The Strokes

Record review

Phases & Stages

The Strokes

First Impressions of Earth (RCA)

If First Impressions of Earth isn't quite out of this world, the Strokes' third album still represents the happily jaded middle ground between the NYC garage rock quintet's first two releases. Five Earth years on, 2001 debut Is This It sounds quaint in its bubbly, almost acoustic cocoon, while sophomore slump Room on Fire two years later pumped up the band's muscle, but wasn't having a fire sale on hooks – the riff from "Reptilia" notwithstanding. That reptile's evolved into a relative of Earth opener "You Only Live Once," which may be the absolute best advice the Strokes have yet delivered, with its plumber's-pipe percussion and lope. Paired with the chop-block guitars of follow-up "Juicebox," it's half an irrepressible one-two. Nothing else attains such heights, though the needling "Heart in a Cage," Cusinart bursts of "Vision of Division," and Mooglike moods of "Ask Me Anything" come closest. Even Is This It rewrites "Razorblade" and "Ize of the World" float. Though the Strokes' first two efforts clocked in at the low- to mid-30-minute range, First Impressions of Earth orbits 52, and definitely should've split the difference ("15 Minutes"). Impressive nonetheless.

***

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