The Strokes Get Back Their Mojo

I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t loved the Strokes since their debut Is This It? It wasn’t like they sounded any less talented on their 2003 and 2006 followups.

But something was missing.

After listening to The Strokes’ excellent new album Angles five years later, I think I’ve figured it out. The Strokes got negative, man.

OK, so they weren’t exactly singing about sunshine, lollipops and rainbows on Is This It? But at least their attitude toward broken relationships and total assholes was imbued with some level of self-worth. Sure, singer Julian Casablancas was pointing out a lot of BS, but he also didn’t seem to be all too affected by it. And that was cool.

Take “Hard to Explain,” for example:

I watch the TV; forget what I’m told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
The joke is on you, this place is a zoo
“You’re right it’s true”

But by 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, the Strokes sounded very very affected, and boy was it a bummer. Take these lyrics from “On the Other Side”:

I hate them all.
I hate them all.
I hate myself for hating them,
so I’ll drink some more.
I love them all.
I’ll drink even more.
I’ll hate them even more
than I did before.

Or how about “Ask Me Anything,” featuring a chorus in which Casablancas sings “I have nothing to say” over and over…and over….and over. And if there’s something worse than hearing the guy mutilate his vocal cords on tracks like “Fear of Sleep,” well… I don’t want to hear it.

Now here comes Angles, and I’m happy to report that the Strokes have got their mojo back. Song for song it doesn’t match the brilliance of their debut, sure, and stylistically it’s definitely different. But after a five-year absence, the Strokes actually sound happy to be making music again.

You hear it instantly on opener “Machu Picchu.” It’s a track that takes the band in a new, more reggae direction, but revives the undeniably fun Strokes arrogance that’s been missing all these years.  “Taken for a Fool” is classic Strokes, but the band shows more range than songs previous. Not every song is great — “Metabolism” could have been another mediocre cut from First Impressions — but by the end of the set I felt like I had my old friends back.

Let’s hope they’re here to stay.

Leave a Reply