Almost a decade after The Strokes emerged from their New York base to usher in the garage rock / leather jackets / tight jeans phenomenon of the Noughties – a movement they’d ultimately prove too fractured to govern – comes the group’s much awaited fourth album. They’re probably as surprised as we are that it happened at all.
All the hallmarks are there to sate all 2001 nostalgics – Fab Moretti’s frantic electrified drums are underpinned by Nikolai Fraiture’s fluid bass, creating a distinctly tight disco rhythm section, while the twin attack of guitars from Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi trade synth-like riffs with serrated strums, and Julian Casablancas wails and croons on top, with the same clarity and vitality as heard on his recent solo album, ‘Phrazes For The Young’. But you know all this. So, what’s changed?
‘Angles’ is definitely a record of 2011. The reconvened Strokes, having overcome nagging creative differences, sound like a unit again – friendships have been stabilised, and in the process, a fresh, modern and slick sound has materialized. Sessions began with producer Joe Chiccarelli, but eventually the band decamped to Albert’s own studio to work alone. This familiarity extended to the shared songwriting duties, and the buoyancy that speeds the album to its conclusion after only thirty-eight minutes.
‘Machu Picchu’ launches the album – rippling reggae guitars soon turn into a shimmering chorus, taking its cues from Blondie, and introducing a more playful Strokes immediately. ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ follows, all spiky and up – the sonic equivalent of a group hug, it appears. ‘Two Kinds Of Happiness’ is straight out of a John Hughes movie, while ‘You’re So Right’ builds math-rock rhythms around layered vocals to great effect. ‘Taken For A Fool’ is straight-up Strokes, juxtaposing the stark simplicity of ‘Games’, which follows, and then the beautifully bare ‘Call Me Back’ – Julian lamenting over a soft buzzing bass, light xylophone bells, and a sparkling guitar. ‘Gratisfaction’ brings the energy back, sounding not unlike something from ‘First Impressions Of Earth’, while ‘Metabolism’ blasts out gothic shards of glass, and ‘Life Is Simple In The Moon’ ends the short album on a reflective yet bitter note.
Revitalized, The Strokes are on thrilling form. ‘Angles’ is infused with ’80s bigness, Velvets-meets-Krautrock pulsing, shadows of Suicide, and stimulated by renewed friendships. While The Strokes have outgrown any notions of being rock’s saviours, in doing so they could just have delivered what might be their best album since ‘Is This It’. It’s certainly their most diverse.
Words by Simon Harper
You can hear the whole of The Strokes’ new album ‘Angles’ HERE.