Album: First Impressions Of Earth
Here’s something I thought I’d never say in 2016: First Impressions Of Earth is a good record.
When it was released 10 years ago, the record, along with everything else the Strokes has ever done, was chastised for failing to live up to the hype of Is This It. The record’s two major sins were 1) it didn’t sound like Is This It and 2) it didn’t save rock ‘n’ roll like Is This It did in 2001. It was considered a complete and uttermost failure. There were riots in the streets. Devoted Strokes fans, ripping off their leather jackets in despair, cried out to the heavens from their Lower East Side apartment rooftops. What is this shit?! “Juicebox”?! “15 Minutes Of Pain”?! Why oh Lord Why?!
Critics, once the champions of everything the Strokes did, immediately panned the record for its production and lack of sounding like Is This It. The overall mood was clear; they should have quit after Room On Fire, which wasn’t considered a complete failure because it sounded just like Is This It. The Great American Rock Revival Experiment was over. Let’s trade in our guitars for turntables. This was the end of rock ‘n’ roll.
10 years later, music critics still can’t come to terms that First Impressions Of Earth isn’t Is This It. Michael Nelson wrote 7,000 words on Stereogum and still couldn’t justify its existence. There was no reissue or planned acknowledgment by the band that this record even existed. The band, still criticized for not releasing something as good as Is This It every two years, was no longer considered An Important Rock Band, and you could argue that the unraveling began with the backlash of First Impressions Of Earth. No new records, no matter how good they were (Angles and Comedown Machine are both excellent) could undue the story taking shape. This was it.
For the past 23 years, I have been on the side of the critics, but then I actually listened to the record. Front to back. No interruptions. And it’s not bad. In fact, it’s actually pretty great! Seriously – go listen to “Ask Me Anything,” the band’s first and best attempt and ballad. Revisit that really weird bass sound from “Juicebox.” “You Only Live Once” is still their best album opener. “Razorblade” is a top five Strokes song for me. Listen. To. The. Whole. Record. Again. Will. Ya?
Will First Impressions Of Earth ever gain respect in our society? Recently I’ve become more hopeful. Last week, the band released a new four-track EP called Future Present Past. It’s full of good songs that reminded me of First Impressions Of Earth, and I was pumped. This was the most excited I’ve been about new Strokes in a long time. The EP title is the most telling part for me; Have the Strokes finally made peace with its past in order to move on? If so, then we all should do the same for First Impressions Of Earth.