When The Strokes released their first album, Is This It?, I was living in Hawai’i and dealing with being surrounded by ukuleles and stripper music (aka modern R&B and hip-hop) and was going through rock withdrawls. There were virtually no concerts in any music genre I enjoyed and fewer resources to hear anything new and/or good. So when Is This It? arrived it was like a musical savior had descended from the heavens to reinvigorate rock… and in it’s wake a whole new breed of NY art clique music fluttered into the airwaves and breathed new life into an old genre.
I was fortunate however that they did travel to the islands and played a show in a tiny club (and even more wonderfully David Byrne played the same club the night after The Strokes) which was quite the treat. Earlier in the day Mrs. Blahg and I were shopping in the only organic health food store on Oahu and saw the guitarist Nick Valensi and what we assumed was his girlfriend shopping amongst the produce… and seeing dirty New York hipsters in this particular store on that particular island was quite frankly hilarious. Like two big filthy sore thumbs… I was tempted to say something (favorable of course… not that they looked gross and could I offer them a shower) but opted to let them shop in peace.
What I’m getting at is that I loved their first album. Second album, Room On Fire, not so much… and 2005’s First Impressions of Earthleft me cold… completely. I had accepted that this band was nothing more than an awesome debut. In the meantime… Albert Hammond Jr., the other more hygienic guitarist, has been busy making super awesome music and I was quite pleased with that.
Jump ahead to last week… and they have released their fourth album, Angles. Immediately I was taken by how much more loose and free this album sounded. Even the album cover is in stark contrast to their previous three… the last one in particular was almost completely in black… this one is bright eighties neon in silly eighties graphics… guess which decade they borrow heavily from?
The first track is just fantastic… Machu Picchu. A decidedly eighties feel to it… more electronics and a probable drum machine found throughout the album. It feels fun. The second track Under Cover of Darkness is also the first single (and viewable below) and infinitely listenable… if not at times a near rip off of their own riff from Last Night.
From there, the album moves along at a great clip… verging on being quite “rad” as the album cover would suggest. Most certainly a Strokes album, yet different in a familiar sort of way. The sixth track Games gave me a sense of listening to Squeeze back in the day and Metabolismhas the multi time signature feel of some prog rock experiment… perhaps a smidgen of King Crimson in a slow groove. The tenth and final track Life Is Simple In the Moonlight is sparse and somewhat spacey… a nice close to a more than adequate return to form.
By far, Anglesis as close to their debut that they’ve managed to get. Not in the sound necessarily but in the execution. They experimented with various sounds over the years and always managed to sound completely the same yet totally uninspired. This time seems to have a bit of inspiration to it… perhaps borrowed from the decade of their childhoods, but inspired nonetheless. If you have given up on The Strokes as I had… you owe it to yourself to give them a second (or maybe third or fourth) chance to redeem themselves. This time it’s worth it.
This may be it,
Cornelius J. Blahg