The Strokes

First Impressions of Earth

At the turn of the 21st century, with grunge all but dead and bands like Limp Bizkit still capturing the hearts of wife-beatered frat boys everywhere, rock music was in a sad state of affairs. So when The Strokes’ debut Is This It was released in 2001, music critics jumped all over it with a “thank-God-for-something-different” vehemence. And there the Strokes were—packaged neatly for record companies and music elitists who could easily glom on to the band’s catchy lo-fi garage rock and hip-New York City-Velvet Underground image. It was a strong debut—but I didn’t think The Strokes would make it past album No. 2. Well, First Impressions of Earth is album No. 3 and it shows the band still has a knack for hooks while opting to tidy up the production. Frontman and songwriter Julian Casablancas’ vocals are strikingly potent on songs like “Fear of Sleep,” soaring above a crisp rhythm section that holds strong throughout the entire record. Like The Strokes’ debut, First Impressions of Earth offers nothing groundbreaking and actually loses some of its steam toward the end—but the album’s opener “You Only Live Once” is pop perfection worth listening to over and over.