Stroke me, stroke me 

First impressions of Earth? It sucks — unbearably so. The problem being that, of all the things that become the Strokes — undeniable hooks, celebrity girlfriends, cheekbones to die for, etc. — desperation isn’t one of ’em. And after the lackluster sales of 2003’s underrated Room on Fire, the band’s third album is little more than a painfully misguided grasp at relevance. If there’s any doubt the Strokes want to ingratiate themselves to Middle America now that their hipster cachet has faded, look no further than the presence of producer David Kahne (Sugar Ray, Sublime), who flattens the band’s sound into a nondescript, dude-rock din clearly intended for mass consumption. Kahne isn’t entirely to blame for Earth’s crappiness, however, as even he can’t be expected to polish turds like the lead single “Juicebox,” typical of the album’s relentless mediocrity, and the boring, Barry Manilow-biting “Razorblade.” Nothing here even remotely rivals the catchiness of “Last Nite,” “12:51” or Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” — a better Strokes song than anything actually by the Strokes — leaving fans to wonder if, in trying to expand its audience, the band forgot why anyone listened in the first place. You can’t blame the Strokes for establishing a new direction for themselves; it’s just too bad, especially given how hard they’re trying, that they’re headed down the shitter.

Jimmy Draper writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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