You might remember the Strokes as the saviors of rock n’ roll who quietly disappeared into the night, only to form several side-projects, hinting that they might never return. Well, they’ve returned now, and while there are definitely bright spots, Angles isn’t the album of triumphant return that we all pined for during their absence.
“Machu Picchu” is a reserved album opener, with half-hearted guitar lines opening up the entire affair. Julian Casablancas’ voice still sounds familiar, enough to give the song some credence, although the continuing trickling guitar work just holds the song back. But, “Under the Darkness,” the second track, is that gem of a Strokes song that we’ve been missing for quite some time. It’s filled with those sharp guitar cuts and fantastic bass work, just a bit more polished than earlier works off Is This It. Julian has a great performance here, getting gruff and angry during the chorus. In fact, this might go up the charts as one of the better tunes they’ve recorded, in one man’s opinion. Then, they recover back into mediocrity.
“Two Kinds of Happiness” is a cheesy little number, reminiscent of a band trying to break into the MTV culture of the 80s; it’s lacking creativity and sharpness, with Casablancas coming off as disinterested, more so than his usual stance. “You’re So Right” doesn’t do too much to change that, although the middling section is a lot more endearing than that buzzsaw guitar churn that serves as the backbone of the track.
Still, this album goes back and forth between being catchy and boring, which makes it a hard record to really get your head around. “Taken For a Fool” features Julian providing some charming vocals, and that bass line is something that they’ve always done well, so it’s no surprise it sounds so good here. And the chorus of this track is probably one of the brightest moments present in all of Angles. “Call Me Back” reminds me of the tracks off First Impressions of Earth that seemed more like a place for Julian to prove doubters wrong in regards to his voice, as it’s nothing more than an exercise for him, with the rest of the band just sort of standing in the background while he takes the lead.
Then comes a track like “Gratisfaction,” which definitely has a bit of swagger to it, something we all appreciated about the band, though it has a more modern pop twist. It will make you yearn for similar tracks, the kind that could have easily saved Angles, making it more than a sub-par effort. Toss that in with Angles’ closer, “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” and you wonder if the band does indeed have more to offer us, as these are some of the better tracks on the collection. The last track, especially, sounds like the band’s natural progression, something we might have been able to foresee after all this time.
You see, the problem with The Strokes is that a lot of us probably feel like have a lot invested in the band; we might even believe that it helped bring us back to rock n’ roll back in the early 2000s. All of this makes it harder to digest Angles, as clearly there are some solid tracks, but overall, it just doesn’t live up to our expectations of what the band should sound like in our minds. With that, many listeners will find themselves disenchanted, losing faith in the band that helped us believe all over again.