on 2 January 2006
As I'm typing, it's early in the morning, so in the UK the new Strokes album has officially been released. Already, I've seen critics dismiss this album as "average" and many have claimed The Strokes have put very little effort into the album and they're just not bothered anymore. I've had a copy of the album for around a month now and I'm going to share my opinion of the album, this review is coming from someone who has had the time to fully analyze the album, not from some small time music journalist who has given it a quick listen and dismissed it as "rubbish". One thing many Strokes fans will notice right from the very first track is there's no longer any use of distortion on the vocals.
Anyway, this album took 9 months in the studio with a new producer, David Kahne, which has helped them take a side-step in sound, whilst retaining their classic sound. The album is a big change in style, but you can still recognize the good ol' Strokes.
The first song on the album 'You Only Live Once' is probably the best intro track they could have chosen. It is one of the most catchy tracks on FIOE with its memorable riff and bouncy vocals. 4.5/5
Juicebox, the first single from FIOE is in my opinion, one of the "worst" tracks on the album. I'm not saying it's a bad song, in fact, I love it but, there are many more suitable potential singles on the album which would have been more suitable for commercial radio. I'm sure you've all heard this song and can make up your own minds on what you think of it. 4/5
Heart In A Cage, their second single and also one of the heaviests songs on the album. In my opinion, this is a great song and sounds like a vintage Strokes track, as it is recycled from ROF. 5/5
Razorblade, infamous for "ripping off" the catch from Barry Mannilow's 'Mandy'. 'Tis a brilliant song, with a catchy 12:51 esque keyboard riff. 4/5
Vision of Division is absolute genius. A great riff with a Mid-Eastern SOAD influenced guitar solo half-way through. After reading the title and the lyrics booklet, I actually realized that this song is a conversation, which explains why Julian tends to repeat verses. One of the strongest tracks on the album. 5/5
Ask me anything, is shrouded in controversy and it's unlike anything The Strokes have ever done. Many people believe this track should be nothing more than a B-side, however, I think it's great. Albert plays a melatron, along to Julian's cool vocals and guess what? There aren't any guitars or drums!!! 4/5
Electricityscape borrows a similar sound from Vision of Division and also sounds very Middle-Eastern. Another one of the heavier tracks. 4.5/5
15 minutes, is a wonderful track, but like "On The Other Side" it's a grower and the track is relatively weak throughout the first couple of minutes and only gets to full strength towards the end of the song, which is dissapointing, as I feel this track could have been a standout if it weren't for the boring intro.
Ize of the world has a fabulous ending which causes many people to question whether their disc has a fault or not. No, don't worry, there's nothing wrong with your disc at all. Opens with some random guitar noises and is relatively heavy throughout. The lyrics in this song are amazing and also, there is a solo half-way through that sounds like an ice cream van! How cool is that?
Evening Sun feels a bit strange following such a heavy track, but is still a great song, takes a few listens to get into, but it's now one of my faves. 4.5/5
Red Light is one of the best tracks on the album and is a great way to end such a fantastic record. 5/5
So, there you go. That's just what I think of the album, I wasn't very descriptive with my review but I didn't want to spoil too much. All I can say is that this album is just as good as Is This It and Room On Fire, if not better. Also, this album is roughly an hour long. The special edition of the album comes in nice carboard packaging with an interchangeable sleeve which allows you to put a pic of one of the band members on the cover, which is a good enough reason to buy the album if you ask me!
If you don't like what you've heard about this album but you've enjoyed The Strokes previous work, please give this album a chance. Thank you for reading my review and I hope you have found it helpful.
on 13 January 2006
For some bizarre reason, critics have not taken "First Impressions..." to their hearts. I don't have the first clue why. And there are 14 songs which provide 14 reasons why this album proves The Strokes are living legends.
The main thing that has struck me about reviews is the criticism that Julian Casablancas' songwriting has taken. I have read that his lyrics are "meaningless", "incoherent" and "not understandable". Well, this is utter rubbish. Lyrically, this album proves that Casablancas is truly in the highest echelon of wordsmith geniuses. If one song had to be picked out to prove this, it is certainly "Ize of the World". A genius link between title and lyrics, this not only provides wonderfully inspirational vocals from Casablancas, but (as much as NME writers and readers would say The Strokes are too cool to do politics) also has political undertones inherent throughout the album, proving that The Strokes have taken up some responsibility as artists since their "Is This It?" days. This song has to be heard to be truly believed. Each word is filled with meaning and delivered with passion and is Casablancas' bitter tirade against the sickness of the modern world. A truly incredible, inspirational song. Further political undertones and disenchantment with the modern world can also be found in "Ask Me Anything" in a line which a well-known magazine unbelievably dismissed as having no meaning ("Harmless children, we named our soldiers after you"). Also, Red Light expresses the disgust at, "...an enitre generation that has nothing to say".
The genius lyrics aside, this is an incredible gift to the world in musical terms. The songs sound emphatic, well-worked and well-thought. To the well-listened ear, the guitar work is simply sublime on songs such as "Heart In A Cage" and "Visions of Divison" to name but two. The way that Albert Hammond Jr.'s sweet, almost bluesey guitars work side-by-side with the incredible rock and roll effects of Nick Valensi's now massive guitar sounds provides The Strokes with something truly unique.
"Ask Me Anything" sees Casablancas and Valensi their most inventive and creative peak. The deliverence of the heartfelt lyrics alongside the melotron sound is obviously a first for them. But it works beautifully.
In "15 Minutes", Julian's best impression of Shane McGowan gives way to exquisitely pacey guitars to create another showing the Strokes have come a long way since "Room on Fire".
If there is a weak point, it is probably "Razorblade", however this is still a very catchy song, despite it's continuous, and justified, link to Barry Manilow's "Mandy"!
Picking on each song is not worth the effort though. This is an album. Ignore the critics and buy this album and judge for yourself. To anyone with any interest in creative, artistic music, this album is absolutely incredible. "Ize of the World", for me personally, could quite simply become one of the very greatest songs ever. For anyone with a disgusted hatred for the things that sting the modern world, this song provides comfort in the fact that a true musical genius is on your side too.
With any sort of justice, this will become a classic. A cultural, musical and artistic masterpiece.
on 16 December 2005
....well, maybe not as good as Is This It, but it comes very close. I've had this album a month now, and felt I needed to tell you about it.
On the first listen, its an ok-ish album at the most. However, like the last 2 albums, stick it on repeat for a bit and you'll be blown away by the sheer brilliance that the 5 lads have come up with for a 3rd time.
1. You Only Live Once - Perfect way to open an album. Very catchy guitar licks and imposing lyrics ("Some people think they're always right"). One of the catchiest songs on the whole album. 5/5
2. Juicebox - Well, we've all heard it. It sounds like the theme from Batman, crossed with a 15 foot wall of guitar and a hell of alot of attitude. Great song. 5/5
3. Heart In A Cage - Opens with a sublime guitar lick from Valensi. This song probably stands out the most after a few listens. It has great guitar work from both Albert and Nick, and cool lyrics ("I don't want what you want, I dont feel what you feel. I'm stuck in a city, but I belong in a field"). 5/5
4. Razorblade - Again, this song opens with a great retro guitar chord arrangement, VERY much like that of Barry Manilows 'Mandy'. Im actually surprised they got away with it! None the less, a great song. The rythem guitar sounds like that of '12:51'. 4.5/5
5. On The Other Side - I cant think of any other words apart from 'very tense' to describe this track. Opens with a bass line typical of The Strokes, and continues throughout. Deliberate lazy guitars and almost desperatly sounding lyrics make this, yet, another great song. 4.5/5
6. Vision of Vivision - WOW! One of the most 'fullest' songs on the album. I think this is the most guitar-impressive songs of the 14 tracks, and has a great mid-western influenced solo in the middle. Julian also sounds like hes using the full capacity of his lungs for once! 5/5
7. Ask Me Anything - I think everyone will have a different opinion on this track. Just song features Julian on vocals and Nick (I think its Nick, it may be Albert...) on a melatron. Its nothing like youve ever heard before, trust me. I personally think this song is beautiful, and has the most diverse lyrics ever ("We named a summer camp for you") ("Dont be a coconut") ("I've got nothing to give, got no reason to live. I will fight to survive, I've got nothing to hide, wish I wasn't so shy"). Very emotive song indeed. 5/5
8. Electricityscape - Another song where, for the opening, sounds very middle-eastern. If there was a song to portray a setting sun in an Asian city, this would be it. The dominent lyrics ("You belong in the city now")("Take me to the water, make me understand that I was wrong") makes it very imposing. Great singing, great guitars; great song. 4.5/5
9. Killing Lies - Not the best song on the album, but certainly not the worst. Another deliberatly lazy song; something thats easy to chill out to. I personally love it; Julians singing sounds beautiful. 4/5
10. Fear of Sleep - I love the way the guitar scales are used in this particular song, as it matches Julians singing perfectly. Its certainly a breath of fresh air; maybe not on the first listen, as its a grower. Julian almost builds up the tension with repetition ("Fear of sleep") and then collapses the song with almost shouting ("You're no fun!!"). Lovely. 4/5
11. 15 Minutes - My joint-favourite on the album. I guarentee that most people won't like this song on its first listen; It sounds like it was written for a pub performance, as Julian souns almost Pogues-like. However, the song really does grow on you, with is amazing lyrics ("The hurtful things you think you want to say; Time will turn them into jokes") The middle of the song has a very nice guitar solo, and then all of a sudden, the song almost tripples in speed, without losing any of its identity from the first half (definatly a song of 2 halves...pardon the pun). The closing verse definatly won me over, with Julian almost telling his bands story. An absolute epic. 5/5
12. Ize of the World - My other joint favourite on the album. Opens up with the most random guitar sounds you're ever likely to hear in your life, but then the song 'starts' for real. The reason why I love this song is its structure and lyrics. You'll find that a lot of the songs on this album (and, on their previous albums) are extremly clever. Its very political, and the lyrics are so down to earth and true. Its almost an observation of our daily lives ("A desk to organize, A product to advertize" etc). The guitar solo is probably the most retro you're ever going to hear for a long time (probably until their next album!), as it sound slike it was written for Happy Days or Rainbow. Another thing worth mentioning is the harmony that Julian unleashes from out of nowhere around the 2:43 mark; I was genuinally surprised to hear him produce something that brilliant. You really do need to hear it to appreciate this song fully. 5/5
13. Evening Sun - Not the best of their tracks. However I do like the lyrics, and the 2nd half makes up for the lazy first half (almost too lazy to enjoy). 3/5
14. Red Light - Finally. They've done an album which doesnt end on a downer! ("Take It Or Leave It")("I Can't Win"). The opening sounds like the drumbeat from Fireman Sam (yes it does!) and the guitar is, yet again, very similar to "12:51", with that almost keyboard like sounds to match Julias harmonies. Finishes on the ultimatum lyric ("The sky's not the limit and your'e never gonna guess what is"). A very nice way to end a fantastic album. 4.5/5
I hope you've found this review helpful. I urge you to buy this fantastic album!
on 5 July 2006
During several songs Julian Casablancas sounds as if he just walked into the studio straight from a heavy session in a bar and laid down the vocals with such arrogance they demand to be heard. I'm reminded of The Pogues on some of these tracks. At least they can now be heard as the vocals were never much of a concern on the earlier two albums; he has a sharper focus now, even though the result sounds casual. Some commentators have called this a departure from their earlier efforts, but I find it more of a continuation. If you like the beautiful guitar music The Strokes have always produced then this will not disappoint; it is a classic in this genre.
on 14 March 2006
With their first album (Is This It), the Strokes showed that they could produce an album of amazingly concise and brilliant 3-minute rock tracks.
While that was an amazing achievement, I felt that with their second album (Room on Fire) they showed that there was more to them, with Julian Casablancas developing a more melodic, rambling sound that showed that they wanted to develop beyond what had gone before. I never understood the negative comments about the album, for me it was more complex and more of a grower than the first one - after about 10 listens I suddenly 'got it' and was bowled over. It is now probably the album that I have listened to more times than any other in my collection.
With this third album, Casablancas et al show that they have the confidence to ignore the people that are complaining that they don't 'get it' within 2 minutes, and develop yet further. As on the previous album, I found that the singles were not my favourite tracks at all, a couple of my favourites being 'You Only Live Once' and 'Killing Lies' - I am just bowled over by the amazing vocal talent on the album that just oozes confidence. I also love the rambling style of bizarre musings - for example in 'On the Other Side' when Jules just goes off on a long and carefully measured rant about how he is tired of everyone he knows and 'hates them all'!
All in all, this is a masterpiece - listen to it 10 times before you make a decision!
on 21 January 2006
It's difficult to know how to interpret the critical reception this album has recieved. Looking at the general consensus, I am taken quite aback at just how savage some of the reviews have been - it would seem the critics have got caught up in the Strokes bashing that is as fashionable these days as the Strokes themselves were when they first exploded onto the music scene. On the other hand, you could argue the Strokes have made a rod for their own back with their classic debut. If they could make an album that great first time out, why can't they do so again?
Having said that I think it's simply unfair to compare everything the Strokes do from now on to their universally acclaimed debut. In dissing 'First Impressions of Earth', its detractors have undervalued it, plain and simple. This album contans some of the finest material the band have produced to date, mostly in the first half of the album. It opens with an inspired triple opening salvo, where the cool swagger of 'You Only Live Once' and moody shuffle of 'Heart In A Cage' actually manage to trump the brilliant 'Juicebox'. And the lads hit upon a similar winning streak midway through with the storming 'Vision of Division', lovely 'Ask Me Anything' and euphoric 'Electricityscape'.
Admittedly they struggle to maintain the momentum in the latter stages: the likes of 'Killing Lies' and 'Evening Sun' are little more than pointless filler. But there's still some good stuff to maintain listener interest, most notably on the Killers-esque 'Ize of the World' and deliriously poppy album closer 'Red Light'.
In conclusion, then, 'First Impressions of Earth' isn't as good as 'Is This It'. But make no mistake - had an album of similar quality been released by, say, Franz Ferdinand (whose two albums to date consist of about three good songs each) then it would have been greeted with five star adulation across the board. For that reason alone, 'First Impressions...' is definitely worth checking out.
on 2 January 2006
The wait for this album since room on fire has definatly been worth it. Unlike is this it and room on fire the running time is 52 minutes, thats like the old 2 albums put together. On first listen a few of the tracks stood out. Everyone will love track1, its pure strokes brilliance. Everyone knows Juicebox, its awesome in my opinion, completely different from the strokes old material. And I think that sums up a lot of this album, they've tried a lot of new things and its payed off superbly.
Since i've listened to the album a good few more times, i'm addicted, just like I was with is this it and room on fire. And i'm sure you will be too, buy it! And hey the delux album version is very cool, you get all the lyrics and a chioce of 6 covers for your album, put your favorite band member on there! Enjoy
on 15 April 2007
It's been 16 months since this album's release and a far more considered review of the material can be delivered now, than would have been possible in January 2006.
Most often, the negative comments this record receives, stem from the opinion that not all of the 14 tracks are necessary. That many listeners would cull 3 or 4 tracks, making a 'much better album'. Hogwash.
Does the presence of these tracks mean the removal of your preferred ones? No. The record has a pace, set by the order and style of the tracks. Yes, it is (gasp) different from the pace of their other recordings. This is intentional. In my opinion, many of The Strokes' songs themselves work so well because they build tension and anticipation. They begin in one place and travel to another. This is also true of this record as a whole.
Are the notes in a melody more important than the spaces in between? Personally, I find On The Other Side a superb ramp for the furious and brilliant Vision of Division. Then there's the climb down into Ask Me Anything. Ize Of The World is all the better because of the first 3:30 of 15 Minutes and the super chilled Evening Sun is the perfect precursor to the fun and energetic Red Light.
All this is putting aside the fact that every member of the band has obviously improved substantially as a musician. The Strokes of 2001 could never have conceived of, or played a track such as Vision Of Division.
So yes, this is different to previous works, but The Strokes are moving on. There are few things more subjective than taste in music. If it's not your thing, then it's no biggie. Their first two albums and all those live performances are there for you to enjoy, but different does not equal bad.
If reports are to believed, Hammond Jr will release a second album before The Strokes begin on their fourth. I hope they return from their sabbatical with equally challenging and original work.
on 6 January 2007
Having been a massive fan of The Strokes' first two albums I decided, at first, not to purchase this album after the comparative slating it received from critics. Having recently purchased First Impressions of Earth, I can understand the bad press but cannot in any way empathise with it. Tempted back to the Strokes after a year in the wilderness I discovered a third album mixed with a subtle intensity that for the greater part of the album is a joy to listen to.
The first four songs of the album: You only live once, Juicebox, Heart in a cage, and Razorblade are one of the best opening four songs on an album I have ever listened to. The usual flawless guitar work is enhanced by an element that could only by glimpsed at in the first two albums - a rawer, more desperately emotional element. Even Casablancas' voice seems rustier and wonderfully less controlled.
The next two songs: On the other side and Vision of division are both more than acceptable fillers. Unfortunately the middle of the album then sags under its own weight (considerably larger at 14 songs and 55 minutes than the previous two albums). The following five songs are as insipid as they are uninventive and the less said about them the better. However, please note these songs are by know means dire and are perfectly easy to listen to, they are merely very skippable!
The final three songs on the album are majestic and more than make up for the previous five. They include the sensational Ize of the world, not only politically astute in its lyrics but harmonically fascinating - building up to a climax it never reaches as the word "vaporise" is cut short as the song itself evaporates. Evening sun and Red Light are respectively warm and exhilarating.
Given the gaping hole that is present in the middle of the album you might wonder why I have given this album five stars. The reason is simple. This is an album of three thirds and the first and third thirds are worth about five stars each (if that makes any sense!).
on 21 January 2006
When the Strokes' debut first exploded on the world the sound was fresh, no one else sounded anywhere near as good as them. Since then I havent heard an album by any artist thats as good, until now. Whereas Room On Fire was a worthy follow-up, the sound hadnt progressed much and it didnt grab you like the debut. First Impressions Of Earth however sounds fresh again: as the music press like to tell us the first 8 songs are great and they trully are; but so are the following six which are more experimental and absolutely successful.
Lyrically and musically, this album is more diverse than either of the previous albums and demonstrate that the Strokes are here to stay. Personal highlights include Ize To The World, Heart In A Cage and Red Light, though the variety in the songs means that everyone will have their own favourites. In short, it is one of the strongest, most listenable albums since Is This It? Based on this album, the last line of the last song sums up their future - "the sky's not the limit and your never gonna guess what is..."