The Strokes – Angles (Rough Trade Records)

April 7, 2011 by  

Anyone who knows and loves The Strokes also just accepts the fact that Julian Casablancas has been at the forefront of their creative process since they first came out. Running things unlike a music Mugabe, he tended to have the last say on composition choices and write the material himself.

Now enters Angles, the New York group’s fourth full-length release, and a somewhat more difficult listen. Most of this album was written by his bandmates while Casablancas toured Phrazes For The Young, and the pull and tug of several songwriters really shows. By this stage in their career the Strokes are lucky enough to have a following so devout they would excitedly snap up an album on the basis of one or two preview songs alone. That isn’t to say Angles is necessarily a bad record by any stretch, but just requires more work to find a rewarding listen.

Opening boldly with ‘Machu Picchu’, the Strokes sound like they’re taking elements of First Impressions of Earth and the catchy hooks that lured listeners in on Is This It. Although Casablancas’ vocal seems somehow manipulated and overly compressed at points, the unexpected reggae influence on the track just about holds together. From the get-go the band seems keen to play with production techniques and sonic layers in a way they perhaps hadn?t before. Angles is all about the little details and textures that musicians and close listeners will dig deeper for. People looking for a return to the Strokes circa 2002 will just be a little confused and disappointed.

On a first listen it all comes off sounding a bit too proto-futuristic, but shows real growth and potential, too. ‘Metabolism’ and ‘You?re So Right’ strip away the raucous garage rock sensibilities the Strokes were originally hyped for. Instead tinny guitar and prog-like chord progressions lead us into new territory, garnering comparisons to These New Puritans and sounding ironically more like Casablancas? solo work. Weaknesses cut through when ‘Two Kinds Of Happiness’ and ‘Life Is Simple In The Moonlight’ open like 1980s power ballads, but luckily pick up and display Nick Valensi?s ear for a tight lick in a big chorus.

This record initially may surprise Strokes fans, in the wrong sense, but is worth battling with. Clearly remote recordings and a sense of distance between members shows through, but the band have managed to scrape together a decent album. Angles isn?t for everyone, but then again that?s never really been what the Strokes are about.