The Strokes: Angles

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Posted August 11, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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Timewarp of ’80’s sounds prevail on The Strokes’ fourth disc

Being among the original leaders of the current indie rock resurgence comes with much expectation and hope for each successive release, so it’s no wonder that indie darlings The Strokes took their longest hiatus ever following the release of their third album, 2006’s First Impressions Of Earth, before following up with their latest release, the 80’s-inspired Angles. To further complicate things, lead singer Julian Casablancas took his inspiration elsewhere in the interim, crafting one of the best solo project albums of his generation with 2009’s synth-laden Phrazes For The Young, a risky move which might have depleted The Strokes’ newest offering of some of its strongest potential. Lastly, as the primary songwriter in the band, Casablancas reportedly decided to approach his involvement with Angles much more remotely, with the hope that the other members would step up to the compositional plate…

The resulting thirty-four minutes are mixed, but the album begins well-enough with the Clash-esque dub-influenced guitar work on “Machu Picchu,” the charmingly-bouncy radio-ready single “Under The Cover Of Darkness,” and the Cure-meets-The Cars stylings of “Two Kinds Of Happiness,” before heading into the darker territory more reminiscent of Casablancas’ solo material with “You’re So Right.” In fact, it’s when Angles sounds most like Phrazes For The Young that it’s at its strongest, seen in electro-rock numbers like the slow quasi-ballad “Games” and the proggy “Metabolism,” with its snappy asymmetrical phrases and tense vocal melodies.

Perhaps the most unique sonic addition to the album is the strange and hauntingly personal slow track “Call Me Back,” with its pensive lyrics and moody guitar work atop a bed of muted synth pads, but the decision to follow up this somber mood with Angles’ goofiest number, “Grastifaction” and its early American Bandstand-friendly group choruses is a strange one indeed, especially for an album so rooted in the 80’s sound world. Elsewhere, the album continues to lack the punch and direction we would expect of the band: though the second single “Taken For A Fool”’s choruses do resemble those of the album’s more-successful lead single, the verses sound far too much like Cake, and the closing number, “Life Is Simple In The Moonlight,” comes across as a lackluster dénouement to an already perplexingly off-the-mark album.

In summary, though Angles does feature some interesting harmonies and textures, it never quite coalesces into more than the sum of its parts, often sounding like the cutting room floor remnants from Casablancas’ solo project, and as such, this installment might end up taking away from the formative band’s legacy.  Thus, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that The Strokes, like so many revered bands before them, work best when their frontman is actually at the front of the band, committed and leading the way. Phrazes For The Young clearly showed that Casablancas still has it in him, but only time will tell if his inspiration can continue to be channeled through his band. 

RYAN BURRUSS

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 18 March 2011
  • Label: RCA
  • Producers: Gus Oberg, Joe Chicarelli, The Strokes
  • Spin This: “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Call Me Back,” “Metabolism,”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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