Review Summary: The same Strokes on the outside, just the graphics, hardware, and modes of operation have been reassembled.
For the past five years of relative silence, The Strokes had seemingly become victims of the pundit prophesying claiming they had nowhere to go but out of style. However, it would seem that even a decade buried in oscillating trends couldn’t elegantly corrode the coolness of The Strokes. While Angles
finds them adhering to a few of today’s most popular motifs (tropical guitar lines, retro-futurism, hipster tweeness) they’re still the same band, which means that above all, they’re fashionably insouciant towards everyone and everything; the smug bastards.
Assured, confident, and soulful, Angles
is more or less the kind of album everybody wanted to hear since Is This It?
; a familiar sounding record that nonetheless takes steps in some sort
of a different direction. Where First Impressions of Earth
was needlessly busy with jarring movements in slight experimentation (not to mention, lacking in memorable melodies), Angles
is tightly coiled and delivered with laser accurate interplay. The entire band is tighter and more technical than they’ve ever been, resulting in a sound that is deceivingly simplistic yet painstakingly complex. Each and every song evolves, peeling back to reveal sudden guitar lines, bass grooves, and drum patterns that fly in and out from left-field; effectively putting to rest any claims that the band was unable to flex their strengths and attack their songs with more ambition. Despite the inhuman tautness of their playing they still
manage to convey a sense of boisterous looseness and breeziness in their songs (which is something that never ceases to amaze and entertain).
The Strokes branch out conservatively on this album, breaking out of the sort of lockstep ennui their last two releases regulated them to (albeit, in small doses). They've always been fence straddlers, not willing to commit to replicating their first album (no matter how immaculate it was), or, taking bold steps in new directions. Though songs such as “Under Cover of Darkness” and “Taken for a Fool” are remarkably as catchy and blithe as the best tracks off of Is This It?
, the band is generally pushing into new(ish) territory. Whether they’re tackling bouncy Billy Joel-esque crooning (“Gratisfaction”), robotic retro-dance (“Games”), or John Hughes sound tracking (“Two Kinds of Happiness”), they’re approaching each from the same perspective in which they always have. It’s a bittersweet compromise of sorts as the band limits their boundaries enough to stay wholly familiar and infectiously catchy. Probably the most daring (and interesting) tracks are “You’re So Right” and “Call Me Back”. Both songs, if more obtuse and esoteric, could pass for outtakes from Radiohead’s In Rainbows
, as both radiate the same sort of beautiful and cold weirdness as the English quintet (a sound that The Strokes actually manage to pull off).
is still the same Strokes on the outside, just the graphics, hardware, and modes of operation have been reassembled. They’re still touting the idea that economy and simplicity are virtues, not enemies, while nonetheless indulging in moments of subtle virtuosity. Everything remains punchy, catchy, and trendy as spiky staccato and hip-hypnotizing guitar lines work their way into the folds of your mind. The fast song that isn’t punk, the pop hook that isn’t predictable, and the rock feeling that isn’t heavy ended and glossed over with glossy production techniques; The Strokes have always been masters of these things, if only, these things. Though not always instantly gratifying, each song sparks and flares to cast sharp images of intelligent pop songs. At the end of the day though, what more do you need? It’s the kind of music that sounds infinitely
better when you snap your fingers and tap your toes in time. It’s the kind of music that can weave cross-stitched guitar lines, thumping bass, and no-nonsense drumming into a pastiche of pop/garage/rock’s finest yarns. Just because The Strokes perfected their sound right off the bat doesn’t mean there’s nowhere else to go. Even if they’re essentially just sticking to their guns, it doesn’t mean they can’t expand their formula into new territories. Their formula being the same of any legendary rock group; chaos and control.