07 May 2011

the strokes - angles


1. machu picchu

c: the strokes are finally back, sigh... "machu picchu," the lost mountain city of the incas & indeed the strokes are looking for a lost mountain they can climb... i am telling you that they have found it. the leadoff track to "angles" exceeds all expectations that i had going into this long-awaited LP. "angles" has all the classic strokes songwriting moves, yet there is something different going on...

inter-weaving guitar work & a tune not based on bar-chords, check. cool
lyrics, not at once apparent in meaning, yet adequately intelligent & they grow on you over time, check. a steady, danceable beat, check.... but, what hits you upside the head immediately is a definite 80's "sound" to go along with it. this song (and many on this LP) would fit in quite nicely with any great movie of that time period, though they somehow have kept from sounding dated. the production, not just the song, is pristine. well worth the goddamn wait.

j: First, the cover: it reminds me of that stand-up arcade game Marble
Madness which came out in 1985 or 1986. And then on the inside you have the band photos, sort of a Missing Persons style using the Screaming for Vengeance colors scheme. In fact after I first saw the band photos, I scoured the band photos of every LP I own from about 1978-1987, because I was sure it was a direct homage to some album. I thought maybe Van Halen, but couldn’t find a match. Particularly, the colored bar across the b&w photo with the name printed on the bar. I have seen that somewhere before!

The record opens with Machu Picchu, kind of a Caribbean-flavored Strokes tune. It’s no Is This It? but it’s a strong opener. There are a lot of keyboards on this album, and here’s an example where they really work and complement the typically Strokes-y guitar parts we hear during the chorus.

2. under cover of darkness

c: this is the lone song on the LP that harkens back to their previous
efforts & could have easily fit on "is this it." it is certainly not a bad thing & it makes perfect sense that it is the first single off the LP to help rein back in all the old fans, but if yer expecting a whole album of similar ditties you will be disappointed. i, for one, am glad they moved on from this tack. casablancas admits as much within the tune itself, "everybody's been singing the same song for ten years." having said this, it is really fucking hard to get this song out of yer head once it is in it. been 30 or so days now and counting... i imagine it will still be up there on repeat in ten years.

j: The second song is the single, Under Cover of Darkness. I’m thinking the choice of this song for the single was to let longtime Strokes fans feel secure that their band hadn’t strayed too far away stylistically. It could fit in on any Strokes album, with its Verlaine-y guitars, shuffle beat, and Julian Casablancas’ early morning hotel hallway singing.

3. two kinds of happiness

c: right off the bat, this could be the best song on the LP, but there is another i also have in mind... again, the strokes launch into the 80's sound like a rocket for pretty much the remainder of the LP, & for some reason it is so timely right now & it works. if this song was released in 1982 or '83, it would have easily challenged duran duran and won, mainly due to the lyrical content (what's he saying in the chorus? "don't work so hard" or "don't waste yer heart?" doesn't matter, they both work) and the machine-gun like guitar parts... duran duran never really had that stuff, as much as i love their music. this song makes me yearn for an all night dance party. i cannot understand why this song is not number one on the pop charts right now. well, actually, i can... as to why, i better just keep my mouth shut...

j: Two Kinds of Happiness is one of my early favorites from the album.
Almost comes off as an eighties Tom Petty song to me. Sounds like the Cars, too, with some very deliberate Ocasek-like singing from Casablancas. Like a lot of songs on the record the drums seem produced to sound electronic. I will say that the eighties drum sound does get quite an underserved reputation as being terrible. The rolling backing vocal is my favorite part of the song by far.

4. you're so right

c: most people will probably find this song the deep "left field" track of the LP & that is ok, because it probably is. but after many listens, if you have the patience, it will grow on ya'. it also shows that the strokes are not afraid to take a chance. something i have always admired about their efforts to date. also, any song with a clarinet in it, gets my vote. it has a german-like quality to it, so to speak. the damn thing is tight & mechanical, and it rides like a porsche. it is perfect for my 35 minute morning commute, that has now been trimmed down to 25 minutes, thanks to this lil' blast of a tune. "i'm done with the office, hello forest."

j: You’re So Right is also the b-side to the Under Cover of Darkness single. It’s the first song that I have some reservations about. I think there’s a few points in the record that it felt like the band was sticking parts together ad-hoc in the studio, and this is one of them. The keyboard parts in particular. The song is short, as well, and I never seem to get comfortable with it before it ends.

5. taken for a fool

c: so far the strokes have followed every rule to a great album. someday, I will flesh these rules out properly in another entry, but to note, they ended the first side of "angles" with a flourish. yes, this is a record! this is a proper LP! not something to be downloaded & listened to randomly or in bits & pieces!!! there is a sequence & a purpose as to why the strokes put these songs in a certain order & why there are two sides to this production, dig? anyhoo, this should be the second single, no doubt. it is pop at it's best. three minutes of bliss & leaves you wanting to lift the needle and place it back down on the fifth groove over & over again... i hope it released on a 7", damnit.

j: Taken for a Fool is another formulaic hit from the Strokes laboratory. It just sounds like a bunch of other Strokes tunes, but not quite, and it really doesn't matter. It's a good song with familiar subject matter bordering on cliché that they manage to make sound like they were first ones to sing about this stuff. Seriously, isn't there another Strokes song with the line "That's not the problem" sung in exactly the same way? I guess not. Nick Valensi has to get a lot of credit for the tasteful little riffs that he sprinkles in the chorus alongside Casablanca's singing (assuming that's him and not Hammond). The singing and those little riffs always seem to be exactly on the same page with each other in terms of the changing tone of the songs. It's some kind of like musical connection, man.


1. games

c: nice follow-up to "taken for a fool" & keeps the dance party going. great kick-off song to the second side... i can get technical & say their use of the e-bow is choice & the synths are angelic, et cetera. but yer better off turning the lights down, turn on the mirror ball, grab some one close to you & dance... if no one is close by, dance with yerself...

j: The second side starts out with Games. While my counterpart is
encouraging the reader to masturbate to this song, I will ask the question "Did they get Howard Jones to sit in on keyboard?" There’s not a whole lot of singing, and there’s lots of synth-proggy meandering, which goes back to what I was saying about parts feeling 'stuck  together' sometimes. The song is too pleasant to hate, but I guess I'm just not a huge fan.

2. call me back

c: this is the one song that almost doesn't fit on this LP, but it's brevity saves it... there really is nothing wrong with the tune, it is a perfect slow dance, or a trip to the fridge for a beer & a quick leak, or just for staring out the window on a rainy day, watching the drops of water roll down the window glass, depending on yer situation... it also sets up the remainder of the LP wonderfully.

i do have to add that i have been thinking for years about the fact that casablancas reminds me of morrison at his best, his vocal range, his phrasing, etc... but this fact is usually hidden from the distorted, microphone in the mouth, production of his vocals, which i like... his lyrics go for the ride as well.

j: I might have preferred Call Me Back to begin the second side. As slow Strokes songs go it's perfectly fine and may be one of their best. It takes an odd turn about fifteen before it ends. I must admit that I feel a little lost with this album during this song and Games. I would agree about staring out the window on a rainy day.

3. gratisfaction

c: from this point on, "angles" just simply fucking rocks & it is the strongest sprint to the finish line of an LP that i have heard in years... yes, "gratisfaction" has been pegged as a thin lizzy rip by everyone & I ask, "what the fuck is wrong with that?!?!" i cannot think of one band that has been able to reach the magic thin lizzy had at their peak. do you realize how hard that is to do & still keep it original? (which they do, by the way)... the strokes are the only ones i can think of that had the balls to do it & made it work. this should be the third hit single & it probably should have been the first.

j: Yeah, Thin Lizzy. But there's nothing wrong with that. I also have to give credit for the Strokes for never giving in to the temptation to 'modern rock' their songs up in the studio to sell more records. Because they definitely could sound more like the Foo Fighters if they wanted to, especially a song like this (fwiw, I love the Foo Fighters). There's always some self-restraint, never the big reverb-y guitar attack. My one complaint about this song (not really a complaint) is that it sounds a bit like a demo in terms of the performance, like the band hasn't played it a million times yet. Not their fault, of course.

4. metabolism

c: an edgy rocker that belongs on the friggin' anemic radio, this fact is no different for most of material on the LP so far. i haven't mentioned what amazing guitarists valensi & hammond have become over the years... i am going to now, goddamnit. this song just exemplifies the heights these two can reach if they keep at it. i honestly have not come across two guitarists that work so well together, since peter koppes & marty willson-piper melded minds 30 years ago... i suppose you can drag in thurston moore & lee renaldo, but they do tend to rely on old tricks too much... back to song though. forget the fact that valensi & hammond work well together, the whole band does. fraiture & moretti throughout the LP prove just how important a tight rhythm section is. they steer this song like an u.f.o. in the aether...

j: The guitars sound great on this one, almost like Judas Priest at times. The song is quite operatic, as well, and yet it never really sounds like metal. The buried vocals are a little annoying to me on this song because Casablancas is just stretching the lyrics over the music and I have no idea what he is saying.

5. life is simple in the moonlight

c: what can i say? i am pretty speechless.... my favorite track on the LP is the last, as it should be. it is a perfect, dreamy pop tune that makes me want to lie down in my backyard at night and watch the stars slowly pass by, repeating this song over & over... "i didn't want to tell you i was jealous, jealous, jealous, what's the point?" this song would fit perfectly at the end of the movie "repo man" & that is the biggest compliment i can bestow upon a tune, for those who know me...

no, i am not being paid by the strokes or rca...

j: The riff reminds me a bit of Every Breath You Take. Man, did they hit the 80s touchstones on this record--Police, Cars, TP, Duran Duran, Missing Persons, etc. I like this song a lot and it's probably in my top three from the album. The Strokes are best when the songs are about nighttime and parties and girls. All these situations which have so much drama, desperation, complexity and nuance amidst the chaos. They're almost like the antithesis of a band like Motley Crue in that regard, who reduce the same subject matter to songs like "Girls, Girls, Girls!" or "Doctor Feelgood." Fuck them.


  1. Well, you've made me want to listen to the album. Always been on the fence about these guys, but I'm buying your conviction. And I'll be buying this "album."

  2. I posted a comment earlier (which was inadvertently erased [though not by me!]). I will repeat what I said: this review makes me want to pick up the record, which is what a "good" review should do! Keep up the good work, guys!