How long have the Strokes been away? The last time they dropped an album, the airwaves were full of “Hollaback Girl” and “Laffy Taffy” and “Since U Been Gone.” Justin Timberlake was on the verge of bringing sexy back. Jay-Z was pretending to be retired, Britney had found her one true soulmate in K-Fed, and the Kardashian problem was still under control. Those were different times.
The New York boys’ first album in five years, Angles (out March 22nd; listen to the album's first single, "Under Cover of Darkness," below), is their return to basics: 10 songs in 34 minutes, closer in sound and spirit to the garage-band punch of their first two albums, rather than the prog-rock sprawl of First Impressions of Earth. Here’s a breakdown of the album, track by track. Welcome back, lads!
“Machu Picchu”: It opens Angles with a synthetic reggae hook that brings to mind Ace of Base, of all things. It sets the sonic template for the whole album: Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. flash their rhythm-guitar expertise, while Julian Casablancas moans lines like “I’m just trying to find a mountain I can climb.” As per usual on Angles, his trademark sex-mumble is mixed down so low, his lyrics get muffled – although he mentions a girl who’s “wearing a jacket made of meat.” Hmmm – who could that be?
“Under Cover of Darkness” (listen below): The lead single is an overt attempt at the “classic” Strokes sound of yesteryear; in fact, it sounds a lot like their first single, “Last Nite,” from their 2001 debut Is This It? When Casablancas sings “I want to be a puppet on a string,” the inflection in his voice makes him sound uncannily like his younger self snarling, “I’ve been in town for just 15 minutes now.” With a great guitar break from 2:46 to 3:12, it’s like the Strokes’ version of the Replacements’ “I’ll Be You” – a late-in-the-game reaffirmation of what they do best.
“Two Kinds of Happiness”: An early-Eighties rock production a la the Motels or the Cars, as Casablancas sings the Quarterflash-worthy line “Don’t waste your heart.” As with most of the tracks on Angles, the sleek and shiny production here shows the unmistakable influence of Phoenix – it’s obvious that the Strokes, like the rest of us, keep hearing Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix everywhere they go. Since Phoenix were initially pegged as “the French Strokes” before their huge breakthrough, the Strokes sound understandably eager to steal some of their thunder back from Phoenix, in the guitar-rock-for-foxy-girls department.
“You’re So Right”: A brief stab at harder, punchier rock, with a sped-up Black Sabbath riff, weirdly electro-processed vocals, and the chant “I don’t wanna argue.” The abrupt ending is a witty echo of “Hard To Explain.”