By Julian De Ocampo ’13
A friend of mine once told me that I was lucky to share a name with one of the coolest people on the planet.
She was referring to Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes. The New York band, with their leather jackets and oversized sunglasses, were prophesized by the media as “saviors of rock” at the dawn of the century as they rode the hype train to the top of the charts.
I don’t blame her for saying that either. In 2001, Casablancas and his band released one of the most memorable albums of the past decade with “Is This It,” a collection of jangling guitar crunch that made rock ‘n’ roll look downright easy.
However, their next two efforts, “Room on Fire” and “First Impressions on Earth” were middling efforts that marked a successive decline in quality, and The Strokes never reached the highs that marked their debut. Several mediocre solo albums and a “reunion” tour later, and The Strokes have finally finished their long-delayed follow-up album.
Unfortunately, this trend of deteriorating quality continues on “Angles,” the fourth album released by a band whose career has spanned more than a decade now.
“Angles” is a mess at times, with disjointed song structures most likely owed to the fact that the band members recorded most of their parts on their own and spliced them together later.
Perhaps most annoying is Casablanca’s newfound passion for pushing his voice past its limits, a trend that began on his 2009 solo album “Phrazes for the Young.”
Casablanca’s sleepy, indifferent drawl worked fantastic for the devil-may-care sunshine of “Is This It,” but on “Angles” it becomes downright grating on tracks like the barren “Call Me Back” or the obnoxiously aggressive “Metabolism.”
Still, “Angles” is a victory at times, like on lead single “Under Cover of Darkness,” which recalls early Strokes material and even sneaks in a squealing guitar solo. Tracks “Machu Picchu” and “Taken for a Fool” also push The Strokes into brave new territory without losing their trademark swagger.
Nearly every member of The Strokes has publically said that “Angles” isn’t the product they wished it could be (they aren’t the best marketing guys), and it’s hard not to believe them at times. The ratio of duds to gems is too high, and that’s what makes this album so exasperating; The Strokes still could have it in them, they just can’t always access it.
This is 2011, and “Angles” raises the question of whether or not The Strokes have a place in today’s music landscape in the first place. At this rate, The Strokes are sure to join the ranks of Weezer or The Smashing Pumpkins, releasing tolerable albums, but never reaching the highs of their early masterpieces.
I really do hope they do make a comeback though, because this world needs just a little bit more cool.