After 2004's disappointing second album Room On Fire, I had almost zero interest in checking out First Impressions Of Earth when it was released back in January. I stumbled across a copy a few weeks back, and since then is has been slowly grinding me down and winning me over.
The raft of Strokes imitators that have emerged over the last few years have forced the band to move further and further forward, and the song structures of this album are much more involved and complex than Is This It?'s catchy pop rock. The superb opening track You Only Live Once starts things off with a great bass line and the rhythm section builds up the trademark catchy pop into a fine rock sound. Heavy rocking first single Juicebox then ups the pressure straight away and gives the polished album a sense of urgency.
The development of the band's sound really starts to show them off as more of a band than just a backing band for Julian Casablanca's lyrics. It is the guitars that shine on nearly all of the stand-out tracks, with Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr's dual guitar's adding an important layer to the sound. The cascading guitars of Heart In A Cage or the singing guitars of Red Light bring almost as much personality to the band as Casablanca's voice.
The album dips slightly towards the middle, but recovers well, with Ize Of The World's building up an ever increasing pressure, until it abruptly ends. Red Light finishes the album off, and at 14 tracks and 52 minutes it is by far the bands longest release.
After this surprise turnaround I went back to Room On Fire, thinking I must be wrong there too - but it's still a stinker (...for now).