The Strokes – Angles
The Strokes – Angles
Five years is a long time, but it’s even longer in pop music. The last time the Strokes checked in was with 2006’s hit-or-miss First Impressions of Earth, an album that hinted that the Strokes were bored of being the Strokes, even when everybody else was still imitating them. But a lot has changed since then. Whereas stylish, garage and new wave-inspired bands were all the rage in the first half of the 2000s, they have since largely been replaced by reverb-drenched, grandiose groups or genre-busting, electronic and dance-oriented artists. And more than that, the Strokes themselves have changed. Four of the five band members have either released solo or side projects, all of which were distinct from their main group’s work. So, naturally, the songwriting duties were now going to be spread among the group rather than consigned to singer Julian Casablancas like they had been in the past. With all this in mind, some huge questions faced the Strokes and their fourth studio album, Angles: what would the album sound like? Would the band still sound relevant? Could the band overcome the allegedly tense recording sessions to make a solid album?
Well, the bottom line is that Angels is a decent record, no more, no less. On the whole, it’s a tighter and more cohesive listen than First Impressions but its best moments never truly approach the high points of any of the band’s past records. It simply showcases the Strokes doing what they do best: Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.’s interlocking guitar work, Casablancas’ just-woke-up vocals and the rhythm section of Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti giving the whole thing a propulsive kick. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, and Angles is enjoyable in its own way. “Under Cover Of Darkness” and “Gratisfaction”‘s joyous choruses help make them standouts; Valensi’s “Taken For A Fool” weds tough verses with buoyant hooks, and the fine closer “Life Is Simple In The Moonlight” sounds like a lost cut from Room On Fire. Angles goes a little further than just rehash, though, and is as eclectic as the Strokes have ever been. Yet it sometimes has First Impressions of Earth‘s tendency to overcomplicate the songs, so for every interesting experiment like Fraiture’s sinister “You’re So Right,” there is the ponderous “Games,” which loses itself in its synth-y murk. Also, on past albums, Casablancas’ lyrics have always provided memorable lines that help the songs stick in the mind. And while that remains the case here for the most past, his vocals are oddly buried in the mix, often obscuring his words and making it harder to latch onto a couple of songs, even after repeated spins. Those who aren’t satisfied with Angles may take heart that the band reportedly doesn’t seem satisfied with this record either. If they think they have a better album in them, then they can go right ahead. For now, though, the Strokes are back, and even if they aren’t changing it this time, the world is a better place for it.