When the Strokes debuted in 2001, they were hailed as saviours of rock, or more specifically the type of rock once pioneered by CBGB bands like Television, The Ramones and The New York Dolls. Their grimy appearance—tight T-shirts, torn jeans, Chuck Taylor high-tops and frizzy hair—belied their roots as the progeny of models, captains of industry and, in one case, a hit songwriter, and who’d all been to some of the finest private schools in New York City. The album still rocks a decade later, thanks to their tight riffing and frontman Julian Casablanca’s vocal style, best described as “a pizza delivery guy screaming into a broken intercom”.
But as has become sadly common in the modern day, they’ve only managed to put out three albums in the ten years since Is This It, each one a departure from the previous sound and none as exciting. Angles, one of the more anticipated albums of 2011, had a difficult birth, not least because none of the band members felt like working with one another. While such tension has led to amazing pieces of art in the past, that’s not the case here.
The first bad sign arrives with the new wave disco of “Machu Picchu”, which might please people who thought that sound was cool thirty years ago. There are a few good songs, like the near-power pop of “Gratisfaction”. “Under Cover Of Darkness” and the chorus of “Taken For A Fool” come close to capturing the wonderful vibe of such first album cuts as “Last Nite” and “Someday”. But along with the rinky-dink Casio keyboard sounds, most of the drums sound like they’ve come out of the same machine. Sometimes the combination of tentative guitar and mewling vocal suggest that they want to be Radiohead, and they’re not.
Coming in at less than 35 minutes, Angles is at least over quickly. It remains to be seen if The Strokes will ever be “great” again. But as long as their record company keeps throwing money at them, they don’t have to work very hard at all.
The Strokes Angles (2011)—2