the strokes angles
  • WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23, 2011

  • Posted by: Joe Puglisi

Irrational attachment to a specific time and place can really ruin your ability to enjoy new things. Many Strokes fans seem glued to the aesthetic of the early aughts, when rock music desperately needed Julian and the boys to shake up the dullard radio flavor of the day with their guitars and rhythm and not giving a sh*t. Nowadays the wheel is being reinvented in other places, other genres, by other bands. The Strokes aren't going to suddenly blow our minds, because they never did that in the first place. They just did whatever they wanted, played tunes, smoked cigarettes while performing, etc., and it happened to be the right time and place for them to be called an instant classic. Their attitude, once called genius, hasn't changed a bit, but now it's a bad thing? Give me a break.

Angles is less of a Strokes record and more of a compilation of their solo ambitions with the original lineup supporting each member, but so what? The five rich kids from New York City never really said anything too complicated in their sex-and-boredom opus Is This It, so why expect it ten years later when they have money and no incentive to impress? Back then they wrote fun songs and didn't care, and they were called a scrappy bunch of geniuses who reinvented rock n' roll. Today, their trademark indifference is met with the post-Kid A snark of pens scratching out their street cred. Julian "phones it in", the lyrics are "simple" and "tired". Have any of you even listened to Is This It? The beauty of lines like "Last night/she said/oh baby I feel so fine" is that they don't need to mean anything but "we drink a lot" and "f*ck you". Angles isn't brilliant or game-changing, but it's a hell of a lot more fun than most uber-famous rock bands are after four albums of hating each other.

The Strokes sound very different than their original breakout material, but that is their best asset. The guitar work is more involved and varied (segueing into 80s synthiness just as much as 70s garage) and Casablancas still neglects the effects on his voice that made the original sound so infamous. Some might argue his raw voice is more truthful, but those privy to his annoyance at not being able to write the entire record himself know that he recorded all his vocals separately from the sessions and sent them to the studio (almost quite literally phoning them in). But what the songs lack in basement cred, they make up for in risks. "Call Me Back" is easily the most dangerous Strokes track of all time, with a simple, quiet guitar riff carrying Casablancas through several sections of strange garbled lyrics. "You're So Right" is just plain weird for the Strokes. But both, especially when juxtaposed, capture the fractured nature of the band at this point in their history. That's why First Impressions of Earth was so delicious, even though everyone hated it; a band that makes the same noise over and over again is just watering down their best work.

Some of these songs actually pop, which is what makes all the negativity from critics so tragic. The whole album feels lean and springy, ocillating from style to style while maintaning a balance of that classic Strokes sound and some keen experimenting. First single "Under Cover Of Darkness" is a spectacular show of the dueling, panned guitar play that only Valensi and Hammond can pull off and call authentic. Casablancas wails the "I'll wait for you/will you wait for me" hook, which may be the same song weve been singing for ten years, but at least they know it. "Gratisfaction", one of Angles best, is deliciously Strokes-y, but with a twinge of Billy Joel stylization. It's off-kilter and an interesting push to their sound. "Life Is Simple In The Moonlight" is affecting in its melancholy, finding the band spinning one of their finest constructions of riff-based momentum and crippling jealousy. And "Taken For A Fool" might be the most classic sounding cut, but it was written by Valensi and not Casablancas. It's surprises like this that make the record so enjoyable. The interesting guitar work and well-placed hooks, mixed with the quirk of a band that can play with verse-chorus and IV-V-I in a more sophisticated way, makes a lot of of the songwriting really admirable and fun.

These different perspectives ("Angles", get it?) paint a much more interesting picture than trying to fake authenticity in their efforts. The band got paid a bunch of money to make this record, and to try and make it too similar to their occupations as young dudes in New York City circa 2001 would be the biggest lie of their careers. Casablancas is bored, Nick Valensi is probably a douche, and Albert Hammond Jr., no longer sporting the 'fro, would rather be noodling alone. But let's all drop the speculation as to how and what the band discussed leading up to Angles and just listen to the music. It isn't supposed to be an opus to our generation, it's just a bunch of guys making cool music because someone paid them to do it. So much of Angles would be enjoyable, and "good" even, if the expectations of the Strokes early work could just be dropped by the thirty-somethings who feel shafted by their departure from their original sounds and basement archetypes.

TL;DR: This is a blissfully catchy record, and The Strokes don't owe your nostalgia a damn thing. Get over it.


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MP3: "Under Cover Of Darkness"
The Strokes on Myspace


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