Friday 23 March 2018

Music: Angles by The Strokes * *

(Rough Trade)

The Strokes sound like they are at a crossroads
The Strokes sound like they are at a crossroads
John Meagher

John Meagher

Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi has been talking about his band's new album. Marketing students, look away now: "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."

And that's not all: "Maybe everyone needed money or something. We gotta pay our mortgage so may as well get this going again."

Hmm, it certainly beats the usual puffed-up guff that most bands come out with. But with frontman Julian Casablancas taking a back-seat and the rest of the crew writing songs together for the first time, will this first Strokes album in five years be the proverbial dog's dinner?

It didn't sound like it when they debuted lead single Under Cover of Darkness last month. It's a song that recalls the sort of retro guitar rock that the Strokes mined so appealingly on Is This It a decade ago.

Unfortunately, there aren't nearly enough tracks of this quality on Angles.

The overwhelming feeling you get is that of a fractured, disjointed band who have very different ideas as to what a new Strokes record should sound like.

In places, it recalls their last album, the bloated, unsatisfying First Impressions of Earth; while other tracks seem to be composites of songs, fused together with little care.

Others still sound like outtakes from Casablancas's far-from-perfect solo debut, Phrazes For the Young.

Chief among the offenders is Call Me Back. It's wilfully experimental -- and an unmitigated mess. And you sense Games could have been a special song. The nucleus is there -- the purposeful bass recalls past highs -- but the end result lacks spark. Like so much here.

Yet, the album is not without its special moments, especially the album's most 'pop' song, Life is Simple in the Moonlight. A classic Strokes sound married to a beguiling chorus, Casablancas's trademark laconic vocals are electronically treated and the effect works, rather than grates.

Gratisification is not too dissimilar to what Thin Lizzy were once doing -- Casablancas has talked about wanting to channel his love for Lizzy into this album. This is the song that comes closest to that desire.

Incidentally, the guitar solos towards the end of the best songs (the aforementioned Under Cover of Darkness and Life is Simple in the Moonlight) might remind some of the late Gary Moore and his instincts for arresting riffs.

Ultimately, though, this is the sound of a band at a crossroads. After two bad albums in succession, where to next?

Burn it: Under Cover of Darkness; Life is Simple in the Moonlight

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