Soundbites: Is this it? Strokes album bruises good name

Soundbites: Is this it? Strokes album bruises good name

After five years of impatience, the unveiling of the Strokes newest album had fans edging with anticipation. But the crew that evolved rock at the millenniums onset with Is This It has barely dented it in 2011 with Angles.

Angles is literally so-so: five tracks worthy of the bands past and five cringe-worthy tunes. You cant be mad at em. Disappointed, maybe, but their resume doubles as a hall pass.

Still, Angles is a disjointed sometimes incoherent lesson in production. The well-publicized recording process had front man Julian Casablancas laying his vocals down by himself, over strumentals e-mailed to him from the rest of the band. It was an attempt by the singer to loosen his grip on the reigns and inform a more democratic albeit solitary process. It shows.

But first, the positives: The first three songs comprise the meatiest chunk of the disc but provide a false sense of optimism, beginning with the dense and dynamic Machu Picchu. Its got a lot going on, including a light bongo and talky riffs courtesy of guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. Casablancas does his lackadaisical singing thing until he graduates to his lackadaisical yelling-singing thing. Its a confident, strong opener.

Strokes fans will get all nostalgic when Taken For A Fool clicks on. Its the strongest tune on the album a brash, strutting kick from a band with a sudden identity crisis. Its a cohesive blending of taught rhythm and vocals with punchy wails from both guitars. Taken For A Fool harkens to vintage Strokes while donning something new.

Under the Cover of Darkness was the successful single, though a little corny for the cool-handed Strokes. It represented a beacon of hope for the album, and Hammond and Valensi are the major reason for the promising track, in which their symbiotic verve-filled guitars dominate.

Following that nagging retro trend, an attractive, 80s-infused Two Kinds of Happiness comes next. Recalling Men at Work (no joke), it serves up buoyant percussion from drummer Fab Moretti and a reggae riff that draw us in. This song does something rare for the Strokes by showcasing Casablancas voice. Dudes got range. Who knew?

The album then trends downward, getting darker, flatter and generally more monotone. The second half of Angles is actually confusing. 

Metabolism sounds like the worst parts of the Strokes third and least-acclaimed album, First Impressions of Earth. With a whiney disposition, its a constant crescendo that never ascends to a peak. 

Call Me Back is a boring, moaning ballad, weirdly dependent on bells, while the Strokes are content do settle on Life is Simple in the Moonlight, a track confusing the obscure indie model with 70s disco.

No reason to ring the alarm if youre a Strokes fan. Theyll be back to salvage whats rightfully theirs. If they come back limping rather than kicking again, well, let them go.

Notable Tracks:

1. Machu Picchu
2. Under Cover Of Darkness
3. Two Kinds Of Happiness
5. Taken For A Fool