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Disappointing Outing For Indie Icons
Paul Nolan, 10 Mar 2011
We have a lot to thank The Strokes for. It might be difficult for the average 16 year-old music fan to grasp today, but mainstream rock in the late ’90s and early noughties was in a rancid state. With the honourable exceptions of Blur, Radiohead and the Manics, who all continued to fight the good fight – ie. having No. 1 singles and albums with uncompromising and intelligent music – the post-Britpop fallout saw the likes of Coldplay, Travis and Stereophonics draw on the most boring, conservative aspects of Oasis and U2 to create a kind of bloated rock that could be categorised as “nu-stadium”.
Then, lo and behold, in mid-2001 The Strokes and The White Stripes exploded onto the scene, and once more it meant that one didn’t have to search in the darkest recesses of the record store for music that was audacious and exciting. Unfortunately, since their instant classic debut Is This Is, The Strokes’ career has followed the trajectory of Oasis, with their subsequent output subject to the law of diminishing returns. Their second record, Room On Fire contained their greatest song, the Smiths-meets-Smokey Robinson gem ‘Under Control’, but First Impressions Of Earth was an out-and-out dud.
All of which means Julian Casablancas and the boys have a hell of a lot to prove with this album, and frankly, the debut single – the pedestrian ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ – didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. In truth, The Strokes are operating in the most unforgiving terrain in rock; as James Dean Bradfield opined in Hot Press last year, the most difficult thing to do in music is make a really convincing rock album. The NYC quintet are never really going to push to boat out in an experimental sense, so each time out they are under pressure to produce a batch of brilliant tunes, brimming with swaggering rhythms and catchy melodies.
First up on Angles is ‘Macchu Pichu’, an average slice of tinny electro-pop that couldn’t be said to possess the criteria of a classic album opener. Indeed, the first half of the record really drags. There’s the aforementioned ‘Under Cover…’, and ‘Two Kinds Of Happiness’, which alternates between Tom Petty-style classic rock and breakneck punk, although the latter sections grate rather than excite. ‘You’re So Right’ strives for Radiohead-style moody magnificence but falls significantly short, while ‘Taken For A Fool’ is indie-by-numbers.