On First Impressions of Earth, Julian Casablancas appears to be slipping even deeper into the alienation that marked Room on Fire. There's much the same sense of a relationship being sloughed off, except that this time his desire for isolation has been tightly wound up to the point of solipsism. In tracks like "Razorblade" and "Vision of Division", his apparent antipathy seems to derive from exhaustion with a dying relationship that's not dying fast enough for his liking.
Worse still, the suspicion is seeping into all his relationships: "All our friends they're laughing at us," he confides in "Heart in a Cage", "All of those you loved you mistrust." Beneath his carefully-cultivated air of animated nonchalance, there's something altogether darker and more corrosive at work, something that sounds a lot like paranoia. "On The Other Side" may be the saddest song The Strokes have ever recorded, for all the diligent industry with which they tackle it. "I'm tired of everyone I know?/ Nobody's waiting for me/ On the other side/ I hate them all," offers Casablancas, wretchedly ashamed of being so judgmental of his acquaintances. It may be a drug-related complaint - "Fear Of Sleep" is one of the more accurate evocations of the reclusivity brought on by drug psychosis of a certain type - but it could just as easily have been triggered by the pressures of celebrity, a condition he regards with ambivalence.
Fear of failure, in Casablancas' songs, is counterbalanced by a complementary fear of being famous. "Today they'll talk about us, and tomorrow they won't care," he suggests in "15 Minutes", presumably a gloss on the famous Warhol edict; while "Ize of the World" finds him fretting over the possibility of a life spent fulfilling mindless tasks, away from the gaze of celebrity: "You're overtaken by visions of being overlooked," he acknowledges, though the realisation doesn't seem to have done him much good. Ultimately, the impression given is of a performer in retreat from both his work and his audience, his ego shattered. "I've got nothing to say," he claims in "Ask Me Anything"; "We could drag it out, but that's for other bands to do."
Not, of course, that it's stopped them doing just that: despite the industrious surfaces of The Strokes' New York new wave rock, the relentless guitar ostinatos and Television-style interlaced lead lines grow as swiftly tiresome as those on last year's (strikingly similar) Franz Ferdinand album. Both bands plot their arrangements too methodically, and the resulting coldness, in this case, effectively curdles much of the album's appeal.
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