The new Strokes album, Angles, is far from a perfect piece of modern rock
(aka This is It) but it does succeed in rekindling SOME of the fire stamped out by
First Impressions of Earth. The album feels chopped up and disjointed. Maybe it’s
just a reflection of the band’s new I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore attitude so
heavily reported in the press. Or maybe they’re onto something here. Right? Gulp.
Reviewing the album as a whole is unfair. Let’s pick out what worked and what
didn’t– because some of us lost our virginities listening to The Strokes.
1. Taken For a Fool
Kind of a no brainer here. This song, more than any others on the
record, strokes that special Strokes-centric part of your brain you
developed in Eighth grade. It teases you—what if they made a whole
album of songs like this? No super huge tricks here, just a solid
construction that manages to traverse a zip-zap chorus, a loopy-doopy
bridge and a banger of a chorus with a spastic guitar solo break. Who
cares what Julian is saying—he’s pissed off and so are we. That’s how
we like it.
2. Machu Piccu
Okay. Let them have some fun. Let them be on an island with monkeys
and coconuts. Bongos? Fine. In-your-face stadium chord hooks?
Yes. Don’t deny it. You can dance to this song, albeit like Elaine from
Sienfeld. I may be out on a limb here (monkeys) but this song makes
me feel like I’ve given the car keys to my teenage son for the first time
so he could take his date to the zoo. On the way back from his zoo-
date he got some guy to airbrush a palm tree on the hood of the car
and some bikini chicks lounging along the side panels. My son is going
to be so cool. But most importantly the car is safe. Phew.
Another obviously likeable song. What’s that? Some Billy Joel? It’s
cool what Julian does with his lyrics here—it’s like he’s playing Tetris
with words. The chorus is big and ridiculous almost sounds like some
Queen-for-kids instructional video. It brings to mind that great chord-
slamming chorus from ‘You Only Live Once’ where Julian did the
Bono-style “oh-oh” thing between everything he said. Sigh. This is
better than that. This will probably be the song I put on the mixtape I
make for my son when I try to introduce him to “late period Strokes”.
He’ll probably not want to listen to it because he thinks I’m lame. But
then I’ll take away his jetpack privileges.
4. Under Cover of Darkness
This song only gets dropped down below the previous two because I
played it to death when it came out a month ago. Hell, I played the 30-
second preview posted on Amazon.com to death before the full song
even came out. I’m sick of all of it now (especially those thirty seconds
in the preview), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good song. Obviously
Nick and Nikolai’s cooperative guitar/bass breaks are the highlight
here. Does it sound like idol worship to call them by their first names?
The chorus is like having a bald eagle serve you cotton candy at a
town fair. The guitar solo is ambitious with the break down then
staggeringly elementary with the comeback. A good lead-off single
though. They almost had us all fooled.
5. Life is Simple in the Moonlight
Here’s where things start to get dicey. It’s all downhill from here. But
I really like this song. It strikes a chord deep in my heart. It would
probably make me cry on the airplane (I cry a lot on airplanes).
When I sing along with it, I furrow my brow and look off into the
distance like Barack Obama thinking about Guantanamo Bay or which
cigarettes to buy because they’re out of his flavor at the White House
Store. The hook in this one is great—it’s that mid-chorus lift—that
special chord you didn’t expect to happen. Without it the song would
be DOA. Because I said so.
Alright. Now we’re getting to the mean parts. It’s like having to scold
your new puppy. What do you do? You can’t waterboard a puppy.
You also can’t waterboard a song. This one almost succeeds at the
whole new-wave resurrection thing the Strokes have been picking
at (like a scab) since the last record, and maybe a bit before. And yes,
this song sounds like it was recorded in a dark, cold room with a few
overweight dudes holding glow-sticks for mood lighting– but don’t let
that get you down—it’s really not that bad. The breakdown section is dreamy.
7. Two Kinds of Happiness
This is pretty much a mediocre Cars song. The Cars were (sorry, are)
great, but they already have so many mediocre songs. You don’t need
to help them, Los Strokes! The chorus turns into some Kings of Leon-
Black Eyed Peas-U2 at the super bowl thing. Don’t they understand?
We don’t want you in a stadium! We want you to magically appear in
our childhood garages and punch out the windows of mom’s Volvo.
I want your 3-D hologram images to perform at my son’s Robo-bar
8. Call Me Back
The Strokes’ track record with slow jams isn’t great. Their most
cringe-inducing song ever, ‘Ask Me Anything’ from the album which
will not be named is the song that made me go on anti-depressants.
Meanwhile ‘Under Control’ is still genuine masturbation material. ‘Call
Me Back’ is close to bad, and it if wasn’t for Julian’s cool vocal
arrangements at the end there would be little holding me back from
full-on Japanese suicide. But there’s something endearing about this
slow, drum-less thing. Maybe they needed more bongos. They
should have hung onto that monkey island vibe a little longer.
9. You’re So Right
We’re getting to the bitter end. The only reason why this one got a leg
up from the last spot is because Nick V’s guitar solo is kind of insane.
But there’s no excuse for that doubled over talk-singing thing that’s
going on here. I think Radiohead did it once. Ke$ha does things like
this. Ke$ha– you know, the one who is a nightmare slut? No? You
forgot about her? Good.
Did The Strokes learn nothing from ‘Heart in a Cage’? This kind of
go-nowhere faux-metal descent into hell is like having a plate of
undercooked scrambled eggs thrown into your lap. Go watch 2005’s
Cheaper by the Dozen 2. In it, Steve Martin’s character gets ungodly
amounts of scrambled eggs everywhere– all over himself, the kitchen,
even the ceiling fan. It’s the comedy pillar of the film. That’s what the
people who made that movie had to resort to for laughs—scrambled
eggs. But why do the Strokes have to resort to scrambled eggs?
They’re the best band in the world. Right?
Well that’s it. Those are all the songs—with ‘Metabolism’ coming in dead last. Should
The Strokes make another album? Yes. ASAP. Should they do interviews about how
much they hate each other’s guts? No. The Strokes are supposed to be the ultimate
cool dudes forever. Cool dudes means cool friend time—not teenage girl whiny
time. But if you’ve ever seen a band documentary (Some Kind of Monster, End of the
Century) you know that band members eventually just want to kill each other. Let’s
hope they can keep it together a little while longer—and rediscover that muse they
found somewhere on Ludlow street before the millennium. Maybe they should move
to Brooklyn. Just kidding. Now do yourself a favor and go listen to The Walkmen.