The Strokes
First Impressions of Earth



by robin EMERITUS
March 2nd, 2009 | 23 replies

Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fourteen of their best.

You belong on the radio, says “Electricityscape”. This song was sung for “You Only Live Once”, “Juice Box”, “Heart In A Cage” and “Razorblade”. These songs were probably sung a hundred times over, and their replay fun-factor is simply timeless; more pop from a few post-punk revivers. It’s still true that these songs could remain on the airwaves just for as long as they want, but the relaying chords pouring out of “Electricityscape” in every direction – inwards to a chorus or an outro to Casablancas’ usual howls and grumbles – remain rejected.

But it’s not just a tribute song that comes seven songs on from a popular opener. The only reason First Impressions succumbs to boycott is because it loses all track of method, and when compared to the kept together rock that was Is This It and even the self-plagiarised Room On Fire, the third effort seems to be simply that, and nothing more – a nice try. The New Yorkers are harder to hold onto because of the obstacle they set themselves; four big ‘n’ bouncy singles front the album, each overwrought with Casablanca’s sneer and sleaze. The sleaze that’s displayed through “You Only Live Once” by the guitar (always the guitar, with bass lines and drumbeats just vanilla cuts to make the Hammond/Valensi duo all the more lovable) and the optimistic use of the word baby. And again, through the aggressive “Juicebox”, where Casablancas’ voice loses all track of surroundings and just screams away tonelessly. From track one to six, it seems like unedited brilliance, and even the booming, somehow Spanish solos on “Vision Of Division” sound like Hammond Jr. having fun with the band, leading improvisation and generally being zany. It’s not the sound of the debut, or the sophomore, and for six tracks that’s all too desirable.

From then on, the album gets dinkier. The outrageous momentum doesn’t disappear one bit, but the sleaze becomes more of a cut-and-paste job. Casablancas’ voice begins to replicate the dirty amplifier distortion yet more, and so he can tremble away “Fear Of Sleep” in a way that makes it an essential to hear out, despite all its revolving, bare-bone instrumentation (and continuously poor drumming). The album is carried by the sum of its parts working better together, and even when Casablancas’ stammers out I’ve got nothing to say times seven – er, and then times four – the huge, grandiose echo left behind him makes it the sentimental focus of First Impressions of Earth – its ultimate intention is to separate the album’s two sides, and while it may well be the worst track on the album, it has enough to give.

From “Electricityscape” onwards, the album feels more like stepping into the unknown, a dark American alleyway to replace the previous six arena anthems. The difference is small, and it’s really such a tiny transition in tempo; “Ize Of The World” is menacing in pace, and a typically crooked Strokes marvel. Its lyrics come off sterile, as is a constant with most Strokes songs, with its political agenda thankfully forgettable, but its moody, ever-climaxing guitar lines – here equating with Casablanca’s louder and louder, higher and higher vocal work – are possibly the height of the album, and as catchy as “Juicebox”, with an even darker backdrop. “15 Minutes” may be recorded with off-putting potential (it sounds like Casablancas is going to throw up for three minutes), but it suddenly hastens up and saves itself. Then, the fastest and best moment of First Impressions belongs to “Red Light”, with yet more focal guitar work slapping a great big car chase onto the end of the album, with Valensi and Hammond Jr. almost taking lead from one another, constantly matching one another in their respective areas as fast as possible.

On this high point, it’s hard to really stay mad at The Strokes. It’s not a huge separation from Is This It, but it’s how Room On Fire should have turned out the first time – aware of itself, but unpolished and an attempt at improvement, not sustainability. It’s fourteen sing-a-longs instead of eleven, and some are simply easier to remember, and others easier to repeat. In the end, it should be Room On Fire that is tested and blamed for what will eventually see The Strokes out of relevance and off the planet; First Impressions of Earth should be a celebration, and listened to the whole way through, it barely loses out to the gritty, murky sound that’s been going around for three years. This time, there’s just more of it to indulge in.

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Adam Downer EMERITUS (3.5)

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

Good review. I don't have anything by them, but I've been thinking of getting Is This It for a while now. Is that the best place to start?

February 17th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

I would say that Is This It is their best effort so yes, start there.

February 17th 2009


this is where i started, and since i got it i must've played it over 1k times. but then, most would say is this it is the best, i was just obsessed with this one.

February 17th 2009


I don't recall this being that great, maybe I'll check it out again

February 17th 2009


This album completely dies after Electricityscape. Everything up to and including that is brilliant, everything afterwards is so mediocre.

February 17th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

sorry but no, this album peaks at 'Heart In a Cage' and can't keep it going much more past 'Razorblade'

'Is This It?' is where to start, by a long shot. This album is a bit too self indulgent, but they're still very good musicians and Cassablancas is still a great song writer. He just seems to have forgotten who he is -- he says himself (frequently) on 'Ask Me Anything'; "I've got nothing to say, I've got nothing to say"

We know Julian.

This is well written tho -- pos!

February 17th 2009


This is my favorite Strokes... the filler is worse, but some of their best is on here... Evening Sun, Electricityscape, You Only Live Once, all very solid.

Digging: Nils Frahm - Solo

Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2009


Interesting review Robin. (I think) I like the approach you have taken... It sort of takes a while to sink in to be honest. But when it does, it hits the mark.
I remember listening to all 3 Strokes albums for the first time in the one sitting. I think 'Is This It' is over-rated and I remember recalling how excellent the first half of this 3rd album was and then... it just dropped off (apart from 1 or 2 tracks) on the latter half of the LP. I find it really strange that the band would order the album how they did. It seemed more logical to go 2 good songs, one filler, repeat until end.

Digging: Too Close To Touch - Nerve Endings

February 17th 2009


Very interesting review, u definitely have your own style but it's pretty off-putting and the beginning lacks the flow the end has for it to truly're definitely a strong writer but it's a little too much and keeps the review from having an overall flow...still the idea behind the review is excellent, just maybe focus it a little's nice to see a unique review, the tag is earned...
I love the Strokes yet still have not heard an album (so the love is based on their excellent singles)...i'll check out Is Thi It first then i'll try this

February 18th 2009


funnily enough, i didnt really think i'd gone for any particular unique style in this review, but i'll take in mind what you said. reading over it again, it does seem a little jumbled, so i dunno. thanks for the comments.

dave, you need to listen again. :pThis Message Edited On 02.18.09

February 18th 2009


I think 'Is This It' is over-rated

How could you say such things Davey :-(

February 18th 2009


So mediocre.

Electric City
February 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

album's fun, best strokes album imo

April 21st 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

Not my favourite strokes album. Then again I don't really have a favourite one. ohhairobin.

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

Killing Lies, Fear of Sleep, Evening Sun are ALL FAIL

July 18th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

vision of division is their best song. yeah

Digging: Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell

August 22nd 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

Some of the songs on here are just horrible...

But the first 3 and Ize of The World are so great it doesn't even matter. Ize might be their best song.

October 7th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

Ask me anything is so boring and dull. Awful album, even if the singles are among the strokes' best.

October 7th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

C'mon, it's not that bad.

November 23rd 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

I don't know why the album gets so much hate, its probably my second favorite by them. Would choose this over Room on Fire.

And I agree, Ize of the World is one of my favorite songs by them.

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