By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
"Albert had met David, because a friend of his was working with him," Fraiture recalls. "And Albert very intelligently didn't tell us everyone David had worked with before, because we would have definitely had a prejudice going into the recording. He only said Sublime, I think, which is a band we all liked as kids." When the facts came out, Fraiture says, "Everything was already working, and we saw that David took it as a challenge to work with a variety of artists. It wasn't only the Bangles and 311. He'd done Paul McCartney and other cool stuff, and what he was doing with us sounded cool too."
The platter is certainly more radio-friendly than past Strokes offerings. The guitars on "You Only Live Once" are crushingly commercial, while "Juicebox" uses a bass line so much like the one in Weezer's "Hash Pipe" that it probably still has resin on it. Other songs sport comparatively complex arrangements: "Ask Me Anything," in which Casablancas tempts detractors with the line "I've got nothing to say," ditches the usual accouterments in favor of a synthesizer and cello. But beneath the studio frou-frou, the material doesn't depart from the combo's other efforts in a major way. By now, it's clear the Strokes are what they are, for better or worse.
The mixed critical feedback spurred by Impressions makes the band's current tour more critical than ever. But don't expect the performers to start expanding their ditties in concert settings. "We go through every single option before we feel, 'This is a song we should record,'" Fraiture says. "To change that would be defeating all those hours of work." Yet the band members claim to be reenergized as a result of changes in their personal lives; Casablancas, once among America's hardest partiers, stopped boozing and got married, while Fraiture has traded in hard liquor for the occasional beer.
Of course, doubts remain about the Strokes, as they always will. Despite persistent charges of dilettantism, however, Fraiture thinks their musical passion is easy to prove.
"To people who say we're not dedicated, I'd tell them we probably wouldn't have a third album if that was true," he declares. "We would have wasted all our money and done the typical VH1 Behind the Music rock thing and never been heard of again."
So Is This It? Don't bet on it.