Album review: The Strokes, Angles (with video)

Angles is the culmination of all the different angles they were coming from when recording the album -- get it? Hectically-paced or oddly-tracked albums can be quite fun (see: Sgt. Pepper’s), but it takes a certain amount of brazen, we-don’t-give-a-fuckness and sincere eccentricity that the Strokes really seem to lack right at this point.


There is definitely some degree of returning to form, but when the Strokes clearly try to branch out with a number of tracks on Angles, it is disappointingly droll, almost embarrassing. “Two Kinds of Hapiness” sounds straight of the mixing floor of some forgettable Billy Idol recording session, and could easily find a home on adult contemporary radio years down the road. “Macchu Picchu” is another odd departure and the most palatable of them all on Angles; a staccato, New Wave sample purveys throughout giving the track a Peter Gabriel like feel in the verses before exploding into a charmingly dazed, yet frenetic chorus.  “I’m just trying to find / a mountain I can climb,” Casablancas laments here and, well, it’s hard to disagree.


The form-returning shines most in their (smartly played) first single, “Under Cover of Darkness,” an upbeat, playful number that’s, simply put, a great, unpretentious pop song much like the best tracks off Is This It? and Room On Fire. “Taken for a fool” bares some teeth with a sense of aggression that a number of Angles tracks could use.


As a whole, Angles is a fundamentally uninspired effort. The openness to change is there, which is admirable, but the muscle to really pull it off right just isn't. There are some moments of clarity and impetus, but Angles bares a largely visible and unfocused scar that can’t be ignored.  One would expect a little more fire in the belly from a band that's taken such a long break -- a sense of something to prove. But it seems they’re content with where they are. They are the Strokes, after all.


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"Under the Cover of Darkness"


If you were rocking in 2001, you experienced the violent riptide effect The Strokes set in motion with their debut release, Is This It? Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of rock deplorability (no, really, this was the heyday of both Nickelback and Creed), The Strokes gave us a dose of fuzzed-out garage rock that was upbeat, catchy, and just fucking cool, their sound fresh and novel while obviously drawing on the influences of classic mop-haired garage rockers like Television and The Velvet Underground.

Before long, Pandora’s box of post punk-garage rock was opened and revival bands like The Hives, The Von Bondies, The Vines and others — all sharing, to some degree, the same genetic makeup as the Strokes — became the flavors of the year. The Strokes, voluntarily or not, were pigeonholed as the face of this movement. Unlike most of their cohorts, they had some staying power until disbanding indefinitely in 2006 after releasing their underwhelming, and worst-selling album to date, First Impressions of Earth.

Five years later and The Strokes are back with Angles, a new studio effort to save us (again!) and give us some good guys to root for in the trenches of an oft-awful mainstream rock radio game. Well, sort of...

Unfortunately, Angles is an eccentric mess. From some bands, this is forgivable, even encouraged. For the Strokes, it can prove disastrous, a jumping-of-the-musical-shark in the eyes of die-hard listeners ...

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