By David Colburn
Press the “play” button on the stereo, adjust the speaker volume properly, and prepare to take a journey back to the age of new wave. The Strokes have always had a retro sensibility that cites the most iconic legions of proto-punk, post-punk, and simple garage rock; Angles is no different. “Machu Picchu” makes the claim and “Life is Simple in the Moonlight” adds the final confirmation; there is nothing wrong with retro rock.
Bursts of toe-tapping sonic energy dominate Angles and the charming pop sensibilities of each melody keep the listener genuinely engaged. The album is all about aural activeness try to remain in one spot when “Machu Picchu’s” absolutely addictive guitar riff explodes from the speakers or the glam-ridden introduction of “Gratisfaction” sonically gratifies, satisfies (gratisfies) the entire room in its bliss.
Angles is a study of alternative rock’s fascinating pre-history. The listener will never forget Gang of Four’s post-punk exclamations and The Cars’ new-wave rhythms during the experience, but The Strokes are not foolish amateurs; the band proudly sprinkles the past influences like delicious spices on their own trademark cuisine.
Certain moments even scale outward into seas dark dissonance and borderline psychedelia: “You’re So Right” breaks the snappy new-wave marathon of the first three tracks and carefully veers toward the skewed, hypnotic world of no-wave for a brief detour. “Metabolism” features a similar darkness in its tragic strings, expressive vocals and unrestrained basslines.
Disturbingly dark or enthrallingly light, one thing remains constant; Angles finds its greatest strength in collaboration. Timbres and textures stand out from time to time, but the true quality of each song is found in the sleek combinations. Guitar riffs can gloriously stand alone from start to finish, but they reach another level of potency when juxtaposed among the punchy rhythms and ragged vocals. Angles is a fitting aural example of “group effort.”
The album spins and the joy grows; new elements are discovered and surprising moments stick out. At the same time, Angles is equally steeped in an instantaneous quality. There is a certain confidence found in the sound that grabs the listener from the first second and forges an addiction. Let the album play and enjoy the new wave journey without hesitation.