Go on, I know you want to. I wanted to, so I don't see why you wouldn't either. You want to play that time-honoured game of ‘Let's Stick The Boot In'. And, quite frankly, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't. It's a game that we here in Australia are particularly fond of, hell; we are internationally known for it. Compounding the desire to play is that the subject of contention is The Strokes – New York's favourite upstarts who we all loved until we found that the dirty denim they sported was merely a costume, a façade for the Swiss boarding school, born with a silver spoon in their mouths lives they had lead. As they were no longer ‘one of us' we shunned them, we were angry, we were upset, we felt we had good reason.

  
  

It is often said that if NME puts you on their front cover you are doomed (take note Kaiser Chiefs). In the rush to capitalise on the critical lauding of their first album Is This It The Strokes second release, Room on Fire suffered from being creatively undercooked and was overall a patchy effort. As a consequence, copies of Is This It were hidden in the dark recesses of CD stands like Anne Frank in an attic and the pundits were lining up to mark The Srtokes as one trick ponies who had outstayed their welcome on CD players, magazine covers and in our collective (un)consciousness.

  
  

But let's leave our prejudice and willingness to write off The Strokes at the door for a moment shall we? And look at their latest offering - First Impressions of Earth on its musical merit, because that, my learned friends, was the reason we hailed them as the ‘Next Big Thing' way back in those heady days of 2002.

  
  

The first track ‘You Only Live Once' bolts at the starting gun, indicating that The Stokes realise that they are a band with something to prove. Throughout the entire 14 tracks the pace never diminishes, assailing the listener with the ferocity of their intent, forcing one to open up their ears and actually listen.

  
  

In the two years since Room On Fire, The Strokes have defined and refined their trademark sound of staccato guitar lines and intricate melody overladen with Julian Casablanca's laconic and often distorted lyrics. Rather than a rehash of Is This It The Stokes appear to be comfortable enough in themselves to take these elements and right royally own them.

  
  

This is exemplified in the frenzied attack of current single ‘Juicebox' and even more so in ‘Vision of Division' which in my mind is the standout track of this crafted and self aware album. Worthy of being called song of the album just for the alliteration present in the title alone, ‘Vision of Division's staccato guitar lines become at times orchestral in their scope and inclination. Moreover, the track, and I dare say, the entire album has been produced by David Kahne to make use of the entire stereo field (listen to it on headphones and you will hear what I mean) something which is often overlooked to detriment of many a recording in this modern age.

  
  

FIE also sees The Strokes getting comfortable enough to experiment. With a crooning Casablanca's on the minimalist ‘Ask Me Anything', it presents the perfect foil to the drama of ‘Vision of Division' that precedes it.

  
  

I can't say with any certainty that FIE will lift The Strokes from the mire of shit thrown at them throughout 2004-2005. Nor can I determine whether it will lift them to the stratospheric hype 2002 (and lets face it, I don't think any band could achieve such a feat). What I hope, however, is FIE encourages a few wary listeners to take this album on its musical merit; which it has in spades.

  
  

As The Stokes were again featured last week on the cover of NME, I hope that not only do you take this brief window of opportunity to make up your own mind regarding FIE, but also that the band are wearing their waders when the inevitable shit-fight starts.

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