First Impressions of Earth
In 2001, the Strokes’ debut single “Last Nite” hit the airwaves. Hearing it for the first time on my bedside clock radio immediately changed me. The attitude, the beat, the guitar all surged through me and affected me in ways music never had. The album became a soundtrack for many good memories and encouraged me to buy the first band poster to grace my wall. Nostalgia and sentiment connected them to my life and I waited anxiously for their third and newest album, First Impressions of Earth. Unfortunately, it fell far short of expectations.
“You Only Live Once” opens the album fantastically. The infectious beat and opening riff draw indisputable similarities to the Rolling Stones. Julian Casablancas even sounds strikingly Jagger-like. This gem is followed by the controversial single, “Juicebox”. From the start, a manic bass line smacks the listener like a comically placed rake. Schizophrenic and initially horrifying, it seems like the Strokes have lost their brains beneath all that perfectly messy hair. Listen again closer and it becomes a product of rock genius.
“All right,” you think. “The Strokes have it going on with this album.”
Well … the thing is …
The thing is they really don’t have ‘it’ going on. The album is bearable, but barely. Their past releases had ten tracks; here they went for a dangerous fourteen. Fifty-three minutes of monotony later, the boys lacked the engaging approachability of their prior albums. They may have sensed this when writing the ballad “Ask Me Anything”. Deliciously ironic, Casablancas croons, “We could drag it out/ but that’s for other bands to do.”
The Strokes have always presented the image that they don’t care. Now it has transcended shaggy hair and dirty jeans; it infiltrates their music. On the mediocre “Electricityscape,” “I’ll borrow all the chords … and all the words from that song” appear. “I’ve got nothing to say” and “I don’t give a fuck” are shouted throughout the album. At times, it seems that the band has taken this attitude to heart and made songs without the effort or charm apparent in previous material. Standouts like “Red Light” and “Razorblade” are effective merely because they are reminiscent of Room on Fire. With Impressions the Strokes have managed to diversify their sound, but it is an awkward transition for which they may have not been ready.
Overall, it’s a decent album. It contains some solid songs that are great for dancing and singing. With a stale and forgettable middle, however, the skip button gets heavy usage. Much more is expected from a band that normally proves its worth. Although the poster still proudly hangs, these rockers need to redeem themselves.