Thursday, 16 June 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #12: The Strokes - Angles

Written 18th March 2011:

The Strokes - Angles

This week sees the much anticpated return of The Strokes after a long 5 year absence.  Despite their most-recent previous two albums, ‘Room on Fire’ and ‘First Impressions of Earth’ both receiving mixed reviews from the world of music press, I still really enjoyed them and whenever I catch ‘live’ performances of the band I always think to myself they still look effortlessly cool, which is the best kind of ‘coolness’ in my opinion.  I also don’t think it is an understatement to say that when their 2001 debut album ‘Is This It?’ arrived it totally breathed new-life back into the indie music scene bringing with it such a refreshing change of style for garage-rock music at the time.

Now despite the band have leaked a few ‘Making of Angles’ mini-clips via their website (, also see the bottom of this blog for links to the clips), in terms of the music for the album, it’s been kept under pretty tight wraps for the past few months. I had eagerly been counting down the days until it’s UK release on the 22nd March via Rough Trade records, however I discovered yesterday (15th March) that the band have decided to stream the album early via their website so I’ve had the album on loop from the site since then and thought now somewhat earlier than expected is a great opportunity to give my ‘First Impressions’ of ‘Angles’.

The album gets underway with the fantastically titled ‘Machu Picchu’ and its funky 80’s-style synth and bass opening cruising through the verses with Casablanca’s familiar gravelly voice, crooning over the top, before a fast-paced chorus comes in with even some bongos thrown-in in the background if you listen very carefully.  It’s quite a different sound for the Strokes in my opinion, and the first indication that the band are prepared to push the boundaries musically on this album.  Next up follows the 1st single lifted from the album ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, and with its opening guitar riffs followed by a flowing bouncing-rhythm this is much more familiar territory for long-term Strokes fans and as such one of the more instant tracks on the album for the listener.

Third track ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ is different to any track I’ve previously heard by the band. The verses start and initially remind me of one of those tracks from an ‘80’s Driving Compilation’, whether that is a good or bad thing for you I’ll let you be the judge upon hearing it, although I personally don’t mind it. Again it’s new territory for a Strokes sound, but the chorus goes back to the familiar big crescendo of garage-guitar rock the band are rightly famed for. ‘You’re so Right’ again finds the band pushing out on a new wave of guitar sounds for them, with dark brooding guitars between Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. racing against each other through its verses and a distant-like effect used on Julian’s voice throughout with Nick later throwing in a nice little guitar solo to break-up the two verses. ‘Taken for a Fool’ is another instant-type of Strokes tune with another fast-flowing verse, before a loud sing-along chorus has Julian elaborating on an individual constantly being take advantage off and this track stands well in its place on the album with some really funky bass lines pulsing through it from Nikolai (Fraiture).

Over halfway through the record and ‘Games’ continues with another experimental sound for the record and it’s again Nikolai on fine form with an engrossing bass line carrying the verses of this track before an up-tempo chorus comes in with a super-fast drum-beat courtesy of Fab (Moretti) breaking-up the previous two verses and choruses and the track ends with a somewhat more slower, spaced-out feeling rhythm built from the two verses. ‘Call me back’ is the slowed down track of the album, with a gentle guitar loop being the backing to Julian’s softly sung vocals, before a creepy, jangling guitar bridges the middle of the song and despite being a slowed down number this is arguably the most experimental track on the album with a lot of sounds going on in it for the listener to register.

‘Gratisfaction’ reverts back to a more similar Strokes sound from their second album ‘Room on Fire’, and is again another track which I feel doffs it’s cap towards another retro 80’s like guitar sound, while 9th track ‘Metabolism’ goes back to duelling guitars between Nick and Albert, gradually building in intensity as the verse progresses before a crashing bridge and then dropping-down a pitch and then finally gradually starting to re-build again, making this possibly the most intense track on the album. Final track ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ is just simply classic Strokes.  Initially building with a softly played and sung verse before Julian belts out a catchy chorus backed with guitars and synths all the stops are pulled out for the finale of this album with Julian ending on the lyrics “Don’t try to stop us/Don’t try to stop us/Move out of the way”, but I’d say that with this 4th album, overall being a great return to form for the band, it would be hard to see anyone stopping the Strokes building upon much more fame and success if that’s already possible.

This album sees the New York band really pushing the boundaries of what a guitar record can and arguably should sound like ‘In This Modern Age’ and sometimes this can be a downfall for some bands when attempting to make a somewhat more ambitious record like this.  However I feel that the tracks the band have clearly tried something different on (‘You’re so right’ and ‘Games’ are two prime examples of this) the band pull-off successful well, as initially I seemed to struggle with them but they seem to grow on me more with each listen, a mark of a good record. Throw into the mix some old-fashioned easily accessible Strokes songs and it all adds up to a real return to form for the band, which in my opinion is arguably their best material since the almighty ‘Is This It?’ and with this new record I am going to award it 9 ‘Angles’ out 10 and a definite album recommendation from me to get hold off for early part of 2011.

The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 1:
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 2:
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 3:

An Acute Angle 

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