Angles is now out in most countries or will be released in the next few days, if you haven’t already grabbed yourself a copy then do so now!
I’ve had mine since Saturday and below are my thoughts on the fourth in hopefully a long line of Strokes records.
I’ve been an obsessive music fan pretty much since the age of five when I was presented with a walkman the size of a brick and a Jackson 5 Best Of double cassette (yes a walkman and tape I’m showing my age here). Bands have come and gone throughout my music loving life, many have stuck with me for a long time but there are a select few whose records I anticipate with a fervour that borderlines on hysteria. Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers and those ever changing maestros Radiohead are part of this list, The Strokes complete it.
The fact is though even with those two bands the longest I’ve waited for a new record has been 3-4 years and with a bigger back catalogue to indulge myself in the wait didn’t seem that bad. It has been 5 years, 2 months, 20 days since The Strokes released First Impressions of Earth. It has been a long tortuous wait, despite having some serious doubts that the band would ever record another album again I never really gave up the hope, the idea that The Strokes could come back and blow our minds again. Their comeback tour last summer proved they still had the power to shake a venue to its core but we weren’t treated to any new songs, so the waiting continued until now.
Can such high expectations though ever be met? The Strokes don’t just have a highly devoted yet critical fanbase to please; they have an equally critical media that has already turned on them once when FIOE came out. Added to this is their own high some might say impossible standards and of course the struggles they had as a group making this record. Angles comes with so much baggage and expectation that it will inevitably divide listeners, there is no way everyone could possibly be pleased.
Angles has ten diverse songs that showcase a range of styles and influences (80s, 70s glam rock) and whilst it doesn’t necessarily change the face of music in the way that Is This It did, it doesn’t claim or attempt to. It’s a fun record and most importantly it’s a potential start to a new era of the band which if we lucky could mean a much shorter gap between releases.
Machu Picchu – The beginning of this track sounds like it belongs in a 1980s movie, where the protagonist wanders down some sleazy part of town at night. It’s such an obvious change of direction for the band when I first heard it I was somewhat dumbfounded. It’s a great start to the album though because Machu is an infectiously catchy song that surely must compel even a non fan to continue listening just to see what other directions the record might veer off in.
Under Cover Of Darkness – Even after the initial euphoria I felt hearing a new Strokes song had worn off I still have a lot of love for this song. It’s the kind of song that makes me want to dance for hours on end. I personally think it was a perfect choice as single because it’s a fun number and has a streak of that old style Strokes sound whilst somehow still sounding different. Its simultaneously manages to be misleading about the rest of the record by giving us that old style sound and yet somehow also sums up the overall feeling of Angles – its fundamentally a joyous album to listen to.
Two Kinds Of Happiness – This is so gloriously 80s I’m pretty convinced the band actually time travelled back to the era to get such an authentic sound. Julian sings at us not to waste our hearts and not to give in, how can I ignore such advice when it’s backed by those deliciously frantic guitars?
You’re So Right – Along with Metabolism this track is closest to their FIOE sound, it has that Juicebox style intensity. I actually think it’s one of their most urgent aggressive tracks. I really like Julian’s layered vocals and the way he croons ‘I’m done with the office, hello forest’.
Taken For A Fool – When the band first released in the studio footage early in 2010 the bassline of this track featured heavily, some considered it to be rather cheesy and obviously fake and not on the record. I’m really glad it was real because it makes for a great start for what is currently my favourite song from Angles. Taken For A Fool just pulls you out of your seat and demands you dance with it for 3 minutes 23 seconds. Nikolai especially shines on this song his bass dominating proceedings. Instant repeat listening.
Games – This marks the start to the second of the album which if you discount Gratisfaction is a lot more broody and mellow. It’s taken me quite a while to connect with this song because it’s really not until halfway through the song and the rift from that pre-Is This It song (Unknown Song 1) kicks in that I really get Games.
Call Me Back – This is kind of a lounge singer style of song, really nice and mellow and showcases the band’s ability to bring things down to a relaxing pace as previously seen in Under Control. Another song that wasn’t immediate at first but has since embedded its way into my head and heart.
Gratisfaction – What an upbeat glam rock inspired number this is, it just screams T-Rex jamming with Thin Lizzy whilst The Strokes play along as happy as can be. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one live because it’s such a happy song I feel like it demands a big audience dancing along to it.
Metabolism – Sounding like a sibling to Vision of Division, this is the only song on Angles that feels out of place. It’s not a bad song by any means in fact I really like it the guitars being some of the best on the record and it would be a perfect fit for some shit going down scene in a comic book movie but it just doesn’t fit with the sound of the rest of the album and feels oddly slotted between Gratisfaction and closer Life Is Simple In The Moonlight.
Life Is Simple In The Moonlight – By law final tracks on albums by The Strokes are without doubt tremendous. Life Is Simple continues this trend but goes for a quieter approach than used before. Lyrically it’s definitely one of Julian’s finest moments and musically it’s a different style from the band, the guitars oddly channel the Manics, an influence which can’t be intentional but is interesting nonetheless.
I’m personally deeply satisfied with the record. It was never going to be another Is This It or Room On Fire, nor should it be. In order for any successful, creative artist to keep on releasing albums years down the line they need to progress and change. In the case of The Strokes if that means losing some listeners well so be it, they wouldn’t be the first band this has happened to. I’d rather they keep on evolving musically and in the case of Julian vocally than churn out the same old songs just to please people. I could end up hating their fifth record but if it takes chances and goes into new directions then I would at least respect that. Ultimately musicians are selfish creatures they write and perform for their own pleasure, their own tastes, despite what people think it’s not for the fans or the critics or some record label head honcho (though many artists have fallen into the trap of doing this)
This is the first attempt by The Strokes to truly work as a democracy, they aren’t fully there yet but once again they are faced with that expectation and hype that has plagued the band throughout their career, people will now anticipate and expect Strokes V to build on the foundation Angles teasingly gives us in those 35 minutes. Everyone will now be asking can they do it? I’m confident they can.