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Things have been a little tough for The Strokes in the last few years. Their 2006 album, First Impressions of Earth, didn’t do so hot, and many thought for sure that would be the unfortunate end for this band. They tried to switch it up and expand their sound, and it just didn’t work out; they walked away from it all and went back to their lives outside of The Strokes. Fifteen-year-old me was surely devastated, as were the rest of The Strokes fans.
As of 2009, there was no hope for an end to this hiatus. Members of the band were quoted saying they didn’t think another album was possible due to lack of interest, lack of material and busy schedules. It started to seem like a new album was never going to come.
Suddenly, the band came together and began working on their latest album, Angles. Work started from the ground up. Lead singer Julian Casablancas, who had previously written a large chunk of everything the band had put out (including guitar solos), took a step back, and the band began to make a more collaborative effort on the new album. Thus, Angles was born.
Angles has the typical Strokes sound, as though to say that they decided it was cool enough to stick to what had made them famous (which is actually a very cool move). It’s enjoyable to listen to, not only because it’s a true sound, but also because we can see influences from bands from the 70’s and 80’s, something that has plagued The Strokes from the start. They seem to have embraced the critics who said that they were “plagiarizing” a 1970’s sound and taken this idea and ran with it. We can see influences from U2 to Lou Reed to Tom Petty, all the while listeners are aware that this is who The Strokes are. Their songs are original and fun, so who really cares if they called upon Men at Work for inspiration in “Machu Picchu?” An influence is just an influence, and I think the Strokes have finally come to terms with that.
The album’s single, “Under the Cover of Darkness,” is the best example of the band coming into its own. The poppy guitar riffs remind us why we fell in love with this band in the first place. Casablancas’ pitchy whine is showcased beautifully over top of a great drum beat and what can be described as the classic guitar sound. We are also reminded of our love affair with this band during songs like “Taken for a Fool” and “Gratisfaction.” They have that Strokes sound and are songs that were carefully crafted and constructed to keep listeners tapping their toes the whole three minutes and some odd seconds the song is playing.
One disappointing thing about this album is the content. It’s still about how Casablancas hates himself. The songs used to be upbeat with depressing words, but now, some songs are just flat out depressing. The song “Call Me Back” is about how people can lose touch and how time can slip from us, which is true and a cool idea for a song, but there are no drums, the song is slow and it just sounds like Casablancas is moaning and carrying on as if to say “pity me”. Another disappointing feature is that, at times, it sounds as though certain things were thrown on the album (such as “Call Me Back”), taking away from the cohesiveness of the album.
In the same year we lost the White Stripes, arguably one of the coolest bands in the entire world, we see the rebirth of another one of the coolest bands ever. Hopefully The Strokes will have a better go around this time up to bat. Not every band can remain true to themselves like The Strokes ultimately have, something Jack and Meg White realized before throwing in the towel. Maybe with the success of Angles, The Strokes’ fire will be reignited to resist the temptation to change and stay the same.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ennuiislife/