Tuesday, December 20, 2005

First Impressions of First Impressions

Artist: The Strokes
Album: First Impressions of Earth

On the one hand, I like the Strokes a lot. On the other hand, it really does all sound the same after awhile. First Impressions is definitely different than and definitely the same as both Is This It? and Room on Fire. But straying from a succesful formula isn't always a good idea. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here's a brief track-by-track preview of the album, which comes out on January 3:

1. "You Only Live Once" - This is a nice album opener, which is something this band has done well throughout their short career. Familiar guitars, but the big change here comes in different (and in my opinion better) vocals from Casablancas.

2. "Juicebox" - I can't believe this was the first single-- it's terrible. It sounds like a bad version of Weezer's "Hash Pipe". Casablancas' vocals are better subdued, not screaming.

3. "Heart In a Cage" - I don't remember anything about this song.

4. "Razorblade" - This should have been the first single. It's not necessarily the best song on the album, but it has that certain feel, and it does demonstrate a slight growth in the band's sound. It's not too much different than the previous album, and it's more melodic.

5. "On the Other Side" - The bassline here is great and it drives an otherwise pedestrian song.

6. "Vision of Division" - This is successful because the band is trying different things with the basic "Strokes" sound. Casablancas doesn't have a great voice or anything, but it can be put to good use in more than one way, and this cut demonstrates that.

7. "Ask Me Anything" - Now this is a well-executed experiment that, for me, results in the best track on the album. It's just Casablancas and a mellotron. Again, some stretching of his vocals. The Strokes are often better when they take it down a notch, not when they kick it into a higher gear like on the dreadful "Juicebox".

8. "Electricityscape" - I hear hints of the mid-song breakdown in "Don't Fear the Reaper".

9. "Killing Lies" - The vocals are annoyingly muddled on this track. Almost sounds like a beach party band version of the Strokes.

10. ""Fear of Sleep" - The song nicely balances the best of the slow Strokes and the fast Strokes.

11. "Evening Sun" - Like the opener, this makes a really nice album closer. What? The album's not over yet? But it's already been 40 minutes. That's more than enough for a Strokes album.

12. "Ize of the World" - And now the poor sequencing beings. This song is pretty decent, but should have come directly before and/or after "Electricityscape".

13. "15 Minutes" - In my mind, the Strokes are inherently self-depricating, and this song is unnecessary. B-side, anyone?

14. "Red Light" - Sorry, I stopped paying attention after "Evening Sun". That song's banging fade out is how this album should end, not abruptly like "Red Light". A Strokes album has no business being 52 minutes long.

And what's up with the Hot Topic, faux-retro, bowling alley-chic of the album cover? Awful.


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