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March 28, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Review Battle: The Strokes’ Angles

By Timothy McKenna-Bolton

Did you listen to that band Japanese Motors who released an album a year or two ago? When that album came out somebody (an idiot) told me that they sound like The Strokes only better. This was a stupid statement for two reasons. The first reason being that Japanese Motors are a shitty tired pastiche of The Strokes who can’t write songs for shit and whose music lacks the hooks, wit and effortless charm of The Strokes’ music and is, scientifically speaking, boring as hell. The second reason being that part of what makes The Strokes so good is they were the first ones to do what they do. Their original and fresh (at the time) approach was kind of an inherent part of their awesomeness so how could a bunch of unimaginative imitators even be considered worthy of comparison? And shit, even The Strokes don’t wanna sound like The Strokes anymore… just listen to Angles.

Before I started writing this I read several reviews for Angles on the world wide web to get a feel for the general concensus. It’s pretty mixed. There are a lot of positive reviews but seriously, some folk just ain’t diggin’ this album. And while I wouldn’t dare suggest that these reviews have been written by fickle, fickle people I can’t help but feel that a lot of opinions are being influenced by the drama that’s gone into the making of the album. The Strokes have thus far been pretty candid about the difficulties and frustrations of recording Angles. It totally took ages, and they couldn’t agree on shit, and then Julian got mad, and then Albert had a cry, and the drummer thought they’d like booked the studio for Thursday when it was actually booked for Friday and so he made other plans for Friday and oh man it was this whole big thing. With all this tension I can’t help but feel that people are approaching this album with a mindset of ‘there’ve been some squabbles…album must be shonky’. Anyway, I think it’s a fuckin great album.

I’m gonna freak you out right now. Because when I first listened to the opening track ‘Machu Picchu’ it reminded me so much of a particular classic 80s pop song but one that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I’m still not sure what the song is but I’m positive it’s by Nik Kershaw. So you’re freaking out right now ay? Alright, admittedly this isn’t a great start. I mean… Kershaw comparisons… rough. But it actually is a killer song. First single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ is the closest the album gets to the Strokes sound of yore and features intertwining guitar lines which are absolute perfection. It’s a pretty varied album though. ‘You’re So Right’ could have easily appeared on Julian Casablancas’ solo album. Its mechanical rhythms and vocal delivery make it an oddly experimental number.

‘Call Me Back’ stands out more for being really un-Strokesy than anything else. It’s a slow, drumless affair which shifts from a chorus with a xylophone line (shame) to a weird ethereal bridge with layered vocals bouncing around between your left and right headphones. More upbeat tracks such as ‘Gratisfaction’ and ‘Taken For A Fool’ are singalong central, the latter referencing Blondie and David Bowie (‘Scary Monsters’ era…I guess…maybe). Varied though it may be the overall sound is really full, with a driving and punchy rhythm section which is locked together so tight it couldn’t be pried apart with a crowbar. It’s a production job which, on paper doesn’t sound much different to any previous Strokes album, but there is a little bit more going on than usual. Choruses have been thickened up with layers of background vocals, and 80s sheen is dirtied up by fuzzy guitars that have just the right amount of distortion.

This is probably my favourite Strokes album. It’s possible that I’ve thrashed all their previous albums so much that new and unfamiliar songs are making me lose my shit and thus make crazy statements. I guess it’s not better than Is This It reeeally. But goddam I can’t get enough of this album right now.

By Barney Chunn

It’s been five years since the Strokes’ last and third release First Impressions of Earth, and for fans, Angles has been highly anticipated and a long time coming. A lot has happened in that time for the band, what with personality clashes, drugs and rehabilitation, and the odd solo or side project, and it’s evident from the get go with this record.

From the start it sounds like Michael Jackson and The Mint Chicks had a love child and adopted it out to The Strokes. Amidst possible references to Lady Gaga and the catchy as hell first single ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’, there is a definite shift in both the musicality and the lyrics of this album, a marked change from the spaced out, cool as can be New Yorkers that heralded the glory days of the ‘indie’ scene at the start of the ‘naughties.’ But five years is a long time, and things have changed; The White Stripes recently disbanded, the Kings Of Leon meteorically rose to mediocrity, and The Strokes too have had to move on.

What is interesting is they’ve taken on somewhat of an 80s feel, something that was always possible with Julian Casablancas’s well-known love of the decades succinct ethos of pop hooks and general up-beat sound, which was especially realised in his solo release Phrazes For The Young, but this is the most it has influenced The Strokes’ sound. Big snare sounds, reverb on the vocals, harmonies, are all things The Strokes have always been well known for not having. The guitars however are still given prime position in the mix, while the vocals sit back comfortably, kept warm amongst the rhythm section. It feels like the band are willing to explore new territories, expand their musicality, and are as hungry as fans are for this record, and for this record to be good.

Ultimately, it sounds like a band who have been apart for a while, and because of it don’t have a definitive idea of the kind of record they want to make, but who are far too good to ever put out anything below par. These guys are the one of the best of their ilk, and, while a little slap-dash and haphazard at times, there are more than enough gems here to make it a very good album. Not only that but it sounds like, despite everything, they still enjoy thoroughly making music together.

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  1. Under Cover of Anonymity says:

    For the Strokes’ album that Julian Casablancas has had the least influence in making (relative to his domination of the creative process on the last 3 albums), ‘Angles’ sounds incredibly like ‘Phrazes for the Young’ (capturing that same neon lounge-lizard/new-wave vibe). I love it, anyway

  2. Many kinds of Happiness says:

    After five years of The Strokes’ absence, and an unhealthy obsession with Phrazes for the Young, I have to say that their highly anticipated first single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ didn’t do a lot for me. It sounded a little too generic for my liking, though it did grow on me after a time. However, the rest of the album blew this first impression out of the water. Although ‘You’re So Right’ could easily be mistaken for Julians ‘River of Brakelights,’ I think Angles has a far more diverse voice than the previous three albums. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘Is This It’ as much as any crazed Strokes fan, but Angles has managed to capture that sexy, sophisticated quality without scrimping on their gravelly, ‘who gives a fuck’ roots. Definitely a happy camper.

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