By Eli Winter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. -- After someone returns from a hiatus of any length, many expect a petering out of sorts in the quality of their work.
For example, my father believes Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ has never been as good after Trudeau’s 20-month sabbatical in the 1980s.
Michael Jordan’s foray into the unfamiliar environment of minor league baseball humbled him more than anything during his exceptional professional career in the NBA.
Since bands’ styles can change after they take a break from making music (although Guided By Voices is an exception), one might expect The Strokes’ fourth album, Angles, to be depressing.
And it is.
Or at least the seventh song on the album, “Call Me Back,” is. The majority of the album’s songs seem happy – at least on the surface.
When listening to the album’s opener, “Machu Picchu,” one hears Julian Casablancas sing, “I’m putting your patience to the test.” Some may be inclined to agree with him. I’m not.
The Strokes’ first single from Angles, “Under Cover of Darkness,” is a fantastic, jangly piece that is reminiscent of their debut Is This It, albeit with a more polished sound.
Their second single, “Taken For A Fool,” is another catchy song. Apparently The Strokes’ world is a bit off-kilter as “Monday, Tuesday is my weekend.”
Singles obviously highlight the catchiest and most mainstream songs on Angles.
Listening to the whole album proves a rewarding experience. For one thing, it’s about half as long as their previous album, yet like all of The Strokes’ albums, Angles has a unique sound unique that nonetheless is still distinctly theirs.
While it may be a bit hard to pick such game-changers as “Two Kinds of Happiness” and “You’re So Right” out of a crowd, these songs grow on a determined listen. The drumbeats of Fabrizio Moretti in the former are fast and furious; meanwhile, Nikolai Fraiture received his first full song-writing credit with the latter as his bass guitar is heard more than any other song on the album.
When “Games,” the sixth song, is played, one may feel inclined to wonder just what kind of rehab Albert Hammond Jr. went through before the album’s release. The synths are here in their one obvious appearance, yet while this song is good after some listens, I still wouldn’t beg them out for a curtain call based solely on it.
That being said, “Call Me Back” is just depressing.
“Gratisfaction,” on the other hand, follows immediately after “Call Me Back”-- a work of genius as it makes the listener almost giddy after “Call Me Back” sends one into such a state of despair that body functions even slow down.
The next song, “Metabolism,” is angry. It sounds like it’s half the time attempting to bring intensity to the forefront and half the time attempting to remember how The Strokes wrote such an angry piece at all. It also displays, as far as I know, the highest note Casablancas has ever hit in a song.
The song that is my personal favorite, however, is “Life Is Simple In the Moonlight.” Its unusually eloquent title ushers in mellow verses as Casablancas “secretly stares at her thighs,” being a naughty, naughty boy.
Its chorus isn’t what I would call sing-a-long, but it is a memorable tune and a great one. The lyrics even make some sense to me on this one. Since The Strokes’ lyrics are usually vague (an exception being “Automatic Stop”), this is a huge fist-pumper for me.
For those skeptics of The Strokes who complain that the band always sounds the same, their sound has changed quite a bit this time around. Their experimentation with overlaying and overdubbing proves interesting, while not always an immediate success.
While Angles may not have been The Strokes’ most successful album, the band is primed and ready for a fifth album, hopefully its best yet. The world is waiting for their return.