I had the good fortune of seeing the Strokes in concert in the late summer of 2001. At that point, they were just a small band playing a small venue charging five dollars at the door. Halfway through their set, I am pretty sure Rolling Stone tapped them to be the “next big thing.” A month later, their video for “Last Nite” was blowing up on MTV. At the end of 2009, pop culture “experts” were saying their debut, Is this It? changed the landscape for rock in the 2000s. Their subsequent follow ups were not treated quite so kindly.
How is that for pressure?
The band responded with Angles. It was a truly collaborative effort; one The Strokes had not attempted before. Front man Julian Casablancas relinquished much of his creative control, to the point of recording his tracks remotely and sending them in electronic files to the rest of the band. While the rest of The Strokes seemed to enjoy having some say in the writing process, Casablancas referred to Angles as “Operation Make Everyone Happy.”
Sound bites from Captain Buzzkill make for great headlines, but underneath it all is an intriguing installment by The Strokes. It has the listener vacillating between “The Strokes are back!” to “well, that’s interesting…” Where Is This It? had people thinking music of the 1970s was being ushered back into the forefront, Angles sits with feet in two decades; neither of which is the current one.
Put the faux-reggae “Machu Picchu,” synth-pop “Two Kinds of Happiness” and “Games” in the day-glo 1980s and songs like “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Taken for a Fool,” and “Gratisfaction” in the 1970s style that made The Strokes The Strokes. The rest of the songs scatter in that hypothetical 20 year span.
I am personally happy to hear what the music the non-Casablancas members of the band wanted to make, and I am pleased by Strokes staples like their single, “Under Cover of Darkness,” which is undeniably catchy. I hope Casablancas is able to swallow some pride and let the rest of the band wrestle creative control to create future records.
I feel “Operation Make Everyone Happy” will make the rest of us happy.