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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