The Strokes burst onto the scene in 2001 with an effortlessly distinct sound: Julian Casablancas' audible distant scowl, Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.'s clashing double-guitar attack and an air-tight rhythm section. The band's first two albums, 2001's Is This It and 2003's Room on Fire, wrapped the youthful decadence and dive-bar realism of lower Manhattan life into contagious hooks recalling the Velvet Underground. The combination was monumental enough to open doors for a generation of rock & roll bands – including Kings of Leon, the Black Keys and many more. "Why does everything that has to be big and popular suck?" Julian Casablancas asked Rolling Stone in 2003. "We're trying to change that."