The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth

by Al Brown Rating: Release Date:

Rumours of The Strokes decline have always been a bit exaggerated. Their second LP was derided by many as the definition of a sophomore slump when it was actually a solid record and contained groups' best song ('12.51'). Likewise some would have you believe that their third album is merely a barrel-scraping exercise; a restless, unsatisfying product of writer's block. In reality this record is simply The Strokes doing what they've always done: channelling the spirit of 70's NYC into some satisfying guitar pop songs.

Julian Casablancas has always been a much better songwriter than he is a singer or frontman. He's too withdrawn and his vocals are not distinctive enough: he will never be Lou Reed. But at his best he does write great songs; opener 'You Only Live Once' is top-class laid-back stuff, part Television, part Mink Deville, all awesome. 'Heart In A Cage' is great too, even if I can't help thinking I've heard it before-is that the chord progression from 'The Passenger' by Iggy Pop? Quite probably.

'On The Other Side' seems to be the existential counter-argument to 'The End Has No End' from their previous LP, which might sound a bit heavy (and lyrically it is), but it's such a bouncy, enjoyable song that the refrain 'Nobody's waiting for me/on the other side' sounds almost joyful. The synth and cello-led 'Ask Me Anything' is an inspired, Magnetic Fields-like admission of defeat containing the pointed line: 'We could drag it out/ but that's for other bands to do'.

It's not all such fun: lead single 'Juicebox' has always sounded like an ill-thought-out Arctic Monkeys cash-in to me; cod-metal 'Vision Of Division' is a chore to get through and the second half of the album is not as good as the first. Still, The Strokes remained the undisputed champions of that New York guitar revival sound; kings of the two-note-riff; trust-fund troubadours with all the best hooks.

Best Tracks: 'You Only Live Once', 'On The Other Side', 'Ask Me Anything'

Alistair Brown

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