The Strokes were labeled the saviors of N.Y.C.'s rock and roll scene when they oozed out of hipster enclaves (not to mention prep school) in 2001. But in the ensuing years, all of the tricks that made the fab five so exciting--snappy hooks, half-drunken confessions of love/lust and off-balance, VU-meets-AOR riffs--began to sound as tired as the endless buzz bands ripping off Gang of Four. In fact, as the hype around Big Apple groups fades, so does the Strokes' appeal, or so it seems from listening to the laborious, overly long First Impressions of Earth. Instead of coked-up tempos and sloppy rock rhythms, Earth contains middling-speed songs that borrow--and render bland--ideas from heavy-metal guitar solos, Muse's driving wall-of-prog, U2's back catalog and corrugated dance-punk. Julian Casablancas' lyrics, while never substantial, feel particularly empty this time thanks to an overwhelming sense of paranoia (and fear of/disgust with big cities). Heck, on Earth's burbling highlight "Ask Me Anything," the Rufus Wainwright-channeling Casablancas even keeps repeating the phrase, "I've got nothing to say." Sadly prophetic, that.
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