolution tracker, as the album seamlessly weaves from material from the rock outfit’s first three albums, “Is This It,” “Room on Fire” and 2006’s “First Impressions of Earth.”

The album kicks off with alternative versions of “The Modern Age ” and “Last Nite” the two songs that helped catapult the band out of the East Village and onto the radar of rockers everywhere. While the former song was not officially released as a single at the time of their debut, the succession of singles “Hard to Explain,” “Last Nite” and “Someday” were dripped in what would become the band’s signature gritty and distorted sound. They would be responsible for triggering the early aughts of the garage rock revival that Rolling Stone wrote led to “a ragged revolt,” producing groups like Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines in their wake.

Sonically, the alternative versions of “The Modern Age” and “Last Nite” are the superior ones. Recorded as part of an EP in 2001 for London’s Rough Trade record label, the two songs are quintessentially Strokes. Loud, punchy and muddled, both songs encapsulate the excitement and the desire that very few bands have been able to capture in an average of 3 minutes and 15 seconds.

It’s a true treat to hear the grassroot beginnings of a revolutionary moment in modern music history. When the opening chords to “Hard to Explain” strike, there is a revelatory and emotional quality that breaks through, similar to the feeling captured in the first few beats of the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” a band similarly lauded as torchbearers of a rock revolution.

For long-time fans, there are few surprises on “Volume 01.” Solitary moments like the home recordings for “Alone Together” and “Is This It”— which were originally released as B-sides for the single “Someday”— are given time to shine as they mark the end of the band’s debut era.

As the album continues and rolls over to the singles from “Room on Fire” and “First Impressions of Earth,” there are little deviations from the original single rollout two decades ago.

Listening to songs like “12:51,” “Reptilia,” “The End Has No End” and “You Only Live Once,” they truly sound like bottled moments in time of a band whose raucous and carefree energy burst through unabashedly, all in an era when escapism within the genre was stifled.

“Volume 01” is the latest entry into the compilation game, similar to more traditional greatest hits albums like The Beatles’ “Red” and “Blue” albums or Bob Marley’s “Legend.”It helps mark The Strokes’ legacy in the music industry as modern rock titans. Although it’s hard to tell due to how recently it has been released, it would be no shock to discover years down the line that “Volume 01” is cemented as one of the go-to compilation albums, representing both the revival and the end of truly innovative and engaging popular rock music.

With no current plans for a “Volume 02,” fans and newcomers will be more than satisfied with the offerings on “Volume 01,” especially the forgotten B-sides like the band’s collaboration with Regina Spektor on “Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men” and the live 2003 cover of The Clash’s “Clampdown.”

“Volume 01” is currently available on streaming services and as a 7’’ vinyl box set that features 10 individual records, each displaying the original single artwork.