Strokes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

One of the criticisms leveled at the Strokes is that, unlike great thinkers such as Royal Trux, they have nothing to say. But their new album, First Impressions of Earth (RCA), does pose some heady questions. Like: How does a self-centered generation have an existential crisis but hang on to its self-centeredness once it's over? At this point the band's prevailed over a few crises and what's generally called "growing pains." Growth, so important for human beings, is overrated in rock bands, but though I wouldn't presume to equate it with maturity the Strokes have changed for the better since Room on Fire. On "Juicebox" Julian Casablancas jams his voice into wrong-shaped holes instead of cozying himself into an easy niche (which lots of lazy punk singers do by their third album, hoping people will call it a "style"). And "Electricityscape"--whose barreling rhythm is faster than they've ever played, with winding guitar schemata to match--shows their testicles have descended too. You can't fault the gents for putting out an album without a "Last Nite"--their whole point now is to downplay bubblegum hooks and road test the skills they've picked up by sticking it out this long. As for the accusation that they've got nothing to say, you'd think Casablancas couldn't agree more: "I've got nothing to say," he sings on "Ask Me Anything." But as Beckett knew, that's different from not having anything to say: the Strokes' actionless, storyless, ill-lit songs are the language of a mood between malaise and meltdown. And besides, what big ideas would capture an audience that's too distracted by four-letter words (iPod, Tivo, blog) for big ideas anyway? For their expert depiction of this fabulously filthy, lonely time, the Strokes are the most meaningful rock band in America. Fri 4/7, 7:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.

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