The initial run of singles from New York's down-at-heel brat pack The Strokes is arguably among the greatest since The Beatles, and in its own sphere had just as huge an impact.
Landing in an over-produced and lacklustre 2000 alternative scene virtually indistinguishable from the mainstream, no-fi jives like The Modern Age and Last Nite – revisiting the raw NYC sonics of early Television and the new-wave vivacity of Blondie with a millennial insouciance – sounded like hook-line dirty bombs bursting from an East Village basement, levelling the landscape. Within months, a new generation of 21st-century alt. rock culture was formed in their sharp image and at their compulsive pace.
This box set of the 10 seven-inch singles released from their first three albums – 2001's Is This It to 2006's First Impressions Of Earth – is as much historical document as a clutch of magnificent pop moments then, and also testament to the way success inevitably lures bands from the undergrowth.
It begins with Rough Trade's rougher-at-the-edges versions of The Modern Age and Last Nite, where the lack of fidelity makes up a good 60 per cent of the rebel-pop appeal, and covers the highlights of their captivating debut – the locomotive Hand To Explain, gutter-crawling epic New York City Cops and the gorgeous Someday, the sound of sunshine underground.
Then 12:51 ushers in the slicker era of 2003's Room On Fire with its hand caps, synth-pop hooks and superlative yet underplayed songwriting, extending to Reptilia and The End Has No End. Finally, they go full-rock on First Impressions singles Juicebox and Heart In A Cage, consumed by commercial concerns within five years but maintaining melodic velocity all the way.
Besides an oddball funk collaboration with Josh Homme and Eddie Vedder on Mercy Mercy Me, the B-sides provide worthy footnotes. Wonky home demos of Alone, Together and Is This It charm with their drum machines and bedroom restraints.
A feedback heavy cover of The Clash's Clampdown from 2003 is a taste of how powerful a live force The Strokes could be. You Only Live Once is charted from Taxi-theme keyboard demo to finished alt.pop hula, and Modem Girls & Old Fashioned Men is a lost classic. A box set without a single wasted note.