Review Summary: Their best album since Is This It
I’ve always had mixed emotions about The Strokes. I’m a fan. I’m just not as big a fan as I sometimes feel as though I should be. Music critics – especially in the UK – so often praise them as being the band that saved rock in the naughties with Is This It often viewed as the best album of the decade. I don’t hold this view. To say that they saved rock music is to limit our view of what rock music is and also to demean some of the very good rock bands that also came from the naughties – Muse and The Libertines are two that come straight to mind. The Strokes can be seen as being overrated but saying this does not deny that they are still a very good band and Is This It can still be seen as one of the best albums of the last decade.
Angles has so far been released to an incredibly mixed media reception – some view it as the best thing they’ve produced since Is This It while others have described it as being a dreadful mistake. It is certainly an album of strengths and weaknesses. It has two distinctive halves and, depending on who you read, one of these halves is a lot better than the other. The first half sees them delve back into the 80s with post-punk guitar riffs, flowing baselines and searching choruses. ‘Machu Picchu’ has a certain Smiths appeal while ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ combines this new exploration in sound with that typical Strokes’ feel-good feeling that has become such a feature of the band.
‘You’re So Right’ sees Van Halen like guitar solos combined with Casablanca’s ever introspective vocals and also feature Jonny Greenwood-esque guitar riffs in the chorus. It is the most intriguing song on the album but the main single is ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’, which exemplifies the sound that made The Strokes so popular in the first place – those long strained distorted Casablanca vocals creating the catchy happy-go-lucky feel resonant of anthems like ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Someday’.
The first half is ‘The Strokes’ at their hipster best but as the album goes on the songs get more forgettable. In trying so hard to emulate their Velvet Underground influences, the songs, ironically, become far too orthodox and predictable. ‘Gratisfaction’ and ‘Taken For A Fool’ are particular culprits for this. If the album had continued from its fantastic start it may well have gained top marks.
This album sees the whole band in action with Casablanca taking a step back to allow Albert Hammond Jr and Nick Valensi on guitars, and Nikolai Fraiture on bass, to express themselves more freely than other albums. This decision is fruitful in that this is one of the best guitar-lead rock albums of the last couple of years. At the same time the album does not recreate the consistency that Is This It had and neither does it contain any songs that replicate the anthem feel of ‘Last Nite’ or ‘Someday’. Angles does, though, recapture the feel-good factor and some of the catchiness that made so many people fall in love with the band in the first place. It is for this reason that this is their best album since Is This It.