Sound — 8
"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.
Lyrics — 7
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.
Overall Impression — 8
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.