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I just streamed the long anticipated 4th release by the critically acclaimed garage rock band, The Strokes. The album is called “Angles.” And I am perplexed. After what frontman, Julian Casablancas, called a “much needed hibernation period,” the group has finally released a new record. Only it isn’t what I was expecting at all.
The Strokes seem to be finished with their stripped down garage rock sound. Instead, Angles sounds like a rehashing of 80’s new wave synth-rock. The first song, “Machu Picchu” was a major signifier that something was amiss. When listening to it, I got the impression that the band spent a lot of time in the studio. I wasn’t completely wrong.
This album was a little overproduced to be sure, but that can be expected from a band of such prestige (especially after a long hiatus) right? I mean if these guys hadn’t been around, we wouldn’t have bands like The White Stripes and The Vines. I would dare to say they were garage rock heroes. No, shocking part was that Casablancas recorded his vocals in a completely separate studio. There is absolutely no passion. You can hear Casablancas’ lyrics hovering over the melody as if he were singing karaoke. The music is populated mainly with cheesy synthesizer sequences and distant power chords. They just aren’t getting their point across. Although it has occurred to me that the band wanted to try something new, it just doesn’t add up. There is no foundation. It seems as though they are trying to escape their own legacy with every track. It sounds forced and insincere.
The clearest split from their garage rock roots is the song “Taken For a Fool” (sort of how I felt when my anticipation for this record slowly turned to despair). Well despair might not be the right word. It’s a catchy tune. If I heard it from practically anyone else, I would have taken it at face value. The problem with the Strokes is that they got too good too early in their career (at least I think that’s how they probably perceived it). To them, there was nothing to do but branch out. After conquering the Lower East Side and the entire world, they felt they “needed” to reinvent themselves. But instead of reinvention, they learned a valuable lesson in the theory of cognitive dissonance. Even so, I will be purchasing a copy of this album nonetheless. Why? Because it’s The Strokes.