New Music Review: The Strokes; ‘Angles’ (MUSIC VIDEO)
For all the crap they’ve taken about the five year hiatus between albums, the Strokes must be doing something right: nine years after the great garage-rock boom of 2002 and they’re still the most talked-about band of that era, despite having taken the longest break from the spotlight.
They’ve have also strayed the least from the formula that made them famous. And so we get Angles, a 2011 record that sounds like it up and walked out of singer Julian Casablancas’ garage circa 2001, all bullet-mike vocals and sparse-sounding production and guitars. In a way, Casablancas’ refusal to go with higher-end production so he can keep his band’s gritty sound intact is admirable. But it makes them seem, sometimes, kind of stuck. Sharper than before, yes. But stuck.
Nothing on Angles is terrible (well, except maybe “You’re So Right”), but there’s an awful lot of underwhelm. Casablancas has wonderful sketches of songs laid out here, but they feel, for the most part, like demos in need of a producer’s touch or a little shine on the proceedings to make them pop.
There are a few standout moments. The lovely single “Under Cover of Darkness” blends lilting melodies and is a contender for sleeper hit of the spring, while “Two Kinds of Happiness” channels early U2, with Casablancas doing his best imitation of Bono’s guerilla yowl from the ‘80s.
More songs are uneven. “Taken For a Fool” is an uneven, hipster-den ditty that comes alive on the hook. The same goes for the closer “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” which features choppy delivery by Casablancas during the verses but a wonderful chorus that sets his voice against a steady wall of synths. Not to mention a great solo towards the end; the only one on the record, it’s worth mentioning.
And then, of course, there are a few duds: The insufferable “You’re So Right” sounds like a Flight of the Conchords parody and, frankly, shouldn’t even be here. “Call Me Back,” with its time changes and falsetto interludes, sounds like the Strokes’ attempt at a Queen moment and it doesn’t quite work out.
“Gratisfaction,” on the other hand, is somewhere in the middle of all of it, as Casablancas takes that old Beatles pearl and turns it on its head. “Never gonna get better,” the singer warbles over a doo-be-do drum beat and blipping guitars. Sure it will, dude. But you’ll never know until you try.
LISTEN: The Strokes: “Under Cover of Darkness”:
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