True to the neon-colored Tetris-like album cover, The Strokes’ triumphant return, after a four-year hiatus, comes dressed in Members Only jacket and pegged jeans. Angles, the band’s fourth album, is steeped in technicolor nostalgia that opens the closet on all sounds ’80s. You can hear bits of the Cars, the Clash, and Gary Numan, but at the heart of this joyful celebration lies the dual guitar, jangly garage rock goodness that we all fell in love with back in 2001.
While some are bound to mourn the loss of the simplicity that Is This It ushered in as the band’s definitive style, the confidence with which the foursome branches out into uncharted territory should be applauded. During the group’s break, 3/4 of the group pursued other projects allowing individual musical identities to blossom. For this record the writing process became a more cumulative effort, with each man bringing forth ideas — unlike on previous records that found singer Julian Casablancas as the alpha male decision maker.
Does the new creative collaboration improve The Strokes’ tried and true sound? Not in the sense that the new album is better than the previous efforts; however, the growth that has occurred from the days when “Last Nite” first buried the blech of popstar reign that had then been dominating the mainstream to the soon-to-be classic chords of their newest single, “Under the Cover of Darkness” can be heard resonating through every Casablancas vocal, and each impossibly precise Fabrizio Moretti drum part.
The album is not without its misses — “Games” dabbles in mild electronica, but its biggest flaw is its whininess, and the disc’s ballad “Call Me Back” is just too weak a song, despite some clever guitar work. Mostly though, Angles flies high on the strength of a half-dozen thank-God-they’re-still-awesome! quality songs. From the introductory reggae groove of “Machu Picchu,” to the classic Strokes gems “Under the Cover of Darkness” and “Taken For a Fool,” the fans will be pleased. The most exciting moments come in the form of this new modern, collaborative edition of The Strokes — the one that embraces bold choices, like flirting with ’80s pop on “Two Kinds of Happiness” and finding the missing link between Lou Reed and Elton John with “Gratisfaction.”
Is This It was a classic record, playable and perfect from start to finish, but it’s a mistake to disregard the two albums that came after — Room on Fire and First Impressions on Earth. Each had moments of brilliance that got swept under the rug because they didn’t just remake their eponymous debut. The Strokes have been on the path that brought them to Angles for 10 years. Perhaps now the general public will be ready to listen.
The Strokes: www.new.thestrokes.com