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The 11 best songs by The Strokes

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our favourite 11 songs from The Strokes, ranked.

When the world last welcomed in a new millennium, a new realm of indie rock was to be found, its kingdoms London and New York. On the throne of the latter were The Strokes, five haggard but devilishly handsome friends from Manhattan in leather jackets – Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Fabrizio Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture.

Though much of the noughties indie reign is reduced to history, The Strokes have continued to thrive – keeping their distinctive sound relevant and revitalised. With their headline slot at All Points East coming this summer, we take on the task of ranking their best 11 songs.

11. One Way Trigger

(Comedown Machine, 2013)

While the punchy, fasted-paced beat and synth line recalls a-ha’s ‘Take On Me‘, this peppy track is actually a lot more bittersweet than it first lets out. Written by Albert Hammond Jr post-rehab, Casablancas’ soaring falsetto helps tug at the heartstrings. ‘One Way Trigger’ also features the rare sighting of an acoustic guitar.

10. Ize Of The World

(First Impressions Of Earth, 2006)

Often forgotten about, ‘Ize Of The World’ is full of sonic subtleties that range from the delicate to the wailing and piercing, and captures Casablancas at his most curious as he bemoans the depressing monotony of modern society: “A desk to organize, a product to advertise/ A market to monopolize, movie stars to idolize”.

9. Juicebox

(First Impressions Of Earth, 2006)

A song at odds with that classic Strokes sound, ‘Juicebox’ harks back to Dead Kennedys-esque 80s punk, with its gnarly bass line and chugging guitars. As more melodic moments come in during the chorus, ‘Juicebox’ becomes more interesting than its anarchic, beer chugging, middle-finger swinging sound first suggests.

8. Machu Picchu

(Angles, 2011)

The opening track on Angles, ‘Machu Picchu’ is punctuated by a cool reggae-like guitar line that, paired with the locked-in bass and drums, gives the whole thing a fun bounce. But the guitar serves way more than just rhythmic purposes; that scratchy post-chorus melody is a proper earworm.

7. Last Nite

(Is This It, 2001)

A true staple of sweaty, pissed-up indie nights, ‘Last Nite’ seemed to lay the blueprint for noughties indie. The band have admitted to ripping off Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’, but “It doesn’t bother me”, he’s since said, clearly not petty enough to hold a grudge.

6. The Adults Are Talking

(The New Abnormal, 2020)

Roman Coppola directed the video for ‘Last Nite’ and 19 years later got behind the camera again for ‘The Adults Are Talking’. Featuring one of their catchiest ever choruses, Casablancas returns to the theme of being pushed out by the elites of society while acknowledging the criticism they’ve received for their privileged backgrounds. That’s great and all, but did we mention how catchy the chorus was?

5. Hard To Explain

(Is This It, 2001)

Cascablancas supposedly told Is This It producer Gordon Raphael that he wanted the record to sound like your favourite pair of jeans, and that’s exactly how ‘Hard To Explain’ feels: frayed, worn in with a few rips and some questionable stains but oh so comfortable.

4. Someday

(Is This It, 2001)

‘Someday’ is a perfect reminder that for all the scratching and jagged edges to The Strokes’ discography, at its heart are just really, really good melodies. The lyrics seem to capture the moment of understanding that you’re living your best years from the perspective of an older self, something we can probably all appreciate when putting this record on again.

3. Meet Me In The Bathroom

(Room On Fire, 2001)

Few song names capture a whole music scene as effectively as ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’, which went on to title Elizabeth Goodman’s oral history of the New York City rock scene at the turn of the millennium. It hints to all kinds of debauchery, but really this song is one of The Strokes’ sweetest songs, with gentle guitar work underscoring Casablancas’ bittersweet melody.

2. You Only Live Once

(First Impressions Of Earth, 2006)

The opening track of First Impressions Of Earth was also one that seemed to continue the sound of This Is It and Room On Fire, before the rest of the third record went on to do its own thing. Many fans are keen to remind people that it was indeed The Strokes who popularised YOLO and not Drake five years later. The band were also ahead of the curve by using social media to promote their music, asking fans to set this track as their MySpace profile song (remember those?). With that dynamic, head-nodding beat and gorgeous opening hook, it was hardly an ask.

1. Reptilia

(Room On Fire, 2001)

Yeah, you guessed it. Containing the namesake from whence this indie beast came (“The room is on fire and she’s fixing her hair”), this song is the epitome of what defines The Strokes. Driving and motorik drums that know when to let loose and bring it back in – locked in synch with Fraiture’s confident and wandering bass – while gritty and high-pitched guitars noodle into a beautiful frenzy. Referring to the reptilian layer of our brains that deals with primal and survival instincts, ‘Reptilia’ is itself an instinctive hit that makes us scramble and dance around sloppily like our lives depend on it.

Find tickets for The Strokes here.