The Strokes arrived in 1998 filled with fire and brimstone, their brash new york attitude a breath of fresh air in a rock scene which was considered diluted with soft rock and mundane anthems. The boys quickly became one of the most exciting bands of the 21st century, with the debut of seminal debut album, Is This It.
The Strokes initially came together in 1997, beginning as a threesome of high-school friends, with Lead singer-songwriter Julian Casablancas, guitarist Nick Valensi and drummer Fabrizio Moretti. They later added bassist Nikolai Fraiture, before inviting Julian’s former roommate guitarist Albert Hammond Jr to join in late 1998.
The Strokes are a band who have received worldwide praise for their revolutionary style, which blended post-punk revival, grunge and traditional indie rock and roll, and although they have had their rough patches are considered to this day to be one of the most important bands of the 21st century and a pioneer in the revival of rock.
Still, The Strokes – like any good rock and roll band – have had their share of problems, unfortunately spotlighted in their 2011 return album Angles. Ten years on, we consider the role Angles had in the band’s personal timeline.
After a hefty touring schedule in 2007, The Strokes decided to take a short hiatus as the band had been touring and performing nonstop since their breakout at the start of the millennium. This allowed for the boys to focus on their solo projects and their personal lives, returning to the studio in 2009 to record their fourth album which was titled Angles.
Angles wasn’t an album that was easily recorded, as the band themselves have admitted, although it was one that had extreme promise: taking a step away from total control, Julian Casablancas was no longer primary songwriter; instead, Angles would be a collaborative effort with other members having material featured. Guitarist Nick Valensi said while speaking to Rolling Stone that “It’s super collaborative, and it sounds different… but it has a Strokes vibe to it.”
Problems soon arrived, however, as the band quickly became disgruntled with lead singer Casablancas and new producer Joe Chiccarelli. Clashes over production style led to the boys quickly moving on recording the rest of the album’s material at Albert Hammond, Jr.’s home studio in upstate New York with award-winning engineer Gus Oberg. Here, the band faced further hurdles in Hammond Jr’s drug use and rehab, all pushing the album towards a different feel. There is a lack of cohesion and teamwork throughout these tracks, something which made previous albums seem so special.
Despite its surrounding challenges, Angles does have some moments of brilliance, as in ‘Undercover of Darkness’, a true indie classic that captures the essence of the original album and represents everything fans love about The Strokes. Equally strong is ‘Taken for a Fool’, inseparable from the original defining sound of the band. Two years later, the themes introduced by Angles would also be fleshed out into a more comprehensive 80s-inspired record, worlds away from 2006’s First Impressions of Earth.
At its core, Angles is a victim of its hype, suffering by its hand and always destined to be compared to greater efforts either side. As a result, it is easy to overlook the role the album had in creating a new direction for the band. Listeners today may remember the circumstances and production challenges that tarnished the band’s image in 2011. But we must also be careful not to forget the legacy it has left.
Words by Paul Dawson
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