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THE RETURN OF THE GOLDEN CALF: THE STROKES “ANGLES”

Now the Strokes have returned with their new record, Angles, and, once again, has the musical work buzzing

In October 2001, Ryan Schrieber from Pitchfork captured the ascension of then rising rock band, The Strokes, quite well. Opening his review of Is This It, Schrieber writes:

“Ascending mediocre bands to heights of unwarranted popularity, and smacking the truly great down to “critics’ pet” status, hype has become a plague on any band hoping to achieve unbridled adoration among music elitists. When the media hounds smell success and respond with their annual cry of “saviors of rock and roll,” disappointment is inevitable.”

Unfortunately, in true Pitchfork fashion, Schrieber, begins with an excellent critical eye, but then passively succumbs to The Strokes hero-worshiping that was rife during the early 2000s. The review of Is This It concludes with Schrieber questioning “it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is about the Strokes that keeps me listening. All I know is that it’s not easy to come by, and I like it. A lot.”

Fvck that half-critical neutrality.

Unlike Ryan Schriber, I never liked the Strokes and I can tell you exactly why. Their music was sing-songy pop rock songs with a singer who couldn’t sing and their music sounded like pre-packaged “cool,” while lacking any real honesty. That’s it, really — the Strokes never seemed like an honest band — not in 2000 and definitely not in 2011.

To be completely forthright, I have only truly enjoyed two Strokes songs: “Is This It” from the band’s debut and “Repitilia” off their sophomore effort, Room on Fire. This being said, however, I’ve always admired the production work of Gordon Raphael, the Seattle producer who worked with the Strokes on their first two releases. However, Raphael is not King Midas and, at best, can only add his excellence to otherwise shit music.

Now the Strokes have returned with Angles, and, once again, has the musical work buzzing. For this reason, I decided to accept a promotional copy of Angles and really try to give this band one more chance. I thought it best to really give this record a serious listen, holding back all my preconceptions, as if it was some nameless band that weren’t once touted as “the greatest rock band since the Rolling Stones”.

I tried. I really did. I listened to Angles three times straight — on the home stereo, in headphones, and in the car system. I really wanted to like it. I forced myself to block out all my preconceptions and prejudices. I kept repeated quietly, “Casablancas was on Dark Night of the Soul, so there has to be some merit to his band.” I wanted the Strokes to prove me wrong and that Angles would reveal them as musical messiahs. After the third listen, I was left with the same question The Strokes asked ten years ago — “Is THIS it?”

As an album, Angles, sounds more like Billy Joel and Men At Work, than the Velvet Underground or early Stones. And that’s not a dig at Billy Joel or Men at Work. Listen to the track “Gratisfaction” and tell me with a straight face that it does NOT sound like Billy Joel.

The album opener, “Machu Picchu”, is a horrible way to start any record. It stumbles along with calypso syncopation and immediately left me thinking, “Christ, there are 9 more songs on this.” The second track, “Under the Cover of Darkness”, which I believe is the single, will surely please fans. It sounds just like everything on their first two records — dueling jangling guitars, a big hook, and sneering fuzzy vocals. “Two Kinds of Happiness” makes me wish that there was a third option to “Happiness.” It sounds to me like the Strokes are covering a Doves song, and doing so poorly.

“You’re So Right” has some cool programmed beats, and perhaps is The Strokes effort to be a bit more Thom Yorke? If so, it is definitely the Go-Bots to Radiohead’s Transformers. “Taken for a Fool” is nothing more than a reminder that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even John Frusciante, now makes shitty music. It’s the Strokes pouring salt in that already tender wound.

However, all is not lost. The track “Metabolism”, buried nine songs deep into the ten track record, is the best song on all of Angles. Now I like three Strokes songs.

For fans of the Strokes, Angles is going to hurt. For many, it will be like the final nail in the coffin of a failing relationship. You will refuse to accept the failure at first, but, if you honest with yourself, you will come to realize that in the past decade, you’ve outgrown these five guys from New York. Sure, some of you will still go and get Angles hoping that it will reignite something in you from way back then. But it won’t. You’ve moved on, and the Strokes have pretty much stayed the same — if not gotten worse. Angles is nothing more than a reminder that you can’t recreate your past, and those that try to do so, fail miserably. And for me, it’s a decade late affirmation that I was right about the Strokes all along. If for that reason only, I am appreciative of Angles.

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