The Strokes - Angles - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Strokes - Angles

by Rich Morris Rating:3 Release Date:2011-03-21

Hold on to your skinny keks, boys and girls, 'cos the most exciting rock 'n' roll band of the last decade is back! That's right, we're talking about the desperado gang of five man-children who changed everything - and we mean absolutely EVERYTHING - with one album of decent-to-good garage rock and a tasteful line in ties back in 2001. Since then, they've released two increasingly  'will this do?' albums before going into a protracted hiatus during which some members made likeable solo records and apparently released they hated each other but should still have a crack at recapturing the old magic.

 

Why did they bother? If, as guitarist Nick Valensi has indicated, the recording of Angles was about as much fun as taking a red hot poker up the bum while Michael Winner burps in your face, what made them carry on? A still-burning, despite the ingrained bumble-fuck boho attitude, desire for rock glory? Or just uninspired careerism? Maybe, just maybe, it was a genuine sense of wanting to recapture some fading spark of youth. Whatever, Angles is here and now, like that friend you still make time to see even though you know you have little left in common, it must be dealt with.

 

First, the good news: there is some inventiveness on here. You couldn't call it anything as uncool as artistic ambition, of course, but it is there. Unfortunately, it is not a success. Opening track 'Macchu Picchu' has the NYC boys chopping out some new wave-meets-white-boy-funk early 80s vibes, fearlessly hopping onto a band-wagon every other group took a ride on back in 2007.

 

'Two Kinds of Happiness' takes things one step further by sounding like a Cyndi Lauper track, only minus Cyndi Lauper and plus a bit where it speeds up which totally jars with the rest of the song. It's followed by 'You're So Right', a sludgy, garagey track which manages the astonishing feat of not sounding exactly like The Strokes. Who knew that was even possible?

 

'Gratisfaction' sounds like every piece of AOR rock from the 70s - Rolling Stones, Elton John, Dire Straights, Lou Reed during his rabbit-in-the-headlights speed-funk phase? It's all here, but compressed a little so it could feasibly slot into Marquee Moon.

 

'Metabolism' sounds like Muse, which is a bad thing. 'Call Me Back', meanwhile, is some kind of jazz ballad horror. Yes, you read that right. It's inexplicable how this one even got on the album. Surely they had something else they could have recorded? Why didn't Julian Casablancas take one listen to the mewing, lumpy result and say 'Well, dudes, that didn't work. What say we bash out some completely pedestrian Velvets riffs for three minutes? That'll do the trick."

Then of course, there are the songs which sound like The Strokes, which is kind of like describing a slice of bread by saying it tastes like bread. But you know exactly what I mean, so why break it down any further? The likes of 'Under Cover of Darkness', 'Life is Simple in the Moonlight' and 'Taken for a Fool' just sound like some songs written and played by The Strokes.

 

Only 'Games' transcends the mediocrity, borrowing some of the New Order style synth stateliness which Casablancas played with on his Phrazes for the Young solo album. However, it also features Casablancas' most whiny, strangulated vocal and is thus painful to listen to.

Still, never mind. The Strokes, much like Oasis before them, always get a ludicrously easy ride in the music press. It's hard to work out exactly why this is. In the brothers Gallagher, Oasis boasted duel rent-a-gobs, always ready to deliver another handy pull-quote. Not so The Strokes, a band frequently so vacant they make lichen look scintillating and rebellious. I guess it must just be down to the fact that, in 2011, that suit jacket, jeans and Converse look still isn't getting old.

 

Let's flip that question from earlier on its head: why shouldn't The Strokes make another album? A decade ago, they had the world, or the pop world at least, at their feet. They were the kings of rock 'n' roll cool who, if you believed NME, literally saved music and made sure we all lived in a happy, well-dressed indie world forever. Why wouldn't they want to make another album?

Well, this is conjecture, but maybe The Strokes are sick of The Strokes. Hell, you can probably tell I'm sick of The Strokes and I at least have the benefit of not living in the eye of the shit-storm. If I was in The Strokes, I would have got royally fed up long, long ago with being the bench-mark for every white-boy indie band on the planet.

 

I would have got sick of every other group who makes it into NME dressing like I did 10 years ago, of an album I played on 10 years ago still being held up as my definitive statement. I'd be sick to the back teeth of drivelling journos still banging on about Is This It? as if it invented hipster, grimy rock 'n' roll, when I'd know damn well it didn't and neither I nor my band-mates had ever claimed it had. More than anything, I'd epically resent the crushing air of expectation which hung over any new music I made, stifling my creative impulses before they got the chance to develop because, as Jarvis Cocker so aptly asked, what exactly do you do for an encore?

 

So, yeah, it's probably a bit crap being The Strokes when you stop to think about it. No wonder they felt like throttling each other in the studio. It must be hard enough to deal with your own failure to live up to impossible expectations, but it would probably drive you crazy to see that failure reflected back to you on your band-mates' faces every day.

 

Well, you know what, Strokes? Boo hoo. Get over it. The time to shit or get off the pot has long since passed. In fact, the pot is now over-flowing with prize turds laid by Johnny Borrell, Brandon Flowers, Pete 'Peter' Doherty and a dozen other looked-good-at-first-then-rapidly-turned-shit chancers who pushed through the door in your wake. Music is suffering because of such low-ambition bilge.

 

So if you really can't manage to make anything new, life-affirming or awesome, if the best you can offer is genuinely this supersonic sulk of a record, this slow negation of everything positive that was once written and said in your name - if this really is it, then just go away now and do not come back, not in another five years, not in another 10, not ever. Because, just like that estranged friend we touched on earlier, it's better for for both of us if we just don't see each other again.

 

The Strokes have gone way passed 'is this it?'. This isn't even 'will this do?'. Forget Angles. The honest title for this record would be Meh.

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