by Mike Mehalick
In 2006 I was on the cusp of discovering what I wanted to do with my life and experimenting in my new interests. Five years later, I’m a graduated art school student with a world of different perspectives and experiences gleaned from everything to living in my first apartment in New York City to finally cutting it off with my high school sweetheart. In short, a lot of stuff can, and does, change within a five year span. Putting that same stretch of time underneath a microscope compounded against the lifespan of a band like The Strokes, active for roughly 10 years, and you have an interesting formula for disaster.
Disenchantment and disillusionment are certainly present in the three previous Strokes albums, but never so much as in their latest LP Angles. The detachment, however, doesn’t occur against society or drugs, but within the core structure of how the band has gone about recording since their inception. Much has been said about each member, not just front man Julian Casablancas, having a more equal part in the song writing process, and even more can be said about how this effects the seminal Strokes sound going forward.
Re-inventing themselves while trying to swat away “break-up” and “washed up” rumors in the press, The Strokes have made their least focused record to date, which is not entirely bad. Percussion-less songs, like “Call Me Back,” juxtaposed against the more traditional Strokes sounding bar anthem, “Gratisfaction,” make for a confusing mix that shows potential but ultimately doesn’t win the race this time around. Most likely to please the inner-Is This It junkies in us all are songs like lead single “Under Cover of Darkness,” the surprisingly danceable “Machu Picchu,” and the instant classic “Taken For a Fool.”
Much of what’s left of this record doesn’t add up as a whole. “Metabolism” plods on with a Prog-riff likely to make members of King Crimson blush, while “Games” sits atop a wave of synths so high you begin to wonder if you’re still listening to the same band. There is no single correct word to sum up the misfires in Angles, but, “unfocused” might be a good start.
In the end we’re left with one of the biggest rock bands in the world taking a big step forward into the deep end of their own influences. Some reviewers have alluded to them as The Strokes 2.0 and it’s hard to argue with that after this production. Between Casablancas’ taking a back seat to the rest of the band’s interests, and the stigma of their easily definable and profitable past sound, we can now see where our rock saviors of the early aughts are taking their band sonically. This is certainly The Strokes most divisive record and certainly puts the impetus on their fifth release to be something truly special and defined within their new sound.
Ultimately, that’s really the best thing that can be said about Angles. We’ve now seen how The Strokes intend to move forward. Now can they do so with the same charm, wit, and energy we’ve come to love them for? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure; Angles is a bump in the road that could quickly transform into a sinkhole if they don’t hone their recording process to what it needs to be. We’ll pull select tracks into The Strokes catalogue of concert favorites and move on as we do with every arena rock band out there today (see Foo Fighters, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Here’s hoping album number five can restore the prodigious faith…Disaster averted
The Rating: 3/5