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CD Review: The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth

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First impressions of Strokes albums can easily be deceptive, their efforts in such a well-worn genre understandably requiring that extra little bit of time to impress enough to draw you in. But three albums into their career, and having never quite lived up to the explosive hype they initially found themselves gathering, The Strokes may now be asking more of the listener’s patience than ever.

There are no prizes for recognising the sounds fuelling the opening two tracks, the band using the signatures of Television to open proceedings on “You Only Live Once” followed by the catchy single “Juicebox,” which, while sounding every bit the tribute to The Cramps, also features the best laid burst of energy on the album.

To be sure, no surprises are going to be pulled, but as the Verlaine-like licks continue, the tracks manage to be held together reasonably well…until it becomes apparent that Julian Casablancas’ lethargic vocals are intent on sapping any vitality out of the album. From “On the Other Side” on, a trend begins to emerge: the singer’s sluggish, half-hearted croon smacks of a lack of effort and leaves you with the impression that many of these songs aren’t worth getting out of bed for.

The apt refrain of “I’ve got nothing to say” in “Ask Me Anything” highlights a real lyrical drought, offering up lines such as “Don’t be a coconut, God is trying to talk to you / We could drag it out, but that’s for other bands to do” with a straight face. “Killing Lies,” meanwhile, descends into farce as a sedated Casablanca begins to sound like a parody of Shane McGowan, delivering his lines with a near inaudible carelessness.

On the upside, the dynamic flutter of “Vision of Division,” the pop precision of “Ize of the World,” and the unassuming “Fear of Sleep” ensure the Strokes’ faithful have a reassuring nest of quality to nuzzle, each contending with “Juicebox” to be perceived as the album’s best.

Though the production and overall sound can’t be faulted, First Impressions… is a fair if not altogether unremarkable release that’s going over ground that has nowhere to left to take us, and as a consequence, this is drained of all originality.

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  • Jonathan

    Nice review! Your comment on the production reminded me: there was an interesting piece about this album in today’s Guardian newspaper aswell, saying how the production is deliberately aimed at helping The Strokes crack the American market. (I’m in the UK, it’s a UK paper). “Their trademark trebly sound has been beefed up into something more closely akin to a Clear Channel programmer’s idea of alternative rock”. Made me laugh!

  • Daar

    Nice review, but i think that Casablanca’s vocal lines are very dynamic. I think he make a better job than the other two lps.

  • jaff

    i think the album’s safe! i could never get sick of their sound.lovely.

  • Blake

    In response to the begginning of your review you imediatly fall short. The Strokes have lived up to their hype. The reason most people don’t think this is because quit simply the music you listen to is dog poo. The Strokes deliever actual music and nice vocals in a age of terrible punk and garage bands who can only seem to spew out the same sound from band to band. Modern day band do nothing but deliever time and time again simple struming little stinky guitar junk (why don’t we ever hear good if any solos any more?) and the vocals are all high girly voices. The Strokes deliever all the opposite and that what makes them great. Also in your interview did you totally over look Razorblade Red Light, and Heart in its Cage. What are wrong with those songs? Those are more musically than any song on the market today. Lastly to your comments about Ask Me anything and On the Otherside. Try listening to them a couple of times. The lyrics of Ask me anything are actaully kinda of cool and ON the Otherside has kinda cool ups and downs. And for anyone just picking up FIOE or any Strokes album. YOU HAVE TO LISTEN A COUPLE OF TIMES through the album if you do you will love every song to a certain extent. And thats what were missing in music