Before the world was given a chance to draw a sharp breath, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi declared, “I feel like no matter what [this record] is [like], or how hard we worked on it, or how much we like it, it’s not going to live up to people’s expectations only because of those five years between the last
Comments like this have helped to secure Valensi’s position as ‘the honest one’. Ironically the point he makes above also defends The Strokes’ current material from criticism, because it implies that if we don’t like their fourth album, we’re most likely sour and misguided. We’re not listening objectively. Plus we’re pretty cruel, using a musician’s own words against him like that. How dare we? Get some perspective! Step back away from the angry line, you media people!
Unfortunately this accidental defence mechanism fell apart when various band members admitted to their personal disliking of fourth album and decade cornerstone Angles. Within a month Valensi had permitted that it’s a “fractured” record, and there’s a “better album” in The Strokes yet. While it may invoke a turn of pity in our bowels, this further admission validates our right to dislike, and not to party.
But given the opportunity, what vessel has the media chosen to career, headfirst into the good ship Strokes? Diplomacy – the word alone turns my stomach – diplomacy. Valensi has authorised our spite and instead of making good use of his gesture, we’ve patted him on the head and whimpered, well it’s not that bad really. At least you’re trying! Stick at it – you never did give up on The Strokes like all of the others. Your next attempt to control Julian might go a bit better.
The truth is, Valensi saying we’d always think this album a failure doesn’t stop it from being a failure.
Likewise The Strokes admitting to creative and inter-band relationship difficulties doesn’t make their problems magically go away, or justify the effect they’ve had on the band’s material.
Angels is bloody terrible. It’s awful, it’s dire. The Vaccines could do better. There’s no need to mention or compare it to Is This Is or Room On Fire because the only signature of theirs that survives is the repeated use of the same chords (you know what I mean: dun-dun dun-dun dun- dun dun-dun). Even that suffers severance from some of the material on Angels, which at its most dumbfounding twinkles into disco territory on “Games”. Nothing is sacred.
The reasons for this awfulness aren’t as complex as some would have you believe. When their management announced a ‘well deserved break’ in 2006, the music industry mourned the band’s departure in the best way they knew how. They formed, pimped, signed and manufactured copy-cat acts until the fat cats regained their cream. Sadly that phenomenon was so infectious The Strokes have bought into the idea – they’ve become caricatures of themselves. A procedure that should be relatively simple, but no; Angels attempts to modernise an old theory by resorting to methods last used in the 1980s. What ensues is a bonkers concoction of Blondie, The Drums, Duran Duran and The Darkness.
The second reason has been well documented. The record doesn’t sit easy, largely because the songs are so wholly different from one another, but it’s not all down to “resentment and hostility” within the camp. For example, on “Too Kinds of Happiness” Julian’s vocals are way too low in the mix. It’s unlikely a better crew could have saved the cast of Angels, but they might have brought warm coffee to lure everyone into the same room – at the same time.However it’s my opinion that this record’s biggest problem is its lack of normality. Julian Casablancas – doing nothing to quash popular belief that he doesn’t age – sounds so unnervingly alto it’s
a wonder the press haven’t caught on. He’s clearly developed an addiction to helium. His pronunciation is nearly audible. Fab Moretti’s drumming has improved; Nick Valensi still hasn’t cut his hair but Albert Hammond Jnr has. It’s topsy-turvy in a way I didn’t think possible. I’m confused to the point of needing an inhaler: The Strokes are bad.