The Strokes released their debut album Is This It in the US in October 2001 on RCA after some delay due to changes made from the UK-released version (released August 27, 2001). The cover of the latter features a black-and-white photo of a gloved hand on a woman's naked backside, shown in semi-profile. The naked model on the cover was photographer Colin Lane's girlfriend at the time. The North American version replaces this with an image of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber and replaced the song "New York City Cops" with "When It Started". The replacement of "New York City Cops", which contains the refrain "New York City Cops, they ain't too smart", was made in good faith following the September 11 attacks. "New York City Cops" was listed as #12 on New York Magazine's "Ultimate New York Playlist" on March 1, 2010.
The melodic garage rock sound of Is This It received universal acclaim from both mainstream and independent publications, including 5 stars from Rolling Stone, and a 9.1 from Pitchfork Media; it made many critics' top 10 lists, and was named the best album of the year by Entertainment Weekly and TIME. NME, in an article previewing summer concerts, urged readers to attend their shows, claiming that the band was touring on the strength of some of the "best pop songs ever". The influence of 1970s CBGB stalwarts Television was noted by many reviewers, although Casablancas and bandmates claimed to have never heard the band, and instead cited the Velvet Underground as a reference point. After the release of Is This It, the band toured around the world, featuring dates in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and North America staging for the Rolling Stones. The band headlined UK's Carling Weekend festivals in 2002, largely chronicled by a mini-documentary entitled In Transit which was released to members of the now-defunct "Alone, Together" fan club. Today it can be seen on their official website.
In August 2002, the band played at New York's Radio City Music Hall on a bill with The White Stripes. Jack White joined the Strokes on stage to perform the guitar solo on "New York City Cops". During that period, the band also appeared as musical guests on various late-night talk shows. Is This It yielded several singles and music videos, all of which were directed by Roman Coppola.
In 2009, NME named Is This It as the greatest album of the decade (2000s). The album placed second on a similar list compiled by Rolling Stone. The same issue featured a list of the '100 Best Songs of the 00's', in which songs "Hard to Explain" and "Last Nite" charted at #59 and #16, respectively. In January 2011, Rolling Stone conducted a survey among their Facebook fans to determine the top ten debut albums of all time. Is This It came in at number ten and was also the most recent behind Pearl Jam's 1991 debut.
As of 2010, Is This It has sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide
1. Is This It
4. Barely Legal
7. Last Nite
10. Trying Your Luck
- Julian Casablancas said about Is This It: "I just wanted to write music that could touch people. As a songwriter, you play a few chords and sing a melody that's been done a thousand times, and now you're a singer-songwriter. I think it takes a little more than that to do something that matters. And I wish I could write a song where all the parts work. When you hear a song like that, it's like finding a new friend."
- In light of the World Trade Center disaster, the track "New York City Cops" was pulled from the U.S. release.