There’s a lot to be expected from a record five years in the making. The Strokes’ lengthy hiatus since 2006’s “First Impressions of Earth” had the band pursuing various side projects while sporadically converging to work on “Angles,” which was finally released March 18.
On “Angles,” the band further develops the electronic and futuristic component of their music, started with “First Impressions,” while still managing to sound like regular rock ‘n’ roll. The guitars are fiercer and the keyboards more prominent with the regular use of electronic beats.
The sound quality itself exhibits much less of the grungy, subdued quality that made The Strokes standard bearers of the indie rock revival back in 2001. Ten years later, they have fine-tuned the technical aspects of their music to achieve a cleaner sound that is still recognizable as their own.
Despite the commitment to meticulous detail, whether this album delivers on the hype is another story. The three strongest tracks stand on their own: opener “Macchu Picchu,” first single “Under Cover of Darkness,” and “Taken For a Fool.”
Change in musical style is bound to happen with a band as tenured as The Strokes, but what makes these three particularly enjoyable is that they are amped-up, cleaned-up and slightly upbeat versions of the iconic tracks that put The Strokes on the map for the first time.
The up-tempo “Macchu Picchu” sounds like the closest thing to a dance track The Strokes will ever produce. But even on tracks like this, Julian Casablancas’ candid lyrics are strangely at odds with the style of the song.
On “Macchu Picchu,” Casablancas throws in the phrase, “I’m just trying to find a mountain I can climb.” The Strokes’ song writing has become more reflective and down-to-earth over the years, making increased use of real-world themes in often intentionally ambiguous ways.
Unlike other bands that try to do the same, one thing The Strokes have succeeded at is uniquely incorporating these themes into their music so that they are just recognizable without being glaringly obvious.
On “Taken For a Fool,” arguably the best track on the record, Casablancas grapples with apathy, criticism and dissatisfaction in just a few lines: “I know, everyone goes any damn place they like. I hope this goes over well, on the toxic radio.”
Although not all the songs are equally memorable and the album does slightly waver toward the middle and again at the end, Casablancas’ lyrics never fail to intrigue. “I want to be outrageous, but inside I know I’m plain,” he sings on “Metabolism.”
On the finishing touch to the album, “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” Casablancas begrudgingly admits, “There’s no one I disapprove of or root for more than myself.”
Not exactly the most uplifting statement, but then, this self-critical quality has been behind The Strokes’ constant attempts to perfect and reinvent every aspect of their style.
They may never recreate their original appeal, but the meticulousness and the quality of the music they continue to produce is nothing but a hopeful indicator of their continued ubiquity on the scene.