Terrible ‘first impressions’

Ben Breier

The Strokes new album doesn’t compare with previous works

When you consider that the previous two albums by The Strokes were accompanied by some of the best singles seen on this side of Velvet Underground-inspired rock ‘n’ roll (“Last Nite” and “Reptilia” respectively), the horrendous quality of the debut single off the band’s latest effort, First Impressions of the Earth, can certainly be considered a bad omen.

The Strokes

First Impressions of the Earth

Released on RCA

Stater rating: *

“Juicebox,” the first single off of Impressions, sounds like someone took Franz Ferdinand to the vet and had the band neutered. Julian Casablancas is best known for his subtle, scratchy-sounding voice – and this song elects to send Casablancas into a screaming hissy fit of sorts, while the band powers out tacky and overpowering bass lines.

A crappy single is forgivable, but a crappy album? Not so much. Even when songs on the record begin to show promise, such as “Vision of Division,” they falter and face-plant like a nervous gymnast on the balance beam. Listeners are left wondering if the band is even trying anymore – with tired, monotonous guitar littering the record and successfully drowning out Casablancas’ vocals the majority of the time.

It’s almost as if the producers of Impressions simply cranked up every dial on the switchboard as far as it could go, save for the vocal tracks. Lazy production can sometimes work in a band’s favor, such as the decidedly maxed-out sounds of The Killers’ Hot Fuss, but the majority of this album sounds like Casablancas singing into a payphone on a busy New York City street corner – it doesn’t work.

It’s not like you’d want to hear the lyrics anyway – Casablancas spends a lot of time singing about trifle clich‚s. On “15 Minutes,” Casablancas sings “It’s not that I don’t really love you / it’s just that I don’t really know.” Indecisive lyrics are pandering and insulting, but it’s not only the lyrics that are indecisive, it’s also every boring drumline and every flick of the guitar.

Even diehard Strokes fans should be advised to keep the hell away from First Impressions of the Earth. This album is the Avian bird flu of 2006’s early moments – stay far, far away.

Contact assistant ALL editor Ben Breier at [email protected]