Is This It is the debut studio album by American indie rock band The Strokes. Recorded at Transporterraum in New York City with producer Gordon Raphael, the album was first released on in the UK on July 30, 2001
The UK cover art features a photograph of a woman’s nude bottom and hip, with a leather-gloved hand suggestively resting on it
No less an authority than Grant Scott, one of the editors of the book The Greatest Album Covers of All Time, noted influences from the daring works of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin in its design, concluding that “It’s either a stylish or graphically strong cover or a sexist Smell the Glove travesty”.
Alternatively, far from being a travesty, those of you familiar with the film This Is Spinal Tap, might be thinking, “Oh, this photograph must be an homage to Tap’s album Smell the Glove”
Not so fast, either way!
According to photographer Colin Lane the photo shoot was an impromptu one: “A stylist had left the glove in my apartment. We did about 10 shots. There was no real inspiration; I was just trying to take a sexy picture”
Legend has it that when the model, who was also Lane’s girlfriend at the time, stepped out of the shower, the photographer started snapping away. Ten years after the photograph was taken, the model - whose name has never been revealed - recalled the infamous photo shoot: “I walked out of the shower and I was completely naked. I was walking around the house – he was like, put this glove on. I walked over, boom, that was the shot”
The model’s apparent nonchalance doesn’t quite coincide with the photographer’s recollection of the event: “When it ended up on The Strokes’ album cover my ex-girlfriend was thrilled - she was a very rock ‘n’ roll girl so it’s a big feather in her cap to have her ass on The Strokes’ cover”
Although British retail chains HMV and Woolworths objected to the photograph’s controversial nature, they stocked the album without amendment.Not so in the USA where the cover was banned for its sexually suggestive nature
Accordingly for its October 2001 release, the cover art of was changed to a psychedelic photograph of subatomic particle tracks in a bubble chamber. After its repackaging with new, ‘inoffensive’ cover art, Is This It was embroiled in yet another controversy. Amidst the attacks of September 11th, the band’s record label, RCA, felt that lead singer Julian Casablancas’ composition ‘New York City Cops’ might offend New York’s Finest, particularly the line “New York City cops ain’t too smart.” As a result, the song was pulled and replaced with another Casablancas composition, ‘When it Started’
The group deliberately left out the grammatically correct question mark from the album title because aesthetically, “it didn’t look right”