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First Impressions of Earth
by Devon McReynolds
It was like Christmas morning once again for me on January 3, and I was getting the best present I ever could have hoped for: the third album from everyone's favorite NYC garage rockers the Strokes, First Impressions of Earth. The metaphorical Christmas Eve was a long one –the last Strokes album, Room on Fire was released fall of 2003, so rabid fanatics (like myself) were subjected to over two years of waiting for something that would remind them of the fuzzed-out, gritty beauty of their classic 2001 debut Is This It?
As I popped in First Impressions into my CD player –not fifteen minutes after the record store opened that morning –I must admit, I was apprehensive. I had heard the single “Juicebox” and was less than impressed with its 80s metal sound and cheesy lyrics; but as an eternal optimist, I had a secret feeling that the album was going to be amazing. Once I heard the opening stacatto drum beats and intertwining guitar melodies of “You Only Live Once”, I couldn't help but smile stupidly. This was it. Julian Casablancas' voice was clear, and I felt all gooey inside during his sweet “oh oh”'s.
Even “Juicebox,” the following track, sounded better following it. On “Razorblade,” Casablancas sings, “My feelings are more important than yours/ Drop dead, I don't care, I won't worry” over the distinct strummy guitar. Many of the songs on the album suggest a change in perspective either in society as a whole, or the Strokes as their own unit. “On the Other Side” is a reflection of the former, in “I get tired of everyone I see on the street and on T.V.”
“Vision of Division” is a raucous, frenetic, riff-heavy, but also sultry song in which Casablancas laments, “I can't get along with all your friends/ don't know how to act/ It's all there is.” Expressing inter-band turmoil and distance? In interviews, the band members have certainly acknowledged that they are growing apart from each other and their days of hard partying due to more responsibility in family and career affairs.
When “Ask Me Anything” came on, I had to double check to make sure I was still listening to the Strokes, who used only a mellotron and Casablancas' gentle croon on the track. It sounds pretty, but the now-infamous lyrics, “Don't be a coconut, God is trying to talk to you,” don't fit, and it sounds like they were trying too hard not to sound like themselves.
“Electricityscape” is one of the best songs on the album because of its gorgeous, sweeping melodies and its mood of surrender in the lyrics, “take me to the water/ make me understand that I was wrong,” and the imagery of their NYC; “It's almost after midnight/ I can see the city lights are here.
The following songs on the album are blander, lacking in anything profound or interesting. There are the catchy bits, but First Impressions is about four songs too long. “Killing Lies” and “Fear of Sleep” are easily forgettable, and “Evening Sun,” is a wannabe “Under Control” from Room on Fire; but too lullaby-like and slightly whiny.
As a die-hard, unapologetic Strokes fan since The Modern Age EP, my first impression was that the album was flawless. But the thrill has worn off. First Impressions is much, much better than expected, but it's made me realize that the Strokes will never be the same band I fell crazy in love with.
For more on The Strokes head to www.thestrokes.com, and be sure to check out The Wig's archived Strokes coverage.