Picks and Pans Review: The Strokes

UPDATED 01/23/2006 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/23/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

First Impressions of Earth

Five years after their hit 2001 debut Is This It rocketed the Strokes to otherworldly levels of hype, the New York City quintet has come down to earth with its third album. No longer expected to save rock and roll, the group follows up 2003's Room on Fire with another enjoyable yet hardly awe-inspiring disc. While fellow garage-rock revitalist Jack White seems to further maximize his talents with each White Stripes release (as well as his Van Lear Rose project with Loretta Lynn), Strokes frontman- songwriter Julian Casablancas and his bandmates keep running in place on their latest effort. Not that they aren't trying to grow up. With new producer David Kahne (Staind, Sublime, Sugar Ray) at the helm, the Strokes spent nine months honing a deeper sound while recording First Impressions of Earth, which breaks new ground for the band by eclipsing the four-minute mark on 4 of 14 tracks. But they're still at their best on punchy jams like “Juicebox,” a frenetic rocker that showcases Casablancas's ragged vocals and recaptures the reckless energy of Is This It. Certain songs, such as the catchy opener “You Only Live Once” and the unusually cerebral “The Ize of the World,” benefit from the extra polish. The same can't be said for downers like “On the Other Side” and “Ask Me Anything,” which turn Casablancas's off-kilter voice against him. Despite those missteps, the Strokes manage to leave a good enough impression, especially for a bunch of Earthly mortals.

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