Sunday, March 27, 2011

Album Review: The Strokes - Angles (4.5/5)

It's been 5 years since The Strokes released an album, and that one, First Impressions of Earth, underwhelmed critics and music fans alike, raising questions whether the band could ever again achieve the level of greatest they did on their first album, 2001's Is This It?, which has since become an essential recording of modern-day rock and widely regarding as one of best albums of the last decade.

I'm happy to report that Angles is a rather impressive album that has definitely exceeded by expectations. It manages to effectively recall the simple rock sound that made their debut such a great listen while also pushing their sound in new directions. Tracks like first single "Under Cover of Darkness," "Taken for a Fool" and "Gratisfaction" recall the tight bursts of simple guitar and drum melodies of their early work, but the most interesting songs are the ones that don't try to sound like Is This It?.

"Machu Picchu," for example, has more of a new wave sound akin to Franz Ferdinand (a band who itself would probably have not been as big had The Strokes not come first). The guitar melodies on that song are particular strong. The structured melodies of "Two Kinds of Happiness" also evoke new wave, sounding like an unearthed track from The Cars souped up with more electric guitar. It's brightness contrasts with the paranoia of "You're So Right," whose layering, indistinct vocals and drum programming (I assume it's programming) reminds me a bit of Radiohead. "Metabolism" emerges dramatically from the dark shadowy territory of Muse.

"Games" is another New Wave-ish tune with synthesizers and hand claps at the fore, although it has a dark undercurrent to it as well. "Call Me Back" represents a slower tempo from the band's typically upbeat style. Last track, "Life Is Simple in the Moonlight" is a real hodgepodge of the aforementioned sounds--a bit new wave, a bit moody--closing the album

Like most Strokes albums (except for their last), Angles clocks in with a lean running time below 40 minutes. It's a good mix of sounds with the band back in fine form. Even if making this record was reportedly very arduous for the band, I'm certainly glad they managed to pull it off.

Best: Machu Picchu, Under Cover of Darkness, Two Kinds of Happiness, Taken for a Fool, Games

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