The Strokes are back with Angles, but sadly they’re not back better than ever. Going in new directions can sometimes define a band’s comeback, but in this case it’s a bit of a letdown. In parts, it’s a blend of Phrazes for the Young, late Radiohead and the last two Vampire Weekends albums, but it’s got more than a couple of ropey songs. The addition of so much synth, in particular, takes the edge off Angles leaving it a bit blunt.
It starts out slightly uninspiring with Machu Picchu, which opens the album with too many shades of Vampire Weekend; a little disappointing seeing as the thing that was most exciting about the return of The Strokes was the return of The Strokes. However Under Cover of Darkness is definitely a return to form with some sprawling riffs and great vocals from Julian Casablancas.
Two Kinds of Happiness has a good chorus with rolling beats, offset by a down cast verse filled with tremolo guitar. Your’re so Right is slightly surreal, and sounds nothing like anything The Strokes have done before with lots of reverb on the vocals and a mental riff. Taken for a Fool is a bit jangly, but OK.
Perhaps the reasoning for the emptiness in the album can be found in the lyrics of Games, which itself is a bit hollow. Calling “in an empty world”, Julian sounds like he’s misplaced some of the fire that fuelled Last Night. However, I’m notoriously bad at The Strokes lyrics, so I could be wrong. I thought they were singing, “New York city girls” for ages until someone put me right.
However, Call Me Back is just a bit weak, Gratification has no pace, despite it being one of the faster songs on Angles, and Metabolism’s dark tones are lost in a lack of overall musical direction. The record ends inanely on Life is Simple in the Moonlight, capping off a heart rending conclusion to the massive expectation for the return of The Strokes.
If you’d asked me a couple of days ago whether or not I have anything bad to say about The Strokes I would have had absolutely nothing to say. Now I have a little too much. Luckily, there’s always This is it, Room on Fire and First Impressions of Earth to remind me why I love The Strokes so much. Hopefully, Angles won’t be the end for them and that they’ll find what makes them so good once again. If you ask me, I think they need more guitar, more wild parties and less sedentary polish. There’s even Under Cover of Darkness, Two Kinds of Happiness, You’re so Right and Taken for a Fool to cling to.
The Strokes, Angles album review: 3/5