The Strokes' "Angles": track by track
The Strokes return with ten tracks of baroque new-wave and an array of keyboards. In other words, what nobody was expecting.
Fri Feb 18 2011
Dare I say it? Could this be the Strokes’ chillwave track? Nah, they’re far too bold for that. But you’ll find far more vintage keyboards than guitars here. A stark bass bops along to slim drum snaps, bringing to mind something off Factory Records. "Living in an empty world," Casablancas sighs over and over. It breaks into a trot as washes of synthesizer float in. A climatic keyboard solo and guitar solo recreate the delicious, melancholy cheese of Daft Punk’s Discovery. A standout, as it sound utterly new for the band.
“Call Me Back”
Fab takes a break. Someone plucks open chords on an electric guitar, bringing to mind old Radiohead, like some mellow, lost little number on the My Iron Lung EP. "I don't know why I came down / I hold your phone / Don't wake up," Casablancas croons. That reminds me a bit of Radiohead, too. Little pings of vibraphone lighten up the minor-chord moodiness. The ambient hiss of a cassette tape can be heard once the gentle keyboards fall away. This breather works much in the same way as “The Jitters” on the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I.
Okay, now here is the the Thin Lizzy influence. There’s a hint of that in “Under Cover,” but these finger-snapping verses are a dead ringer for “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Casablancas teased a year ago that the new material would imagine what Thin Lizzy would have sounded like, had they gotten into ’80s production, or merged with a-ha. This laid-back, happy groove must be what he was talking about. In the chorus—one of the most immediate on the album—a small choir of three Julians announces, "You’re never gonna get my love!" More interlocking guitar soloing slashes and dashes. Faint clapping can be heard in the background at the close. It’s easy to imagine the same reaction from fans after this upbeat number, another certain candidate for a single.
Again, I'm hearing the manic scramble of "River of Brakelights," in the neat stuttering drums, sinister minor chords and ominous synths. "I wanna be somebody / Wanna be somebody like you / Like you," Casablancas sings. Strangely, I kept flashing back to the numbers from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.
"Life Is Simple in the Moonlight"
The album closes flying over a city at night. Again, I hear a lot of Air and Daft Punk in crystaline guitar. "I wanted to pretend I was better," Julian gently sings high in his register. "I wanted to tell you I was jealous." There a jump from a mood of pretty doledrums to that of triumph. Casablancas mirrors this in the record's best line: "There is no one I disapprove of or root for more than myself." As the curtain drops, he's boasting, "Don't try to stop us / Get out of the way."
What a disorienting sucker-punch after the red herring of "Under Cover of Darkness. Yet, after repeated nocturnal listens, these odd new forms become outlined into a sharp, fresh record. When it sinks in, Angles leaves you starving for what the band can do next. And that's a far better place to be than a wormhole back to 2001.
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