The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth (Cover Artwork)

The Strokes

First Impressions of Earth (2006)


It seems the trend with most indie or alternative bands being accepted into the mainstream and subsequently overhyped, is that the overwhelming pressure put forward by the masses often results in rushed, lesser quality albums or otherwise personal devastations (Hüsker Dü, Nirvana among countless others). However, in the most pleasant cases, the bands will continue to put out quality discs, that while not be as successful as the record that launched their super stardom, will keep devoted fans pleased and continuously supportive. With the release of First Impressions of Earth, New York‘s the Strokes are well on their way to becoming that type of group.

First Impressions of Earth is the followup to the underrated sophomore album Room on Fire, which of course followed the much praised debut Is This It? According to many a rock critic and music elitist, Room on Fire's detractors were that it was basically a "lazy rehashing of the debut," an emulation of themselves as a band. Personally, I see nothing wrong with the formula and figured their sound was already great to begin with, so why bother changing it? Alas, the band seemed to have taking the criticisms to heart, as First Impressions is their most different, experimental sounding record to date, albeit still familiar to the sound that drew us all in five years ago.

For a strong example of their new sound, one needn't look further than debut single "Juicebox." A thick bass and drum rhythm section carries the track, with more emphasis of the two instruments than seen in either of the two previous albums, intertwining with the two tight guitars to create a professional, well-played sound. The slow yet infectious "On the Other Side" features some of Casablanca's most mature, personal lyrics to date; "I hate them all, I hate them all, I hate myself, For hating them" he states, before launching into the chorus of "On the other side, On the other side, Nobody's waiting for me, On the other side." This may read like melancholic trite, though it's used to perfection in this track, one of the highlights of the album. The Strokes of old shines through on the impressively catchy opener "You Only Live Once," to the familiar "Electricityscape," and the throwback-to-the-sixties exuberance of "Red Light," all wearing their various influences on their sleeves, all the while creating something fun and fresh of their own.

Of course, there are the downsides of the album. "15 Minutes," while highly original material for the band, is ultimately a bore, and I find myself skipping over it. Other non-standouts include "Killing Lies" and "Ask Me Anything," with its tiring pace. Still, these misfortunes are redeemed by the generally great tracks that surround them, making them not entirely unlistenable.

What exactly it is the Strokes ultimately hope to achieve with their music remains to be seen. However, so long as they continue to put out quality discs with high replay value, they will remain that rare breed of band where hype did not spoil the goods.