Review: The Strokes - Angles

The StrokesAngles Rough Trade

Four years ago The Strokes announced they would take an extended break from touring and recording.

At the time, the New York band had just finished touring in support of their third album, First Impressions of Earth.

Unlike The Strokes previous releases, the album had been a slow burner and failed to garner consistent praise and international chart success.

After spending two years on the album, it appeared the task had placed a strain on the band's creativity and in 2007 The Strokes went on an "extended hiatus".

The band's hiatus announcement brought with it wild speculation they were soon to split. However as no confirmation was ever given, The Strokes dream stayed alive.

In the years prior to recording their latest album, Angles, The Strokes have experienced much change.

Amid rumours of drug problems over broken relationships and members working on solo projects, The Strokes have taken five years to deliver their new album.

In March 2009, two years after announcing their break, The Strokes released a statement that work had begun on a new album.

While the album was initially due to be released in 2009, reports of uncertainty over the album's readiness delayed the delivery for another two years. Angles was finally released world-wide on 22 March.

It has been reported that one possible reason for the delay was the band's unhappiness with the production style of producer Joe Chicarelli (My Morning Jacket, Augie March, The Shins). It is understood that Chicarelli only produced four tracks for the band, though only one 'Life Is Simple In The Moonlight' made it on the final cut.

After parting ways with Chicarelli, The Strokes sought refuge in band member Albert Hammond Jr's home studio.

What is immediately apparent about Angles is the change in direction for the band.

The Stroke's bread and butter has always been straight forward drum, guitars and vocals. The band has become famous for their clear cut guitar riffs, matched with percussion and Julian Casablancas's distinct vocals. So to read that The Strokes took inspiration for Angles from the likes of MGMT, and Crystal Castles, I was both intrigued and a tad worried.

'Machu Picchu' starts off with the unfamiliar sound of a kind of electronic siren. It's sound is elongated for a few seconds before guitar chords enter abruptly. The single initially sparks a wave of concern. It's all a little bit too out of control, but then Casablancas's vocals provide the calm. Despite the rocky beginning, the track is a nice surprise.

'Under Cover of Darkness' is cheery and upbeat. It instantly impresses with the back to basics Strokes feel.

The band has been quoted as saying they took risks and experimented on the album, and 'Two Kinds of Happiness' is certainly an example of those experiments. This is such an interest track for the band. The Strokes are almost unrecognisable on this track with its 80s pop beats, double guitars and borderline power ballad vocals.

The Crystal Castles influence can be heard on 'You're So Right' with the looping of electronic beats and echoing vocals. This is yet another track that offered more than a little surprise. While the band has embraced electronic elements, The Strokes have still managed to incorporate new elements into their sound.

'Games' is a brilliant meshing of old Strokes with the new. The electronic intro carries itself nicely across the track. It is a seamless transition, there is nothing chunky about this track, the dance element glides along with the rock portion. It's one of the album highlights in my view.

'Gratisfaction' is old school Strokes with a hint of glam 70s rock. Unusual yes, but seriously enjoyable.

'Metabolism' is another experiment for the band. While the single seems a little heavily layered with the use of guitars, drums, effects and vocals, there change in style still seems to work. It perhaps won't be for The Strokes faithful.

Angles is brilliant return for The Strokes. Considering the length of time the band has spent apart, the album is brimming with new life.