If ever a band has less need of an introduction, it is The Strokes. It’s understandable, considering that with the release of Is This It in 2001, the five New Yorkers had come from nowhere to create the album of the decade, saving the world from nu metal and providing an eagerly imitated template for 21st century rock music.
The forward looking follow up Room on Fire was almost as good – but due to the laws of the space time continuum and the fundamental idea of physics that time is irreversible change, it wasn’t Is This It and suffered as a result. By the time 2005’s First Impressions of Earth came around, it was clear for all to see that The Strokes were a band in conflict. The following five year hiatus surprised to no one.
So. Was it enough? It seemed the entire world was willing to pore over every nugget of information to come from The Strokes camp to work out the answer in advance. Rumours of hostility and resentment between the band, and the news that former Strokes dictator and coolest frontman alive Julian Casablancas was missing from the new recording sessions, caused many a fan sleepless nights, probably.
When ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ was unveiled, the single which formally introduced The Strokes 2.0 that you should already have heard, things looked good again. It’s a brilliant return to form, an effortlessly cool instant hit, all stop-start entwining riffs and crooning Casablancas vocals.
Follow that up with a glimpse of the perspective mind-fuck album sleeve, snippets of live performances on American TV, interviews with the band claiming they are stronger than ever, and the online stream of twitchy experimental Kid-A tribute album track ‘You’re So Right’ and all that’s left is Angles itself.
Opening statement ‘Machu Picchu’, half a Room On Fire era single, half funk/reggae oddball, is a twisting and turning listen. Give it 4 minutes to listen to ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ one more joyous time, and ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ brings more of the unexpected. Its mash up of 80’s drive time radio and futuristic space-arena rock works, and like the guitar-less, bassline driven r’n’b of ‘Games’ and neon meets Exile era Rolling Stones ‘Gratisfaction’, it hints that there is a future for a band who looked worryingly on the verge of being irrelevant just weeks ago.
It’s not all good news though. The going-nowhere ‘Call Me Back’, and the heard-it-all-before affect of ‘Heart In A Cage’ remake ‘Metabolism’ and unceremonious closer ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ hammer home the point that this is by no means a masterpiece. There is nothing here which is truly essential listening.
But there’s more to take from this. As their first effort with all five holding the songwriting reins you can forgive Angles for being disjointed and instead admire the spirit of creativity coming from a band who recycled spare parts from Iggy Pop and Blondie to make the sound of the noughties.
Most importantly though, these are just good songs. Maybe it’s time for the world to accept, just as Casablancas and co have done themselves, that it’s time for this band to move on. Welcome to the Second Age of The Strokes. Give it another album or two, and it’ll probably be Golden.