I’m starting to gather some steam with my vinyl collection and delighted in, with my last month’s surplus, ordering Miles Davis’ Milestones and The Strokes’ Is This it. The latter was an album I first heard when I was 18 and I think took a couple of spins to really ingratiate itself to me, then becoming probably one of my 20 favorite rock albums of all time with the terse rhythms and the explicitly psychedelic vibe channeled in “The Modern Age.”
Whereas Milestones, though, is now my absolute favorite LP in my whole collection, with the Strokes record, I right away noticed sort of a flat resonance, lacking in the typical physical shape and sonic depth present in my favorite records like Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps, Jethro Tull’s Living in the Past, and so on. Sure enough, I looked on Wikipedia and encountered the troubling information that the studio where Is This it was recorded, The Transportarreum in Manhattan’s East Village, “includes modern Pro Tools digital audio workstation hardware.” So it’s an album that was produced digitally, then, probably track-by-track, like hip-hop music would be. That would explain why the vinyl is a really expensive, unwieldy sonic replication of the CD, or of streaming.
Now, it may be perhaps that The Strokes were afforded a certain advantage from recording this way. It would probably make things simpler, that is. The Strokes are a quintet, after all, with the lead singer not playing an instrument, so recording live would perhaps represent a more arduous, belabored endeavor than a trio or foursome would encounter. And obviously, Is This it is generally a remarkably sounding album, commendable further for being the result of a shift from the “clean-sounding” Gil Norton, with whom they’d begun producing, to Gordon Raphael, who obviously imbued the record with that rough, shaggy garage-rock sound that was so refreshing to all of us in that dastardly age of streamlined, sterile, Velveeta-cheese rock on the radio.
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