Rough Trade - 2006 - 57 minutes

Paying tribute to his own gifts as a footballer, George Best was famously quoted as saying that if he had been ugly people would've never heard of Pele. It's a quote that finds its musical equivalent in the career of The Strokes: had The Strokes looked like Motorhead it's safe to say that - even with some decent songs - we wouldn't have heard half as much about the New York quintet.

So if there has always been suspicions held by some about the longevity and merits of Julian Casablancas & Co, then 'First Impressions of Earth' represents an attempt by the band to expand their sound and scope and prove that they're a band who are here for the long haul.

If only it worked. Any who harboured doubts that The Strokes were just a band of the moment will only have them confirmed while even the most devoted of fans might find 'First Impressions of Earth' a slog.

It begins brilliantly with 'You Only Live Once' - granted a song that owes massively to The Cars but one whose beautiful guitar line can't but lift you - and is followed by powerful duo 'Juice Box' and 'Heart in a Cage'. Had the entire album sounded like these three songs, the combination of melody and hardness would've proved impossible resist.

But rarely has a big album fallen asleep quite so loudly. Clocking in at nearly double the length of their previous albums combined, 'First Impressions of Earth' has non-event songs scattered throughout with Casablancas' vocals no better and regularly worse than what you've heard outside your window at 3am on a Sunday morning.

This is a classic case of a band whose ambition is greater than their ability. The songs here are the most complex The Strokes have ever released but many of them just aren't memorable and suffer from a dearth of good hooks. Even the album's design and layout, while beautiful, smacks of a band who are just trying too hard.

'First Impressions of Earth' does feel like a turning point, but good or bad is the question we'll have to wait a couple of years for an answer to. With every album they've released The Strokes have always been a "what happens next?" kind of band, where it seems failure is just as likely as success. There's not enough here to fill you with hope that you'll be proved wrong and Casablanca's lyric "today they'll talk about us and tomorrow they won't care" could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: You Only Live Once - Juice Box - Heart in a Cage – Razorblade - On the Other Side - Vision of Division - Ask Me Anything - Electricityscape - Killing Lies - Fear of Sleep - 15 Minutes - Ize of the World - Evening Sun - Red Light