The Strokes Angles
After a lengthy five-year break since their last work, “First Impressions of Earth,” The Strokes have finally resurfaced with “Angles”.
The album is a bit scattered. There are a lot of great moments where the group’s charms come through, but they’re mixed in with some bits that need to grow on you. There are tracks on the record that can go up there with anything the group has done, and there are those that require some extra listening.
The making of the album was an odd process. The band recorded it once, but was unhappy with the result. So, they went in again and re-recorded nearly the entire album with a new producer.
Another change was the fact that front man Julian Casablancas, who up to this point was the principal songwriter, let loose the reigns. As a result, the album is much more of a collaborative effort between the members of the group.
Through all of the ups and downs, The Strokes do manage to keep their driving, edgy rock sound. The oddities come in when they infuse the 80s sounds, which don’t always hook you in right off the bat.
“Machu Picchu” is an excellent album opener. It starts off with a little extra funk than you might be expecting. It then moves into a catchy chorus with some congas and bongo drums for added flavor. The result is a slightly unusual sound (for the Strokes), inspired from the likes of “Down Under” by Men at Work, mixed with the Strokes’ usual catchy, riff driven music.
The same goes for much of “Angles.”
“Two Kinds of Happiness” is the next example of the 80s sound creeping its way into the record. The verse’s loose snares and vocal melodies make the track sound extremely new wave. The chorus is again upbeat and relatively catchy. The track doesn’t work quite as well as “Machu Picchu”, but it’s still the Strokes and it’s still solid.
The album also has its share of old school, raw Strokes songs; simple and catchy.
The first single, “Under Cover of Darkness,” is the best, most immediately appreciable song of the album. From the get-go, it sounds like a Strokes classic. Everything from the upbeat rhythm to Casablanca’s flowing vocal melodies to the rough riffs are what a Strokes fan wants.
“Gratisfaction” is a 70s, Thin Lizzy-inspired tune from the start to the finish. The song is a bit more conventional, without any synths or “odd” sounds. The Strokes seem to be slightly more in their element with these more “conventional” tunes. Though the difference is just that: slight.
“Taken for a Fool” and “Metabolism” both take the sound of the group’s prior albums, from their debut “Is This It?” to “First Impressions of Earth.” They don’t jump out at you like the other notable tracks on the album, but they’re a sign that shows the group hasn’t abandoned its classic sound.
“Call Me Back” is one of the more unique songs on the album, due to the fact that it has no percussion. The song features a clean electric guitar accompanied by Casablanca’s voice and some ethereal synths in the background. It’s extremely mellow and manages to sound like nothing else on the record.
The rest of the songs on the album – “You’re So Right,” “Games,” and “Life Is Simple In the Moonlight” – fall somewhere in the category of classic Strokes mixed with new sounds. They’re all well-made songs, with catchy riffs here and moving melodies there. But they suffer from the same scattering of odd sounds a lot of the record faces. The old-school Strokes songs still seem the best. That being said, these “new” ones still have their core based in the Strokes’ sound, and they’re still unmistakably Strokes.
Because of the initial time it takes to get into it, as well as the somewhat unconnected variance of sounds, the album doesn’t seem quite up to par with group’s prior work. However, this is to be expected for such a sudden and great change in the group’s songwriting structure. Considering the context, the band actually seems to have come out of the shift in roles, as well as sounds, surprisingly unscathed.
Despite the changes, the album is still steady enough to belong up there with the Strokes’ fantastic body of work. It’s a testament to the solidity of the group. Even with such drastic developments, we still hear the same Strokes that we know and love. It may take a little getting used to, but you will get used to it.