Lets be honest, when it was announced that the Strokes would be returning with a brand new album after an excruciating five year hiatus, us fans couldn’t help but get our hopes up just a little bit. Every part of their journey over the past 10 years has seemed so perfect, kicking it off with the release of Is This It back in 2001. The raw, untouched and unenhanced melodies and Julian Casablancas’ incredibly distinct vocal delivery created an ‘old-new sound’ which was nostalgic of acts such as Iggy and the Stooges and Lou Reed, while still creating something new, fresh and exciting.
After managing to give the music industry the kick up the arse it so desperately needed, the Strokes started to break into the mainstream, but amazingly without losing any credibility. With the release of their brilliant second album Room On Fire in 2003, we gained access to the sleeker sound of the Strokes. And when First Impressions of Earth came along in 2006 it felt as though there was no possible way of faulting them. (Even if relationships between band members were starting to break down.)
However, it has been a while and as much as I would like to say the band have used their time apart productively and produced an album to beat all albums, it just hasn’t happened. Angles sounds distracted and rushed and reflects the state of mind that the members were in during the creation of the album. With Casablancas (who for all previous albums had been the predominant song writer) distracted with his solo album, the rest of the band were left to pick up the pieces. Very little time was spent with the entire band in the studio, with Casablancas recording vocals separately and sending them to the rest of the band via email.
What we shouldn’t forget though, is that although Angles may not be up to the usual high standard, it is in it’s own right a pretty good album. The opener Machu Picchu may seem a bit cheesy on first listen with it’s 80’s style bongos and obvious reggae influences but the more you listen, the better it gets. This seems to be the philosophy to go by with the rest of the album, with the exception however of the first single Under Cover of Darkness which right away just explodes with ‘Strokesyness’.
Another highlight of the album has to be Gratisfaction; Casablancas’ harmonies work wonderfully with the Thin Lizzy inspired guitar stylings of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr and the simple, cool rhythmn section of Fab Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture. The second single Taken For A Fool sports an incredibly catchy chorus and an equally entertaining music video that makes you feel that the Strokes really are clicking and just enjoying themselves again. Now that’s what we like to see!
So even though Angles may not be going up with Is This It in the realm of legendary albums, it’s just nice to see the Strokes getting along and having fun again. They’ve got a summer of festivals to get through and work has already begun on the 5th album so who knows what lies in store? What is obvious is that they aren’t the same band we knew 10 years ago, but they’ve certainly still got a lot of life left in them.
Listen to Angles on Spotify.
Also be sure to check out their recent sets at Bonnaroo.