Reviewed by Mondo Castro
The Strokes/First Impressions of Earth
The thing is, the Strokes were never an ‘original’ band. But like that immortal salesman once said, “it’s all in the packaging.” And the Strokes packaged that NYC New Wave (when bands like Television and Blondie were kicking butt and taking names) sound quite well and effortlessly made it their own. Their mainstream conquest in 2001, with the release of Is This It, was as refreshing as when Television and the rest of the flock ignited New York’s renaissance in the late ’70s. Much like what happened then, the Strokes blew the lid off the underground which led to the exquisite New Wave renaissance.
Made up of rich fashion victims, the Strokes had a cache of great pop songs disguised in the post-punk, visceral guitar riffs festooned with the coldness of the rhythm section and anchored on dodgy half-singing. Becoming superstars wasn’t hard for these boys, backed by boy-band good looks, a bevy of gritty singles such as “Hard To Explain” and “Last Nite,” and feeding loads of money into their promotions and publicity war machine. Although critically-acclaimed and packed with talent, the band’s affluent rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle was often considered to be bogus.
First Impressions of Earth is filled to the rafters with great songs, better singles than those from the first album. The line-up reads like a greatest hits album; there’s “12:51,” “The Way it Is,” “Under Control,” and the best song in their arsenal: “Reptilia”. It goes without saying that the so-called “sophomore jinx” was conquered while bolstering their status as one of the best bands on the planet. The Strokes have become a tighter unit; there are less glaring ‘mistakes’ and more of the swagger that comes with their current status. On songs like the devastatingly guttural “Juicebox,” the tautness jumps out of the speakers and holds you by the neck. On the other hand, the guitar work on the Barry Manilow-esque (yes, Manilow, specifically the “Mandy” song) “Razorblade” and “Electricityscape” is stunning. The album not only confines itself to the illustrious NYC New Wave [or No Wave] scene of the late ’70s, it flashes odd moments from ’80s brashness and glam-rock insolence, and the band makes it work.
First Impressions of Earth is the sound of a band at the height of its career, pushing things to the limit and not caring about the fall-out.