After five years apart, The Strokes are back and better than ever. Despite a long and tumultuous recording, plagued by drub rehab, switching producers midway through, and an absent Julian Casablancas, their new album, Angles, is much more approachable than their previous effort; catchy, 80’s inspired hooks can be found on nearly every track.

The album opens with Machu Piccu, a sleazy post-funk tune mostly reintroducing the Strokes to its audience – “putting your patience to the test”, the first line in the song, is an accurate way of describing how the Strokes have treated their fans the past five years. Under Cover of Darkness, the second track and the album’s first single, is really a return to The Strokes’ Room on Fire vibe, with dueling yet simple guitar riffs traded by Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr, often sounding like horns more than guitars. The real highlight of the song is Valensi’s solo, which slows down halfway through, creating a break of space and feel before turning the volume back up and giving way to the final chorus. Another interesting aspect of the song is that it marks The Strokes’ first use of harmony, which continues into the next song, Two Kinds of Happiness. The opening, consisting of harmonized “da da das” swathed in reverb, leads to a single guitar chord punctuated throughout the verse. This is the first song on the album that isn’t immediately catchy, which is in part due to Casablancas’ vocal being somewhat buried in the mix and there being an overuse of reverb, but again, Valensi’s guitar work saves the song from being too boring, just as it aids the next song, You’re So Right. Sadly, You’re So Right doesn’t measure up otherwise – it feels like The Strokes’ take on Radiohead, with a particularly complex drum bit and monotonous, droning vocals. But the style doesn’t suit The Strokes – nobody does droning like Thom Yorke, least of all Casablancas (which was in part proven by his less-than stellar solo album, Phrazes for the Young, which had much in common with this song). Taken for a Fool, on the other hand, was penned by Valensi, and is back to form. The guitars sound a bit like synthesizers, which help make this song the most reminiscent of Room On Fire, The Strokes’ sophomore album. The chorus is particularly memorable, both for its catchy tune and for Casablancas’ ability to list the days of the week without sounding like Rebecca Black.

Interestingly, at The Strokes’ April 1st concert, held at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Casablancas referred to the song as their “Elvis Costello” song, after which Costello appeared on stage and joined in. Games is perhaps the most disappointing song on the album, and sounds like cheesy dance music. Guitars are difficult to pick out in the song, instead focusing on synths, which, again proves to be a problem for The Strokes and for Casablancas. Catchy guitars are obviously where the strength of The Strokes lies, which is proven by Call Me Back, despite being a departure from The Strokes’ usual sound. The song is melodic and – horror of horrors – pretty, Casablancas emoting “I look for you, and you look away” with genuine feeling and sorrow in his voice.  Gratisfaction is another catchy, upbeat tune, influenced by classic rock and perhaps First Impressions of Earth with an added pop-sensibility and a harmonized chorus. Metabolism is also reminiscent of the direction The Strokes took on First Impressions of Earth, with Nikolai Fraiture’s chugging bassline and a moody vocal, but is also better than most songs on the previous album, even when all Casablancas is saying is that all he wants is “to be somebody like you.” The album ends on Life is Simple in the Moonlight, Casablancas’ proclaimed favorite of the all the songs. While the vocal melody is a bit predictable, Fabrizio Moretti’s simple yet effective drumbeat and Valensi’s masterful guitar solo, as well as Hammond Jr.’s chiming rhythm guitar, add up to create a pleasantly catchy final track. Despite their reported personal issues, it seems The Strokes have found the right way of working together again. Maybe the album wasn’t made just for the money after all.

Listen and learn: http://new.thestrokes.com/uncategorized/listen-to-angles-here

 

Daniel Halasz