The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth

Since The Strokes' colourful garage pop debut, fans and critics alike have put a lot of pressure on these poor NYC boys to out do themselves. With their 2003 sophomore release Room On Fire, they managed to appease fans, but really ROF was an exact copy of their debut. Their latest is the ambitious First Impressions of Earth, and it finds The Strokes maturing (some of the time). Just listen to choice cut “Vision of Division” to hear a killer middle-eastern flavoured guitar solo that bounces between guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, or the powerhouse rhythmic stomp between bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fab Moretti on “Juicebox.” But don’t worry, the boys haven’t completely abandoned their classic sound, you get the same power-pop of old on “You Only Live Once” and “Razorblade.” Though, what really caught my ear was the sleazy apoplectic mess of “Ize of the World” where lead vocalist Julian Casablancas talks about “Young adults to modernize, Citizens to terrorize, Weapons to synchronize, Cities to vaporize” while the rest of the band collapses in frantic sonic seizures all around him. Casablancas' vocal style works especially well on the keyboard ballad “Ask Me Anything” where he mulls over and over “I’ve got nothing to say” and then deadpans “Don’t be a coconut, God is trying to talk to you.” Despite all their reaching, First Impressions of Earth includes too much filler to make any real connection with the listener. Tracks like “Fear of Sleep,” “15 Minutes,” “Heart in a Cage,” and “Red Light” are ultimately unsatisfying, mainly because the band are trying way too hard to find their natural groove. But if The Strokes can hone what they have experimented with here, their next release will be hailed as a comeback album. (RCA) Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars

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