Sound — 9
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.
Lyrics — 6
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.
Overall Impression — 8
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.