"Hard to Explain" is the first single from New York garage rock band The Strokes (their only previously released material was The Modern Age EP). It was released first in the UK and was later released in the U.S. with different album artwork. (The UK version has a photo of two chairs, one red and one black, facing the camera. The chairs appear to be in a diner or restaurant of some sort.) Because this single is the first from their debut LP Is This It, "Hard to Explain" made the anticipation for the album proper very high, and when Is This It did come out it was widely hailed as one of the best of the year. The B-side of this single, "New York City Cops" was omitted from the U.S. version of the album in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center (the chorus to the song contains the lines "New York City cops/They ain't too smart").
The single reached #16 on the singles chart in the UK. The single was voted #3 on the NME Top 100 songs of the decade. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 36 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".Rolling Stone placed the song at number 59 on its list "100 Best Songs of the 2000s."
The music video for this song was rarely broadcast on television [source] because it did not contain enough shots of the band members, but was instead a montage of random stock footage shots of things that could be considered "hard to explain". It was directed by the team of Roman Coppola and Johannes Gamble (as well as an uncredited Julian Casablancas). Footage of The Strokes playing "Take It or Leave It" from MTV2's Two Dollar Bill concert is used in the video. Amongst stock footage, the video contains clips from Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider (both of which are credited), a clip from the film Brainstorm, a commercial for the 1970 Dodge Charger 500 (scene of a woman sitting in a car), a clip from the film WarGames, NASA footage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in orbit, gameplay of the 1981 Sega arcade game Turbo, the rocket engine firing of the Saturn V and image of particle tracks in a bubble chamber (which forms the American album cover for Is This It). Some of the stock footage was taken from the film Koyaanisqatsi, which was presented by Francis Ford Coppola.