What happens when you tell all of SXSW in Austin that The Strokes are playing a free show? Well 30,000 people show up and riot and break down the gates when you don’t let them in. It was a peaceful riot where no one seemed to get hurt. Hell, they just wanted to see The Strokes. When did this happen? Strokes riots? Selling out Madison Square Garden’s 20,000 seats? Congratulations fellas, you are bigger than The Beatles. We are loving it.
It took five years for five guys to get back to making record with each other. Today The Strokes release the long awaited Angles (BMG) and celebration is in order. It’s funny to hear how much The Strokes have evolved since their early records. They sound so different but appear to be the same all at once. Somehow a band that seems as distant as ever with each other has made their most cohesive record to date. Every Stroke brings a little bit of himself onto Angles and it works well. Really well.
Starting off with the infectious “Machu Picchu,” which has a taste of 80’s vibe in it, kicks off the record with a bang. It starts a little mellow in the beginning and then when you least expect it, Julian Casablancas’ voice punches you in the face along with the driving guitars. The hook in this song is brilliant. We’re in love already. The first single “Under Cover of Darkness,” gets better with every listen as Casablancas’ vocals howl throughout the song. The rest of the band goes along with it as all of the elements come together without flaw. One amazing thing about this record is that it delivers song after song with catchy hooks and melodic vocals. It stands out from the very beginning.
To continue with the 80’s feeling, “Two Kinds of Happiness,” is Cars-esque without a doubt. The Strokes never become copycats though and remain true to themselves in every inch of the record. “You’re So Right,” and “Taken For A Fool,” bring a tad bit of retro punk element into Angles (BMG) but at the same time, carry a bit of old school Strokes into the mix. That’s the great thing about the band. You never know where a song is going to go. That’s a good thing. “Games,” will make you want to get up and start dancing around the room. Albert Hammond Jr.’s and Nick Valensi’s guitars intertwine throughout this song in particular, with a hint of synths behind them filling the space in between. This is something a little different for The Strokes.
“Call Me Back,” slows down the record a bit with Casablancas and a slow picked guitar for the most part. This track is haunting and brings a nice low key tone to the album, something The Strokes have tried on First Impressions of Earth (BMG) with “Ask Me Anything.”
“Gratisfaction,” is dead on Is This It, (BMG) which sounds like it could have been a leftover track. We know it’s not, but it may fool you. With a hint of retro and a tad of T-Rex sound, this song will surely win over your heart fast. The rhythm section of Fab Moretti and Nikokai Fraiture blend nicely together keeping the back bone of the song under Valensi’s blissful guitar riffs. “Metabolism,” is the darkest song on the record that picks up in intensity. It reminds us a bit of an old video game, which is a compliment. The guitar solos swallow the song whole, as the album heads towards the end. Closing the album is “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” which is a perfect final track. Casablancas knows how to not only write a vocal melody but sing it to perfection. Be prepared to have this song on repeat.
It took us five years to get Angles, (BMG), and it was worth every minute of the wait. Can we say “Album of the Year”?
I paid a ridiculous amount for Strokes tickets recently. I could have paid rent. Remember when you could see The Strokes for twenty bucks at the Hammerstein Ballroom? Better yet, for ten at Arlene’s Grocery? Yea I miss that. My wallet does at least. Well they are still our little secret. Kind of. It seems the unexpected five year hiatus of the coolest band on earth turned them into mega superstars. So many bands have broken out since the last time the boys made a record, that wouldn’t have had a chance in hell. Without them there would be no Vampire Weekend, an MGMT, or even a White Stripes. I would be writing about Limp Bizkit right now and that terrifies me. Everything seemed to be alright after First Impressions of Earth (BMG), but things were about to fall apart and crumble fast. Solo albums and side projects mostly became obligations instead of wants. Singer Julian Casablancas seems to distance himself from the band, a little too much for anyones liking and he didn’t even record much of the new record, Angles (BMG), with the rest of the band.
I can only imagine the tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife (Chop!).
Casablancas has always been known for being a bit of a musical loaner in terms of songwriting, but this time rest of the band had a helping hand in it. Though there is something special about the new record that somehow makes the band more cohesive than ever. It feels like a product of The Strokes as a whole. Not to say the other records didn’t, but there is a big part of every member in it
I remember the first time I saw The Strokes. I say “saw” because I liked them before I even heard them. Flipping through my free subscription of Rolling Stone in 2001, I came across a new artist blurb about five bright-eyed fellows about to release their debut album Is This It. Well, wait, no rapping? No bubble coats? These guys looked cool and I had to find out more. I did. Coming home from class, a day before their debut dropped, I turned on MTV which I rarely do. They had a token late morning show that played an hour’s worth of videos. “Last Nite,” came blaring from the next room. My ears exploded and I was instantly captured as I rushed in. The next day I went to Record Town (r.i.p.) and that was it. Is this it? Yes, yes it was.
To say a lot of people had an unhealthy obsession with The Strokes from the beginning is true. We brought the $10 NMEs, the vinyl singles, the akward fan club membership which entitled us to silk screened Strokes shoelaces. They were and still are the band that saved modern rock and roll. But sadly, right now, we’re not sure if they can save themselves from each other. The Strokes seem to get bigger with every album. This could be a part of the problem. The pressure. Well, maybe a small part of it. I’m not sure if The Strokes have realized that they can make a whole record of them rapping over a flute and we’d still love it. So Julian, Albert, Fab, Nick and Niko…what’s the problem? I think at this point we’re more nervous that anything. The pressure comes from within the band and there is nothing we can do about it. Could April 1st be the last time the boys ever play New York City? It is a scary thought, but we don’t think it is over just yet. Each interview becomes slightly more optimistic. Will the shows bring them closer together? We think so. Should we be freaked out that only a few shows are even listed? Maybe. We just don’t want to wake up and hear that it’s over. The end has no end, right?
The Strokes have already dropped hints at record number five which is a glimpse of hope for the future. If Angles (BMG) is a taste of what is to come, we are already along for the ride. The kicker is, we never got out of the car in the first place.
The Strokes will always be those five guys we all fell in love with. A band that inspired a whole new generation of rock and roll. The converse sneakers and white belts. The 2 minute songs and scratchy vocals.
We just want to say “Thank You.” Don’t let us down. You never do.