Has it really been ten years? Feels like only yesterday I was a teenager, suffering from a Scott Stapp-infection and looking for new bands that weren’t such a freaking downer, man. Enter the Strokes, circa 2001. Their scruffy-yet-tight, retro-but-millennial garage-pop was a breath of fresh air. Finally, songs with actual bass lines! Crisscrossing guitar melodies! (Melodies, in general!) The Strokes looked and sounded like a fun, musical street gang you could totally join up with, à la the Sharks or the Jets (or, to a lesser extent, the Bloods or the Crips). Enter the Strokes, circa 2011. After a bloated, mediocre third album, the band reluctantly returns from a five-year hiatus with Angles, their first record written as a group (well, sort of — singer Julian Casablancas recorded his vocals in a totally separate studio and emailed them to the rest of the band). While Angles is a tighter, leaner record, their new democratic approach — and their physical distance — doesn’t help it sound cohesive. While some tracks (“Under Cover of Darkness,” the excellent “Taken For a Fool”) approach the vibe of vintage Strokes, others are wild-eyed stabs at brand new sounds. The Strokes try on reggae (“Machu Picchu”), Thin Lizzy (“Gratisfaction”), and even Radiohead (the bizarre “You’re So Right”), but whether they like it or not, nothing fits as well as the thrift store clothes we first met them in. And Casablancas knows it: “Everybody’s singing the same song for ten years,” he half-heartedly croons. It’s hard to imagine anyone singing a track off Angles in a decade, but a few are decent enough to fill out the set list during the inevitable cash-grab reunion tour in 2021.
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