The Strokes approach to marketing Angles, their first album in five years, has been unique to say the least. Rather than blitzing the media with feel good pieces about how great it is to have the band back together, The Strokes have seized every available opportunity to tell us just how torturous working together has been.
The signs were ominous; creative despot Julian Casablancas did not record with the band, choosing to stay away while the others toiled in the studio. The Strokes had dismissed producer Joe Chiccarelli following a series of clashes; leaving guitarist Albert Hammond Jnr. to self produce Angles. Then after a string of depressive interviews, just two days before Angles’ release, lead guitarist Nick Valensi put the final nail in the coffin; “It’s awful”.
Given the painful and convoluted recording process few could have expected Angles to feel this breezy and carefree. Compared to its laboured predecessor Angles is a compact minimalist affair that simply flies by.
Lead single “Under Cover Of Darkness”, an insatiable jaunt that recalls the band’s 2001 hey day, is a red herring. Angles sees The Strokes waving goodbye to the 70’s sounds of The Ramones, Television and Lou Reed, replacing them with the new wave approach of The Cars. There’s a smooth playful sheen to the endearing melodies of “Taken for A Fool”, the snaking guitar work of “Machu Picchu” and the boisterous Phil Lynott love-in “Gratisfaction”.
Elsewhere, the unspectacular “You’re So Right” is informed by Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief while “Two Kinds Of Happiness” suggests The Strokes still have a flair for modernity marrying a hiccuppy 80’s verse to a chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Foals record.
Given that Angles is the first Strokes record to be written by committee rather than by Julian Casablancas alone, and considering the recording process, it’s no surprise that Angles feels stylistically disparate. At times chorus and verse feel at odds and the sonic leap between one track and the next can prove jarring.
Despite this The Strokes’ instincts have led them to create a short, sharp and surprisingly approachable album. Angles certainly isn’t torture, and while it lacks the stand out moments of their former glories, it’s far from a failure.
The band clearly aren’t enjoying making music together anymore, and this enjoyable, albeit insubstantial effort, should allow The Strokes to follow their turn-of-the-millennium peers, The White Stripes and LCD Soundsystem, in early retirement.
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