The Strokes



by FlawedPerfection EMERITUS
March 18th, 2011 | 31 replies

Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Angles was never meant to be Is This It? for a new decade. Instead, Angles is the sound of a band maturing.

Generally, there are two ways to find success in our “non-classical” musical world (a general term I will use to describe the areas of music that websites such as Sputnikmusic might cover). The first is obvious -- make great music. Radiohead makes great music. Animal Collective makes great music. They make such great music that they directly affect the music of large swathes of artists around them. When Radiohead announced The King of Limbs, it was an event. These are the critical successes -- artists that define the musical style of a generation.

Then there are the cultural successes, a band like The Strokes in 2001. Is This It? is, in the end, nothing more than a fantastic garage-pop album. The Strokes didn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead filled the wheel with air and went on a drunken joy ride around New York City. But for so many (disclaimer: I was ten, and Hybrid Theory was still my jam, so I’m working as a historian), The Strokes defined the attitude of an unnamed movement that permeated the rest of the young decade. It wasn’t the music as much as it was the image -- the punk attitude and energy that broke away from nu metal’s funeral dirge; the style lead singer Julian Casablancas flaunted, no doubt partly inherited from his fashion designer father. “This is the stuff of which legends are made,” said Joe Levy of Rolling Stone.

We know the rest of the story. The last we heard from The Strokes as a group was the disappointing First Impressions of Earth in 2006, and none of their later solo efforts seemed to recapture the magic that Is This It? held. Could The Strokes return ten years later, at the dawn of a new decade, and repeat the past with a return to form in the same style?

Judging the lead single “Under Cover of Darkness,” a definite return to form, they could have easily rewritten Is This It? and won over the hearts of both nostalgic fans and kids growing up and discovering that same rebellious punk in themselves. But with Angles, The Strokes do not want that, and Angles is a better album for it.

Obviously, the impetus for the genre-jumping, seemingly unfocused Angles is the different songwriting process the band used, emphasis on band. Whereas Casablancas wrote at least part, and usually all, of every song on the first three albums, Angles came primarily from the band’s instrumental members.

It explains the album’s worst song, “You’re So Right”, as it comes from the group’s most unsuccessful songwriter, bassist Nikolai Fraiture. His solo project, Nickel Eye, met a tepid response critically and commercially, as did his song, the second to leak from the album. “You’re So Right” is directionless and uninspired. Casablancas sounds bored as he sings over it, and the rest of the band puts in a minimal effort to contribute to Fraiture’s composition.

But the new style of songwriting also gives life to the album’s best songs, like “Metabolism,” a song that derives from the band’s typical pop style but imbues it with a flair of dramatic direction. As Casablancas wails over the notable harmonic changes, the band recalls a grungier Muse. Whereas the band’s previous musical successes worked through simplicity, “Metabolism” brings an air of fresh, inspired complexity. Lead guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. sounds revitalized as he shreds (a relative term) through the song’s dancing chromatic main riff. This allows Casablancas to do what he does best, feed off of his band’s energy and double it through his voice.

Angles has just the right amount of throwback Strokes, from “Under Cover of Darkness” to “Gratisfaction” to the final track, “Life Is Simple in the Moonlight”, the only track Casablancas penned by himself. But even in that final song, Casablancas throws a soaring synth lead over the first part of the chorus before launching into a frenetic ending. I would bet that 2001 Casablancas would have written an entire chorus based on that frenetic ending. Even in their most classic sound, The Strokes have matured. “Two Kinds of Happiness” finds Hammond expanding his sound into something that might fit on a U2 album. Opener “Machu Picchu” brings reggae into the typical Strokes mix. “Call Me Back” is their idea of a ballad.

While Angles lacks a definite image, it is the band’s best purely musical statement, and as the band members explore their 30s, perhaps it is time for them to retire their young, aggressive punk image and become successes in the first sense of the word -- strictly musical. For that purpose, Angles is a step in the right direction.

Recent reviews by this author
Das Racist RelaxLil Wayne Tha Carter IV
The Weeknd ThursdayJay-Z and Kanye West Watch the Throne
Shabazz Palaces Black UpFleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
user ratings (1173)
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • SloppyMilkshake (4)
    The same Strokes on the outside, just the graphics, hardware, and modes of operation have ...

    barcafan21 (4.5)
    Two steps forward, one welcome step back...

    TheLetter4 (4)
    Welcome back gentlemen....

    rjmunthe (2)
    The Strokes crap all over their legacy....

  • mike2916 (4.5)
    The incredibly anticipated, overdue (and long-awaited) release from one of the best bands ...

    octorock (3.5)
    The Strokes' first album in five years shows the band can still pull those old tricks....

    garth (4)
    The Strokes, thankfully, make a record that they and we can be more than pleased with....

    barnsgwj (3.5)
    Their best album since Is This It...

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for not focusing on the songwriting credit on this album/constantly comparing it to the debut/dwelling on this being a "return to form" or "comeback album".

Good review. Accept this thumbs up as a show of my approval, since I can't pos.

*thumbs up*

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

aggressive punk image? Grungy Muse? i understand the rating, but aggressive punk image brings Rancid

to mind. And I think Muse and the Strokes would be mutually offended at the comparison.

Call Me Back is a strong contender for the worst song on the album.

March 18th 2011


I have yet to her this but I find it extremely annoying when reviewers don't judge an album by what it has and rather how it compares to something which came out a decade back.

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 2.5

"a band maturing"

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Fantastic review.

While Angles lacks a definite image, it is the band’s best purely musical statement,

We have a winner! Although I haven't heard RoF or Impressions, that to me is the difference between Is This It? and Angles.

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 2.5

great review man

March 18th 2011


Review is really nice, except this: "They make such great music that they directly affect the music large swathes of artists around them."

I think you're missing a word? But yeah otherwise good

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

you get taken all the time for a fool

and i dont know whyyyyyy

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

you're so right is a v good song, otherwise i like this review...

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

The Strokes always have great individual songs even though their albums as a whole are usually meh... the songs on this album sound great imo

March 18th 2011

"a band maturing"

wow because that definitely has something to do with the content of the album right? he's talking about the music

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 2.5

yeah, but the music on it sounds a lot like Phrazes for the Young with the occasional Room On Fire throwback.

Nikolai Broke The Zoom was the best song that came out of those sessions.

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

"They make such great music that they directly affect the music large swathes of artists around them." good catch thanks

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

I rather like You're So Right, I think it's far from the worst on the album (so inoffensive at it's 2-minute run time), but your review hits the nail right on the head. So sick of everyone comparing this album to Is This It. That was 2001, this is 2011. Move the fuck on....the Strokes sure have.

March 18th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review.

March 19th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

I like this album a lot. And I am, like most people it seems, tired of people comparing it to Is This It. This is so much more mature. This is about the music, not about rebellion.

March 20th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

"you get taken all the time for a fool

and i dont know whyyyyyy"

You're so gullible but I don't miiiiiind

I love you and that song.

March 20th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

fantastic review

March 20th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

I love this so much.

great review.

March 21st 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

Great rewiew. Album is amazing.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2019
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy