Rhythm & Views

The Strokes

The Strokes' third album has that Strokes sound: 30 percent Julian Casablancas' croon/rock wail, and 70 percent Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi's crisply distorted guitars. When a band has such a distinct sound, they can start to sound repetitive, but the question is: Is it really such a bad thing to sound like yourself?

Fortunately for The Strokes, it's not a bad thing at all; repetition is, after all, an effective tool in the art of persuasion. The hooks are so sharp they could hang meat, and lyrical one-liners give the songs their snarky New York City edge. In "Razorblade," the guitar moves into cheery chords as Casablancas sings, "My feelings are more important than yours." "Ask Me Anything" is played entirely on a synthesizer on the strings setting, and suggests that some things are so far beyond repair that no amount of lyrical artistry will fix them: "We could drag it out but that's for other bands to do," sings Casablancas, "I've got nothing to say." The irony is that Casablancas does have plenty to say about how everyone at the party doesn't have much to say, either--"I guess everybody's week must have been pretty rough, 'cause everybody's drunk, loud and pissed off," sings Casablancas on "Fear of Sleep," as the guitar follows the vocal melody in standard Strokes fashion.

By repeatedly pointing out that there is "an entire generation that has nothing to say" ("Red Light"), Casablancas is actually saying something important here. Because of The Strokes' signature musical backdrop, First Impressions of Earth is persuasively repetitive--by the end, the point has been made, and it sticks in your head.