At home on a whole new range

The Strokes

"First Impressions of Earth" (RCA)

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IT just seems all wrong that the Strokes opened the door for the White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand and the rest of the current crop of world-class rock upstarts. It's somehow backward, as if the Monkees had paved the way for the Beatles.

But it was the Strokes who broke the ice for the return of raw, real rock, so allow them to draw a little vocal texture and freak-out freedom from those bands in return as they reconstitute themselves on their third album, in which they replace their spindly, catchy sound with a thick, messy, catchy sound.

New producer David Kahne must be a key reason for the album's dynamism, but let's give the often maligned band credit for shaking things up. "First Impressions of Earth" would be better at 40 minutes than it is at 50-plus, and the Strokes' vision still has a definite ceiling, but Julian Casablancas' songs and ever more congested-sounding voice fight mightily to claim a new creative range.

-- Richard Cromelin

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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