Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Review: The Strokes - Angles

So as most of us know The Strokes were the talk of the world a decade ago, when they unleashed their debut album 'Is This It' to ecstatic reviews and major worldwide success. 2003's 'Room On Fire' was a good enough follow up, but 2006's 'First Impressions Of Earth' saw the formula begin to tire, and lots of songs just lacking any kind of brilliance. In fact so unmemorable were the tracks, that the only one I can recall is the definite stand out 'Juicebox'. So after five years away, I was hoping that their fourth album 'Angles' is going to be a lot better. And for the first couple of tracks, it is.





Opening track 'Macchu Picchu' is certainly very angular indeed, and a very promising start to the album. Brilliant choppy riffs, an electro almost reggae rhythm, strange lyrics, funky percussion, Julian's best vocal yet and a great melody all blend to produce a moment of magic, better with every listen. A result of the band combining the best elements of their old sound with new elements and producing a success. Next they use all the greatest aspects of their past output and stick to what they know best on the brilliant single 'Under Cover Of Darkness'. It's like 'Last Nite' but better and slighly more complex, with pleasing double guitars and a superb melody. Easily as good as anything they've ever done.

At this point it seems that The Strokes may have returned to form. But then, it takes a downward turn. 'Two Kinds Of Happiness' has an odd 80's AOR drum sound and a chorus that brings some nice guitar sounds and interesting rhythms. However the melody is hardly memorable, the bridge is lifeless, and the verse sometimes sounds like bland late 80's Queen, which is not good at all. The guitar solo towards the end is pretty cool though.'You're So Right' is a real surprise, a nagging riff, intense electro drums, a weird vocal and an odd twisted vocodered chorus, before a short burst of dark reverbed guitars precede the song's sudden end. New sounds, not much trace of the old formula, and a fantastic result.'Taken For A Fool' is a good bit of post-punk with a hint of Roxy Music during the chorus, while the chorus is strong and melodic, worthy of anything from 'Room On Fire' and 'Is This It'.

The minimal electronic drums and odd bassline of 'Games' is interesting at first but then just descends into laziness and sounds a bit like The Bravery. 'Call Me Back' has a nice minimal guitar sound and sounds like it could blossom, but underwhelmingly it doesn't do much at all. 'Gratisfaction' is a rather grating Thin Lizzy pastiche that ends up sounding more like Queen, and not in a good way, while 'Metabolism' has a menacing bass and guitar riff that twists round the fierce rhythm, but then when it comes to matching this with a good tune they attempt to pull of the sort of dark dramatics Muse do so well, but instead produce turgid and dull results. The last track 'Life Is Simple In The Moonlight' has a good chorus, but is let down by a lazy, meandering verse that sounds bored and uninspired, and by the time the track and the album finishes, you're left thinking "is that it?". Is this really the best one of the most hyped bands of the last decade can produce after a five year absence?


There are times when 'Angles' sticks to the old formula and pulls it off very well (Under Cover Of Darkness), and times when attempting new things works brilliantly (You're So Right). And when they add new elements to well crafted songs (Taken For A Fool, Macchu Picchu) the results are fantastic. But when they attempt to spruce up dull and unmemorable songs with new and unusual arrangements, it can't hide the fact that they could've tried a lot better. The fact is if The Strokes were making songs like this when they first formed, they certainly wouldn't have gained any attention from the music press or the public. Luckily back then they had plenty of great songs, an uber-cool sound and a real knack for writing catchy tunes, and thus they became one of the defining bands of the 2000's. Now ten years on from their debut, apart from on the 4 very good tracks here, they sound tired and completely uninterested in the music they're making.

Following a disappointing third album with a five year gap and then 'Angles' simply isn't good enough. I'll be buying this one when it reaches the bargain bins. 5.5/10



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