Are the Strokes Having an Existential Crisis?

Who would’ve thought that a band known for its jaded version of neo new-wave would suddenly start singing about God, war and acceptance? But that’s exactly the case with “First Impressions of Earth,” the band’s third release.

“First Impressions” is a breath of fresh air for the Strokes, whose second album, though full of highly enjoyable boozy guitar riffs and the signature off-kilter Casablancas wail, sounded suspiciously similar to their debut, Is This It?

That’s not to say that they’ve ditched their grimy rock feel and cynical New York attitude. In fact, the album’s opener “You Only Live Once” is sure to become a favorite for die-hard fans. The band has simply taken their sound and expanded on it, experimenting with spacey sounding guitar effects and slower tempos and rhythms.

The results are varied. The lethargic pacing of “On the Other Side” and “Ask Me Anything” sounds a little stiff and stilted. But the futuristic riffs, echoes and frenetic pacing of “Juice Box” combine seamlessly to form an overflow of pure catchy rock ‘n’ roll.

The biggest changes are in the lyrics. Listen closely, and you’ll hear phrases like, Harmless children/We named our soldiers after you/Don’t be a coconut/God is trying to talk to you. This coming from the same band that once said I just want to misbehave/I just want to be your slave.

Though the experimenting does not always succeed, “First Impressions” is highly commendable and well worth a listen. The guitars still sound dirty, and the vocals still seem like they just woke up from a weekend-long bender, but now the Strokes have turned their attention from the pub to the world at large and expanded their sound accordingly.