The Strokes – Angles
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Record Label: RCA
In the ADD generation of today, it's nearly remarkable that people are anticipating The Strokes' first album in over five years. In the time since First Impressions of Earth, we've seen the rise and fall of many buzz bands and genres, including the bands from the early 2000's that were initially compared to them (The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines). Their music has outlasted all of that. The funny thing is, The Strokes couldn't care less. Since their 2001 debut, Is This It, the band has always seemed disaffected and disinterested, but no one can fault their strong sense of self. All of that is what makes listeners hot for new music. The Strokes are the cool kid who casually and blatantly ignores our phone calls, knowing that it'll only make us want them more. Hell, vocalist Julian Casablancas rubs our noses in it with the very first lyrics of the opening track, “Machu Picchu” (“I'm putting your patience to the test”). Hailed to as rock and roll's savior, the quintet just never gave a shit.
And that's what makes their fourth album so interesting. On Angles, you get a sense that The Strokes are trying to stretch their musical boundaries just a bit. The band sent to save the future of rock and roll has instead gone back in time on Angles. The electronica pop sound that littered the 80's rears its ugly head here, but The Strokes find a way to make it work. The bleeps and bloops on “Games” is a prime example, as Casablancas' vocals echo perfectly into the vibrant chorus, while “Two Kinds Of Happiness” bites The Cars' style unapologetically. Thankfully, Albert Hammond Jr.'s spastic guitar work saves the track.
But before you get lost amongst The Strokes' history lesson, the quintet draws you back into their universe with soon-to-be classics such as the swinging good time “Gratisfaction” and first single “Under Cover of Darkness,” which recalls the bouncy guitar harmonies of past hits.
But the best tracks of Angles are the ones that combine that classic Strokes' sound with their new found sense of experimentation. Opener “Machu Picchu” possesses the band's swagger while dabbling in a reggae sound drenched in rhythm guitar reverb. “Taken For A Fool” is rich in texture, as the rhythm section of bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti is on point. Other high points include the sultry groove of “You're So Right,” which beautifully shows off Casablancas' vocal range while also containing more thrilling guitar work from Nick Valensi and Hammond Jr.
This isn't your typical Strokes record, even though the fingerprints from previous albums are still all over Angles. It's not only their most ambitious record to date, but also their most difficult, as the five members didn't even record the album together (Casablancas sent his vocals over electronic files). Despite their perceived disaffection and boredom with us/themselves/music/everything, listeners will be able to sense an urgency and earnestness from the band that may not have been heard in albums past. Angles is the best Strokes album since their 2001 debut, and they still sound just as fresh and youthful as they did when they released that record. They've finally returned our phone calls, and we should be pissed that it took this long. But, dammit, we can't stay mad, not when they produce tunes this good.
Nice review. I can't see the.score on my phone, but I gave it a 68 in my review here - reviler.org. I'm still a huge Strokes fan but there were some terrible misses on this record especially "You're So Right," which is easily the worst song they've recorded. That being said, there is plenty to like. It's at most an OK album. "Taken For A Fool" is one of the glimpses of classic Stokes on the album.
Also, I would argue that there is ANY urgency on this record. If anything the urgency is to put out another record by year's end, which both Julian and Nikolai have confirmed. The
Strokes are far from over at this point.