The Strokes haven’t put out a new album in five years, but for a lot of people the band has been gone even longer. Though their debut album Is This It is an undisputed modern classic, their second and third releases (2003’s Room on Fire and 2006’s First Impressions of Earth) received mixed receptions and are generally disregarded by most rock fans. But the band’s new album Angles is being received with a great deal more enthusiasm — rightfully so, considering it is simultaneously a throwback to their early sound and an amalgamation of the various solo projects that have taken up the individual members’ time during the band’s hiatus.
A lot of critics are already talking about Angles as one of the year’s best releases. In a four-star review, Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke called Angles “the best album [the band] has made since 2001’s Is This It, the cannonball that inaugurated the modern-garage era.” Fricke added, “They tighten the striving that was spread thin across First Impressions with proven martial jangle: Fraiture and Moretti’s stoic grip on the beat; robotic-Yardbirds crossfires of crispy-fuzz and brittle-treble guitars.”
Spin‘s Mikael Wood also felt that Angles is a near-perfect construction. “Like the group’s instant-classic early singles, swinging new tunes such as ‘Gratisfaction’ (hey, it beats ‘Electricityscape’) and ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ tap into a giddy insouciance that feels distinctly Strokes-y,” Wood wrote. “You can blame the Strokes for a lot of stuff, including but certainly not limited to Jet, Levi’s new Ex-Girlfriend Jean, and the ongoing lame-ification of Manhattan’s East Village and Lower East Side. What you can’t do, though, is accuse them of lacking a strong sense of self.”
Many critics, like Mike Diver of BBC Music, seem almost surprised how good Angles is, especially considering the issues the group had in putting the album together (they aborted a collaboration with producer Joe Chicarelli in favor of doing most of the album themselves). “Angles isn’t just the equal of the band’s lightning-in-a-bottle debut of 2001, Is This It, it might be better,” Diver wrote. “There are several moments here where the five-piece exhibit an infectious immediacy that’s presented in parallel with some genuine ingenuity, and the effect on the listener is to stop what they’re doing, focus fully on what’s unfolding, and then rewind to hear it over again.”
Not everybody is so on board, however. Amanda Petrusich of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B- grade, though did give the quintet points for trying. “Part of the Strokes’ allure is their perceived disaffection; they’re infinitely cooler than us, and — cue bored eye roll — deeply ambivalent about it. But Angles reveals a newfound earnestness: For the first time, it actually feels like the guys are trying.”
Alexis Petridis of The Guardian was even more skeptical of the album. “The real problem with Angles is that you can tell things are amiss from the music alone,” he wrote. “Sometimes, the Strokes suggest they can just about work out how they used to do it. ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ is a little bit ‘Someday,’ a little bit ‘Last Nite’ and a little bit disappointing — it’s the best thing here, and would only just have passed muster as a lesser track on their debut.”
But most of the opinions (both from fans and critics) seem to be on the upside. “Angles is, like the group’s 2001 debut Is This It, a punchy shakedown of an album that sells you on its hooks and grows more complex as you dive in,” wrote Kevin Davis for Alternative Press. “Furthermore, 10 years and four albums into their career, the Strokes still manage to sound fresh, youthful and likable — less likely to save rock n’ roll from the scourges of its enemies, perhaps, but still very much deserving of a few funky moves.”
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