First Impressions of Earth was considered a step backward from The Strokes’ well-received sophomore effort, Room on Fire, and it was particularly brutalized anytime it was compared to the beloved Is This It.
The album was considered too long, too disjointed and the tales of the laborious recording sessions that produced it are well documented . Also, First Impressions did not sound like what an album by The Strokes was expected to sound like.
In an interview with Pitchfork Gordon Raphael, said he thinks the sound change was the result of a change in producers and a desire to monetize.
“I believe they saw all the bands that came in the door behind the first record that were selling three times more than them and were wondering if it was a production thing,” says Raphael. “At the time, they were getting married and having children and wondering how they could go higher than they did.”
The Strokes attempted a two producer approach, but David Kahne, who has produced albums for Tony Bennet, Sublime and Sugar Ray, would ultimately handle the brunt of the producing duties.
With Kahne’s production First Impressions of Earth sounds slicker and slightly heavier than any entry to The Strokes’ body of work so far.
First Impresions of Earth is by most of the band’s admission an overgrown jumble, but even a casual reveals at least a handful of good songs and a few excellent songs.
The opening four tracks of the album oscillate between some of the most joyous pop-rock The Strokes have made and the hardest rock The Strokes ever experimented with.
You Only Live Once, Juice Box, Heart in a Cage and Razorblade are all enjoyable listens.
It takes until First Impression of Earth‘s fifth track for the album to truly misfire.
The ska aping, midtempo number On the Other Side just does not have much juice. Casablancas’ drunken boredom becomes contagious, and it’s difficult to make it through the four-and-a-half-minute song.
Luckily, the album’s next song is a respite.
Vision of Division is a cleaned up take on the sound The Strokes had mined successfully in their previous two albums. The song coils, building tension and releases it expertly, and Albert Hammond Jr’s guitar sounds furious when its given free reign.
Unfortunately, there is another third of the album until the next truly worthwhile song, but it’s a doozy.
Ize of the World might just be the best song on First Impressions.
Ize moves at a brisk pace, and is anomalous in feeling much shorter than its actual running time. The song is basically build around the lyrical conceit that verbs ending in “-ize”– an egg to fertilize, a pulse to stabilize, a body to deodorize, etc. It’s tongue-in cheek, musically interesting and features a bizarre, abrupt ending. Ize of the World is the most successful experiment on this album by far, and it would have served as an excellent closing song.
However, First Impressions still has two more inessential songs to go. Evening Sun and Red Light aren’t offensively bad, but they aren’t wonderful either. They’re symptomatic of the perplexing inclusion of entirely too much filler, which kept First Impressions from being the third unimpeachable entry into The Strokes cannon.
Despite the album’s flaws, it hits on almost half of the songs on the album, and it isn’t hard to see how if First Impressions of Earth would have been greatly improved if it had been pared down.
It is still absolutely worth a listen, but after the first run through it’s probably best to stick to the seven or so songs that you actually like.