Released: Mar 18, 2011
Genre: New Wave, Garage Rock Revival, Indie Rock, Post-Punk Revival
Label: RCA/Rough Trade
Number Of Tracks: 10
Aside from the fact that you would be right in thinking that Angles is in no way groundbreaking, your first impressions of The Strokes' latest album are probably worthless.
UG Team, on march 18, 2011 5 of 8 people found this review helpful
Sound: It has been five years since The Strokes have graced our ears with their eclectic take on indie rock n' roll. Since their last record, 2006's First Impressions of Earth, various side projects from the respective members have come and gone, but none quite as comparable or hype-worthy as the build up to 2011's Angles. Due to this lapse in time, nobody quite knew what to expect from the New York City boys. However once the first single Under Cover of Darkness, driven by its perfectly Strokes-esque eclectic yet entwining guitar lines (reminiscent of the Indie jauntiness of Is This It's Someday) was released as a free download in February, fans were reassured that The Strokes were back in business and ready to captivate those that still cared. That being said, fans looking for a full-on classic album from the American quintet will be fully surprised by the sound of the modern-day Strokes. Full of tempo and time changes, Angles is an album that flows from start to finish, evoking a whole spectrum of emotions whilst delighting the listener with little surprises here and there. For example, the first track off the album, Machu Picchu, begins with haunting twin guitars complemented by a funky bass-line that would not sound out of place on The Clash's Sandinista! - that is, until the instrumentals blossom into a polished, and cleanly cut chorus that defines The Strokes oh-so well. The Strokes progression as a band, and willingness to experiment is perfectly captured on sixth track Games. Clearly the most avant-garde tune on the album, it begins with a consistent thumping of the drum's bass complemented by a silky, star-like sound. This soon drops to a deep, naked bassline which completely changes the mood of the song until a wall of moog's kicks in with Julian's crooning voice. If ever there was a Strokes song for the smokers and tokers out there, this would be it with its hypnotising interludes and dream-like quality. One of the stand-out tracks on the album, aptly titled Gratisfaction with its ebullient guitar lines, mini-guitar solo, dependable drums, and catchy chorus, epitomizes where The Strokes are right now as a band. A prominent track on the album, hitting hard after the downbeat yet captivating menace that is previous track Call Me Back, Gratisfaction is sure to be a future fan-favourite. Another unexpected track is the penultimate number Metabolism which sounds a little like the slower, bastard half-brother of a Muse track a-la Black Holes and Revelations. Whilst The Strokes' new sound on Angles may lend itself to innovation and the somewhat bohemian, there are still tunes on the record that can be deemed 'classic' for those 'old-school' fans. Such would be the case for songs like first single Under Cover of Darkness, Two Kinds of Happiness, Taken for a Fool, and album closer Life is Simple in The Moonlight. // 9
Lyrics: For the most part, Julian Casablancas' lyrics on the album do not really cover that wide a spectrum with many of the tracks about relationship issues. With that being said, he does successfully pen such lyrics in a fascinating enough way to prevent them from getting soggy and stale. For example, album ballad Call Me Back is about the hardships and worry of discovering information about someone, and disclosing your hidden secrets from said person as Casablancas croons: Tell me, don't tell me/ The hard part is telling you something that you would not like me to tell you. On another track You're So Right, Casablancas warbles about trying to understand the reasons for a fight between a loved one: Tell me what happened/ If you like and What are the reasons/ To fall out, and consequently trying to remedy the situation: I don't want to fight/ Don't want it, baby. Probably the most revealing set of lyrics into the band's dynamics is single Under Cover of Darkness, which presents the backbone for the band's hiatus after their previous album and their consequent reformation. The tune poses lyrics such as Know how folks back out, I still call/ Will you hate me now? about how previous decisions on reforming were squandered due to the member's not all being on the same page, and I'll wait for you/ Will you wait for me too? questioning the band's relevance towards fans after such a long hiatus. Whilst Casablancas' lyrics may not be the most diverse in content, the beauty of his penmanship is the multiple ways in which they can be interpreted. // 6
Overall Impression: Aside from the fact that you would be right in thinking that Angles is in no way groundbreaking, your first impressions of The Strokes' latest album are probably worthless. Within the first listen, you would be forgiven for thinking this a mediocre album, with at most a few standout tracks. However, this is an album that needs to be listened to more than once, from start to finish. The fluidity with which the tracks glide from one to the next makes this a more complete and unifying album than any The Strokes have previously recorded. Whether this is the result of the members recording as a whole in the studio for the first time, and compromising their respective ideas per track, or the result of the five year hiatus bringing out the sparkle in them is unclear. But what is certain, is that over time each track will present to you its individual character and quirkiness, which in turn will allow each tune to evoke a response that permits it to rightly stand alone as a unique Strokes song. // 8
MrKroc, on march 22, 2011 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Everybody's singing the same song for ten years," roars Julian Casablancas on Under Cover Of Darkness, the first single of The Strokes' new album Angles. Ever since The Strokes broke through to the mainstream with their first album Is This It? In 2001, every other indie rock song you hear on the radio sounds like it could have been penned by Casablancas and the gang. For The Strokes, Angles is their opportunity to prove that they are still relevant and not simply a relic of the Naughties, and they do not fail to deliver.
The opening track "Machu Picchu" takes you in a time warp back to the '80's, and that New Wave vibe lingers throughout the entire album. With it's catchiness and captivating instrumentation during the chorus, it puts the album off to a great start.
Angles doesn't slow down for a second and heads straight into the first single and the most "Strokes-ish" song on the album, "Under Cover of Darkness". With the classic dual guitar of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr., the track is reminiscent of earlier songs in The Strokes catalog like "Someday."
The rest of the album returns to the '80's sound that Julian has been experimenting with since his solo debut. The Strokes wear their Cars' influence on their sleeve on "Two Kinds of Happiness", with Casablancas doing his best Ric Ocasek impersonation. "You're So Right" is a little drony New Wave type of track, but features an awesome guitar solo. "Taken For a Fool" is danceable and catchy, sounding like something that you'd hear on an iPod commercial.
The album starts to slow down a bit about halfway through. The '80's sound continues on "Games", although overall I feel like it's the most forgettable song on the album. "Call Me Back" starts off with a poppy guitar hook, but takes an interesting turn during the chorus and bridge that might take some getting used to.
The album picks back up with "Gratisfaction", which sounds a bit like Thin Lizzy and features a chorus filled with backing vocals. The penultimate track, the menacing "Metabolism", has a dominant riff that sounds like it could be off of First Impressions of Earth (for better or for worse).
The album closes with the contemplative track "Life is Simple in the Moonlight". With its volume swells and lackadaisical vocals, the low-key versus crescendo into a catchy and powerful chorus and a lively Nick Valensi guitar solo, creating a perfect closer that leaves you wanting more. // 8
Lyrics: In typical Casablancas fashion, the lyrics sometimes sound as if they could be made up on the spot, with the occasional flash of brilliance striking through. The topics seem to deal mostly with relationships and Casablancas's struggles within The Strokes. "Monday, Tuesday is my weekend", he croons during the chorus of "Taken for a Fool", almost lamenting the life of being a performer. "Animals on TV singing about something they once felt" from "Life is Simple in the Moonlight" is another example of this sort of feeling he portrays on this album.
It is worth noting that Casablancas has very much improved his singing ability, probably from both practice and sobering up. When I saw them live, I was surprised at his skill level, considering he not known for being the best vocalist out there. He experiments with his singing a bit during Angles, but mostly sticks to the Morrison-like growl we know him for. // 7
Overall Impression: Angles will not give you the same feeling that you had the first time you heard Is This It?. It'll probably take a few listens to appreciate the album, but overall, I'm pretty satisfied. If you like The Strokes, 80's music, interesting guitar and synth lines, and brightly colored artwork then Angles is the album for you.
"Don't try to stop us, get out of the way", shouts Jules at the album's close, and let's hope that there is no stopping the boys from NYC on their future releases. // 8
work sucks, on march 22, 2011 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Pop. Fun. Ambition. New Wave? Angles. This is a different kind of Strokes record. But if you let go of any 'expectations' you might have had of this album, and forget about what you think a band like The Strokes SHOULD sound like, then you'll probably enjoy this album.
First of all, the name of the album says it all. Angles is truly the most collaborative thing The Strokes have worked on, and it is also the least cohesive album they've ever released. Each band member contributes something from his own unique perspective and his own musical influences. The influences are apparent and sometimes even blatantly obvious in each track (I won't name any). It's not the most original thing they've come up with, but it is fully a Strokes album regardless, and it is a good listen, regardless.
This is the poppiest thing The Strokes have ever released, and the songs are as catchy as can be. Don't really understand why the worn-out "garage rock" label is still being dragged around with this band. Angles is not that.
There are 80s pop, New Wave influences here, starting off strong with "Machu Picchu". The more electronic-sounding drum beats contribute the most to this feel in general. But to say this album sounds like one decade would be short-sighted, as The Strokes build from various influences (retro, modern and futuristic) to assemble their own little collage of music they listen to and enjoy. I'm tempted to say that they actually build upon those influences to create their own new brand of music, but I don't feel like they really do that to any significant extent on this particular album.
There is a bit new exploration in regards to the variety of sounds that guitarists Albert and Nick can get out of their guitars. There is a range from a naked clean sound to an almost cheap-sounding fizz. It's always appropriate to each song though, so it fits, but there isn't much of a 'flow' or anything to latch on to for the length of the entire album. More often than not, one guitar will take on the 'lead' role while the other plays in the background, as opposed to previous Strokes records where there is more of an equal balance of roles between the two guitars.
The drums are more electronic-sounding. There are definitely some pre-programmed beats on this LP, although they come in limited amounts. The pulsating drum beats are also louder in the mix than on previous records. The bass is present and solid as always, but in terms of bringing anything new in particular to the table... it doesn't. Both the drums and bass disappear for the quietest track on the album, "Call Me Back".
The occasional keyboards/synths - yes - add to the happy electro-pop feel of this album, and help complete the vibe. Flute sounds and whistle sounds are just a part of the mixture... but are solid contributors, not just hastily thrown in there. // 7
Lyrics: We all (should) know about Julian's abilities as a vocalist. No need to elaborate on that. But... what about the other guys in the band? Oh yes, we find out, as guitarists Albert and Nick take on backup singing duties on Angles. This new vocal interplay between the three is present throughout the album, and is most notably effective (to me) in the final 25 seconds of "Call Me Back" and the chorus sections in "Gratisfaction". It's like The Strokes found a new fun toy to play with, or an instrument they've always had but just haven't decided to use until now.
As for Julian himself, the presentation of his vocals have changed significantly since 2006. They once again find themselves buried a little deeper into the mix, as opposed to the more prominent vocals in FIOE. In Angles Julian's vocals are more processed and 'modified' in the studio than they've ever been, which continues the sense of sonic exploration the rest of the band goes through on this LP. Also of note, Julian's vocal range is stretched noticeably higher than it has been in the past, which makes me wonder if he'll be able to pull those notes off in the middle of a full live set. We'll see. Sounds very good on the recordings nevertheless.
Lyrically, this album is pretty average. For me, personally, lyrics can only add to an album's sound, never take away. Good lyrics are a plus. The lyrics in Angles essentially add nothing to the album. In albums past, memorable Strokes lyrics have pushed albums from 'very good' to 'great', and that quality is not present on Angles. On the first couple of listens I did enjoy one line in particular, from "Under Cover Of Darkness", which proclaims: "Everybody's been singing the same song for ten years. That made me smile. // 7
Overall Impression: Strokes fans, get over It. Well, not completely, of course (ITI is my favorite album - ever), but don't let the past get in the way of you enjoying this record. The Strokes know all about hype. Strokes fans know all about hype. Forget all that. After five years, The Strokes give us yet another good record. Yes, that's it. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Angles will be your summer album of 2011 if you'll let it.
Fun. Ambitious. A victory after a five-year hiatus. Surprisingly, to me it feels almost like something a young up-and-coming band today would release as its debut. In several ways, that makes sense. Times have changed. And after so much time apart (musically), The Strokes seem refreshed. I like what I hear, and I'm excited to see where The Strokes will go next. // 7