Music's former World Players Of The Year return with an album that's at times Messi, but also... well, messy.
Review written by The Sound Of Confusion's Scottish Correspondent
Just short of a decade has now passed since The Strokes stared out from that New York Street Corner and reawakened a music scene that had been nodding off to the gentle strum of the New Acoustic Movement. Fast forward to the present day and they return to the fold after a 5 year hiatus to once again find acoustic guitars and bland lyricism in vogue, so the question is can they repeat the same trick again?
The answer is probably not, it's hard enough to create one generation defining album but to then make a second is a feat very few will ever pull off. Instead what they’ve come up with is a record that, while at times displaying flashes of their previous brilliance, is ultimately, on first inspection, a little bit confusing.
Things start off very well. Opening track ‘Machu Picchu’ is fresh and funky, echoing old favourite ‘Automatic Stop’ while lead single ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ follows next with the classic Strokes mix of short punchy guitars riffs, tight drums and a rousing hearts on their sleeves chorus. Third up comes ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ and it’s potentially the album's stand out moment, bristling with energy and a verse that seems to take a leaf out of ‘the pocket book of 80’s Bruce Springsteen’.
From that point on however, the album begins to lose direction a little. It’s not that what follows is bad, in fact some of the choruses are just what we’ve come to know and love from The Strokes; it’s just that perhaps it could have benefitted from a bit more quality control. The period since last LP ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ has seen all 5 group members indulge in solo work and this divergence of ideas comes through on the remainder of ‘Angles’ leaving the feeling that perhaps too many cooks have had their input into the broth. The net result is a group of songs that don’t appear to sit together as a coherent body of work.
With that being said this is a record worth persevering with (and they’ve earned that right from you haven’t they?) because there’s a lingering suspicion that repeated listens will lead to all the jigsaw pieces slipping into place to reveal a really enjoyable collection of tunes. Certainly the laid back air of ‘Taken for a fool’ and the Thin Lizzy inspired swagger of ‘Gratisfaction’ give the impression of being songs that will creep back into your mind when you’re daydreaming at your work, while album closer ‘Life Is Simple In The Moonlight’ has a sing-along hook that will definitely benefit from familiarity. It’s also worth remembering that even a mixed Strokes record will more often than not be superior to anything put out by the many subsequent groups who have tried to follow in their footprints.
So the initial feeling - I’m not sure it’s a classic or an immediate return to the top table BUT if you want my advice give this album a try and if (as it has for me) it puzzles you at times, stick with it because I suspect in a few weeks we may just all adore it.
Stream the full album on The Strokes website
Free dowload of Under Cover Of Darkness
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