Fans of the 2001 “garage rock renaissance” have had a tough 2011 already, what with the White Stripes breakup and all. Also, whatever happened to The Hives? And now there’s Angles, the new offering from The Strokes, the guys who arguably led the whole “movement” in the first place (afterall, its not like an OFWGKTA thing that happened, just coincidence). So does Angles keep fans intrigued? Is it a proper evolution? While the sound may mirror the evolution of rock from The Velvet Underground to The Cars (or at least they reference those bands specifically), the 2001 emperors’ new clothes don’t quite fit.
When the world first heard that The Strokes were getting back together, there was excitement, but the smart ones took it with a grain of salt. It has been five years since their last album, First Impressions of Earth, released; plus everyone in the band has released a solo album or side project in the time since, some even multiple times over. Did “The Strokes,” as a collective, still exist? Or was this just a cash-in or RCA-contractually-obligated album?
It’s hard to tell, and unless your name is Julian, Albert, Fab, Nick, or Nikolai, you will probably never know (until the Behind the Music 20 years from now). But listening to Angles, it’s hard to get that possibility out of your head. There are a few highlights that stand with the best of The Strokes’ work. Lead single “Under Cover of Darkness” has it all—Valensi’s adept guitarwork, Casablancas’ removed harmony, and overall technical prowess. “Taken For a Fool” is also a standout, again, technically sound, with everyone doing what they’re best at. If the album had more songs that sounded like this, Angles could be considered a perfect evolution—the band sounds great, and a decade of professional work can be firmly heard.
While the majority of the album is this crisply-jangled, jumpy guitar, very particular in its direction (Angles?), it is overall harder to predict where it is going, and when it arrives, the listener is not quite sure if the destination was worth the trip. A band exploring a new sound is great, but that’s what demos and the studio are for. Some of what The Strokes seem to be aiming for with Angles unfortunately isn’t realized.
Is Angles a fun ride? It is, moderately. But were The Strokes driving to a killer party, to be soundtracked by Is This It?, or just lunch at Taco Bell? I mean, a chalupa is fine and all, but was it worth the trip? If you were looking for background music to that drive, Angles is fine. But if you were hoping for those moments where you’re already a little buzzed by the experience and you stop doing everything and “remember why I love this band”– you’re mostly out of luck.