I had a disagreement with some fellow music critics once about the impact The Strokes had on the indie music world. It was largely over my claim that their arrival changed everything. It's easy to see why my peers scoffed at such a suggestion. Over the last few years, The New York quintet have hardly set the world alight with patchy second and third albums, slurred live shows and uninspiring side-projects, but I stand by my claim. At the turn of the Millennium, The Strokes really mattered. Like, really mattered. Back then, Limp Bizkit were considered the height of talent. They were bleak times. Then The Strokes arrived on the indie scene like a slap in the face. A brilliant, jangley-guitared slap in the face. Is This It remains the best record so far this Century and if you don't agree with me then you are wrong. Not only was it 30 insanely amazing minutes of the punchiest garage rock songs since godknowswhen, but it also allowed the likes of The Libertines and The White Stripes to follow in the band's slipstream and into the consciousness of the indie fraternity.
Since then though, it's been a mixed bag. The second record offered a couple of outstanding singles that only served to illustrate just how disappointing the rest of the album was and the next record was similar in that it had a few brilliant songs but was still a long way short of recapturing the magic of their debut.
Now, after a lengthy break to allow for side-projects and wotnot, comes Angles. Was it worth the wait? Unfortunately the answer to that question is emphatically in the negative. To be honest, after five years, unless they had come up with the next Pet Sounds, it was always going to be a let down.
Angles is an album that tries to paper over the cracks of a band that clearly aren't into it anymore by being fun, upbeat and at times experimental. However, every sound that emerges from the speakers does so dripping in insincerity. It's not a bad record - in fact, it's an above average one - but there is nothing believable about it. On first listen it's very clear that these songs were not created because Messrs Casablancas and Co simply couldn't bear for the world not to hear them. Sure, there is plenty of energy and a few stirring moments, but it's all merely a smokescreen to disguise the fact that Angles is clearly weighed down by a miserable sense of obligation. If Is This It was the sound of The Strokes changing everything, then Angles is them as a tired old wedding covers band - offering enough to allow for moderate enjoyment, but the kind of enjoyment that no-one will remember too much about when the party's over. At its best, it wanders somewhere vaguely near the landscape of their first recordings. Under Cover of Darkness, for instance, is strong because it has its roots in that classic Strokes sound. The more experimental efforts don't come across so well though. Machu Picchu is an example of this, opening the album on some kind of ill-advised reggae tip.
Simply, once I put the last full-stop at the end of this review, I doubt I'll revisit this record often. If I want to listen to The Strokes, I'll give their debut a spin. Even all these years since its release, it still sounds fresher than their new offering. Sadly, if Angles does anything, it suggests that it is time for this once important, vibrant and exciting band to finally reach their own full-stop.
Review by Bobby Townsend