- Audio CD (21 Mar. 2011)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Rough Trade Records
- ASIN: B004LWZDC8
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,664 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Fourth studio album by the acclaimed American alternative rock group. Their first new release since 2006's 'First Impressions of Earth', the album was described by bassist Nikolai Fraiture as 'a return to basics', and includes the single 'Under Cover of Darkness'.
Time isn’t kind to the cool. Disappear for too long, and nobody bats an eyelid when you return, fanfare conspicuous by its utter absence. Arriving over five years since their last LP, 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, white-hot-back-when NYC combo The Strokes could have so easily found themselves piled beside the likes of Razorlight and Toploader in the pile of re-emerging artists probably without a place in 2011. But they’ve avoided such a fate by putting together what might actually be their very best record yet.
Yes, you read that right: Angles isn’t just the equal of the band’s lightning-in-a-bottle debut of 2001, Is This It, it might be better. There are several moments here where the five-piece exhibit an infectious immediacy that’s presented in parallel with some genuine ingenuity, and the effect on the listener is to stop what they’re doing, focus fully on what’s unfolding, and then rewind to hear it over again. Take the strutting punk-funk bass of Two Kinds of Happiness – unremarkable in isolation, but soldered to sprightly percussion and real yearning in Julian Casablancas’ voice, as well as some frenetic six-string fret-work, it’s a vital constituent of a whole that’s fairly flabbergasting. If rendered graphically, one would have to picture early U2 and Talking Heads on a seesaw with The National acting as a fulcrum.
Taken for a Fool harks back in production tonality to the scratchy lo-fi charm of Is This It, but flexes significantly developed melodic muscles compared to a decade ago – this is a track, one amongst several, that will bury itself into one’s head for the long-term after even the most fleeting of encounters. It isn’t the only number here with a new-wave feel to it – and this move from 1970s garage revivalism to mining the cooler sounds of the 1980s for elements of inspiration pays serious dividends. Games opens like New Order in their prime, all glossy synths and solid bass, and closer Life is Simple in the Moonlight takes cool keyboards reminiscent of Scandinavian pop-experimentalists Mew and hits 88 miles per hour ‘til they’ve arrived back in 85. Casablancas doesn’t sound like a megastar at any point – he’s hungry, scrappy, like a newcomer ahead of the hype crest. For the first time since Is This It, he sounds a part of the gang rather than the stand-apart leader of it.
Truly, there’s so much to love about Angles that picking it apart seems as ridiculous as dissecting an expensive tray of chocolates, setting fillings aside from their delicious casings. They, like this record, taste far better with everything properly combined – and with all five members contributing, in harmony, The Strokes have here upped their own ante like nobody could have foreseen. Except for the band members themselves, of course. Prepare to be smitten anew.
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Top customer reviews
Each song here is different to the next one, and a showcase of great song writing. From the insanely catchy 'Machu Picchu', the rocking should-have-been-hit single 'Under Cover of Darkness' (which is perhaps the biggest nod to the old stuff on here), the electronically haunting 'Games' with it's 80s pop style and appealing melodies and harmonies, as well as the sweet and gloomy 'Call Me Back', there are no shortage of gems to be found.
'Angles' is the sound of a great, influential indie band who were branching out, change is often good, particularly in this case, so embrace this excellent album guys. If's nicely packaged with a good cover art as well, which is something else that cool man Julian Casablancas and his band have always done.
However, I lost the bug in the 5 year wait for Angles, as I found so many new bands coming up. Then, when Angles was released, I stupidly listened to the reviews and didn't buy it straight away.
This is an amazing album. JC really perfects his song writing and vocals, and he has managed to write great parts for each instrument, not just for himself. Each song is absolute perfection, my favourite being Metabolism - when it gets to the end it is divine.
However, it's not like Is This It at all.
1) It's deeper. You have to listen to it a few times to fully appreciate it. But once you have gotten into it, you won't be able to put it off...
2) They're not anthems. Perhaps a couple are, but the Strokes have done the anthems thing and now it's time for them to experiment. And frankly, they did it great.
So please, I beg of you, buy this album and love it. God knows that I did.
The herky jerky cod-reggae of “Machu Picchu” is a promising starting point: a very ‘80s-sounding new wave throwback which sounds like The Police sleepwalking through a gig in a bar full of rednecks whilst on a jittery paranoid comedown from amphetamines. But I defy anyone not to hear that familiar-sounding choppy guitar riff at 1:17 and not feel glad that The Strokes are officially back.
The album’s lead single “Under Cover of Darkness” is a successful merging of their Is This It-era sound with a more reflective, statesmanlike approach to songwriting. It’s fairly ambitious melodically, full of catchy fretwork and proves that Julian Casablancas clearly has his eye on vocally emulating the heartland rock of Tom Petty.
The muted palm of rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. chugs “Two Kind of Happiness” along a groove The Cars would have killed to create, but ends up sounding uncannily like a leftover from Julian Casablancas's solo album Phrazes for the Young, differentiated only by Nick Valensi’s virtuoso guitar solo. The dark and experimental “You’re So Right” relies on a dirge-y guitar riff, but is a weak song overall, and “Taken for a Fool” is essentially a Room on Fire-era outtake made to sound pretty.
The odd ‘80s synths are back out for “Games,” a passable stab at synthpop which brings to mind mullets and Sinclair ZX spectrum computers. “Call Me Back” has an almost bossa nova-esque opening riff, but aimlessly drifts along like an asylum seeker on a rubber dinghy across the English Channel, with only the promise of a xylophone to offer a bit of progression – it just feels a bit disjunctive, like two or three bits of a different puzzle which don’t quite fit together when thrown into one song.
Some critics have described “Gratisfaction” as The-Strokes-do-Thin-Lizzy, which is quite an apt comparison and I don’t think I could improve on that. Casablancas does certainly try to channel Phil Lynott, but what I will say is that, to me, “Gratisfaction” feels close in spirit to some of the filler tracks on First Impressions of Earth. “Metabolism” is another Room on Fire-esque driving rocker, let down only by Julian’s never-ending wail, like he couldn’t be bothered to find a suitable vocal melody to settle upon.
The album’s finale “Life is Simple in the Moonlight” has been played on SNL and is a pleasant little Tom Verlaine-esque 80s ballad showing a different side to The Strokes's repertoire – even if it does haphazardly resort to a cascading nod to Pavement in an instrumental interlude before its second verse – but it brings the whole album to a satisfying, if not magnificent, conclusion.
I can’t quite place what it is about Angles which didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I feel it has moments of brilliance, some of which make me pleased to be a Strokes fan, but there’s something about this album which feels scattershot. It isn’t quite as edgy as it’s trying to be, like it’s been smoothed out with sandpaper in the rehearsal process, stripped bear of its unpredictability and its ingenuity in the production process, much to the detriment of the album's overall sound.
Angles feels like its been shorn of what made The Strokes's first two albums so vibrantly original, but spruced up and polished to hide its foibles. There are reasons for this. For one thing, the band have spoken about the two-year process of making Angles, describing it as being very difficult to make, hinting that there is still bad feeling and resentment amongst some members, with Nick Valensi telling The Guardian: “I won’t do the next album like this. No way. It was awful – just awful. Working in a fractured way, not having a singer there." Clearly, Julian Casablancas's lengthy absences from the recording process means Angles wasn't exactly a band effort.
In fact, some might argue that these songs are just the product of Nick, Albert, Nikolai and Fabrizio jamming away to themselves and inviting Casablancas in to sing over the top of them without putting in hardly any musical input himself. In that sense, it’s not a bona fide Strokes album in the way Is This It was (where Julian wrote all the songs). Amazingly, music critics seem to be in unanimous agreement that Angles is the finest Strokes album since Is This It. But it isn’t. It is a product of how the band described their working process: fractured.
Basically, I get the impression that The Strokes were determined Angles would get finished, by hook or by crook, primarily because they knew it’d sell lots of copies by the shed load and make a ton of money. In the absence of Julian, they rehearsed the hell out of the songs until they became rather drab, plodding and lifeless, lacking many of the key ingredients it sorely needed, so as talented as the musicians undoubtedly are, I can’t help but feel like Angles is like a castrated dog of an album. It is a eunuch. It can still woof, but not at the same pitch as it used to, which is a great shame.
As soon as the first minute of album opener "Machu Picchu" had played ,it was clear that one of my favourite bands had indeed made a triumphant return.
Whilst it may lack the impact of "Is This It" as a groundbreaking album,it makes up for this with a more polished and at times,experimental sound.
Stand out tracks are "You're So Right" and "Games" but I cannot not really find a track I don't like.This album will break in like a new pair of shoes after a few listens.
If you like "The Strokes" you will like the album and if you are new to the band it will probably make you buy the earlier albums.
I only hope the next album doesn't take so long to release.
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Most recent customer reviews
Very nice disc cover - Escher anyone??