The Vermont Cynic

Different Strokes


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The Strokes New Year’s resolution: break the mold of their first two albums by releasing their third and most encompassing compilation to date, First Impressions of Earth.

The boys from New York prove they have musical mobility on this one, rearranging their guitar and vocal chords to generate an excess of new sounds absent from their previous and more monotone albums, Room on Fire and Is This It.

These rockers have experimented with their latest album. Lead singer Julius Casablancas’s scope of voice goes from singing nonchalantly like an annoyed choirboy, to screaming like an angry schoolgirl- all the while maintaining his trademark lackadaisical undertone.

“Juicebox,” the band’s first single from the album, affords Strokes fans the idea that the band has matured without divorcing themselves from their old less-is-more style. The single begins with a hard-strummed baseline reminiscent of Television or Alien Ant Farm, and progresses to an up-tempo collage of melodic screaming and quick biting angled riffs before digressing into their niche of slightly distorted, light song.

Strokes traditionalists, if not a fan of “Juicebox,” need not worry. First Impressions of Earth reverts back to the band’s infancy in songs like “Killing Lies” and “Red Light,” a fun anthem that sticks to the old formula of fast guitar roles accompanied by lethargic yet addictive lyrics. Or, if you’re new to The Strokes, the catchy “Razorblade” will dose you with an immediate obsession.

As lyricists, The Strokes have always been able capture the malaise of the male youth with just a few simple words, like repeating “You talk way too much…” to the point that your feminist girlfriend fractures your stereo. There is plenty of this in the new album as Casablancas howls emotionally, “You’re no fun, you’re no fun” in “Fear of Sleep” and “All that I do is wait for you/I can’t get a long with all your friends…” in “Visions of Division.”

But girl bashing is not the only theme of First Impressions of Earth, and the lyrical content of this album is actually a testament to The Strokes’ newfound maturity.

The harmonious “Ask Me Anything” is a subtle criticism of America’s problematic politics as of late. With a comment of frustration on the issue of American troop deployment Casablancas laments, “Harmless children, we name our soldiers after you…/We could drag it out, but that’s for other bands to do.”

These lyrics and others found in the new album point to The Strokes growth as artists as well as people. In a time when it’s fashionable for artists to write politically-driven songs, The Strokes take into account their influential role as celebrities and utilize it effectively. But, unlike certain American Idiots who recently released a politically driven album, The Strokes do so without tackily jumping on the comprehensive anti-American bandwagon.

These Strokes are not your grandma’s Strokes, or at least the Strokes from five years ago; they’re different. The new disc leaves a phenomenally lasting impression that will stick in your head even if you don’t download the ringtones. They’ve retained the piquancy that made them who they are while having reinvented a sound for themselves. And, while The Strokes can now be considered a seasoned band, their original formula still works. Less is still more… more or less.

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Different Strokes