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Friday, Jan. 13, 2006



The Strokes "First Impressions of Earth"

When The Strokes first emerged from the N.Y. underground scene in 2001 they were hailed as the saviors of rock 'n' roll. It's no surprise that they were unable to live up to such expectations. Who could? Their second release, "Room on Fire" (2002), was an album arrested in development, with the same sound that put them on the map -- the just-roused-from-sleep vocals and choppy dueling guitars that harken back to N.Y.'s punk glory days.

This time The Strokes have taken a chance and gone in a new direction with producer Dave Kahne (known for his work with 1980s new wave acts), giving it a fresh, crisper sound. The album is more ambitious in scope -- just under an hour, it is about the same length of the first two albums combined.

The jerky "You Only Live Once" opens the album with the inspired vocals of Julian Casablancas, before hipster irony reigns in "Razorblade" with a chorus borrowed from Barry Manilow's "Mandy." Lyrically there is room for improvement, as some songs are uninspired and sophomoric: "I was hiding from the world, I was a squirrel," Casablancas sings in "Fear of Sleep."

Asking The Strokes to save rock 'n' roll may have been too much, but they are certainly capable of growing into a band of lasting significance.

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