This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.
There must be something quite frustrating about being a Stroke in 2013, assuming you just want to get on with the business of making music without constantly being reminded that you are part of a band once labeled the biggest in the world by the music press. It’s no wonder they aren’t giving interviews around the release of their fifth album, even if they’ve now pretty much outlived every magazine that once put them on the cover. The thing is, the Strokes have eschewed the simplicity of their debut on every release since, which is why the new wave-y synths and 80s influences on their latest album shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The album opens with the misdirection of some feedback and a bit of Hendrix-style guitar noodling, before a riff worthy of latter-day Blondie (first time around) signals the beginning proper of “Tap Out”. With his dispassionate falsetto, on first listen frontman Julian Casablancas could almost be Debbie Harry; it isn’t until the last 20 seconds that the track sounds anything like a Strokes song. The same could be said of “One Way Trigger” – the first song to drop from the album, which turns the riff from A-ha’s “Take On Me” into a bouncing party anthem before bleeding into a chorus with typically oblique lyrics. First single proper “All The Time”, with its suitably nostalgic video (below), treads more familiar ground.
The signs point towards a parting of the ways for the band, who have reached the end of their original deal with RCA (hence the simple tribute paid via the album artwork), and it’s true that there are parts of the album more reminiscent of Casablancas’ solo work than that of the band. But while his dreamy vocals are a perfect fit for album mid-point “80s Comedown Machine”, there are enough stamps of vintage Strokes (Nick Valensi’s guitar licks on “Happy Endings”; the power of Nikolai Fraiture’s bass on the enigmatic “Welcome To Japan”), to ensure that this album couldn’t have been made by anybody else.
GIG OF THE WEEK: Glasgow-Motherwell underground sensations The Plimptons are calling it a day with an all-day farewell show at Stereo on Saturday. Advance tickets for the show, which gets going at 3pm and also features Girobabies, Esperanza, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 and Scunner, are only £5 in advance.
Sidebar: Last Year’s Girl does in fact have the Plimptons’ exclusive final interview, and intends to do her level best to get it live before Saturday.
ALSO THIS WEEK: It’s time for TYCI’s monthly radio show again, and yours truly will once again be on the airwaves with Lauren and Amanda from 5pm on Thursday. Will a repeat visit to the studio sort my on-mic nerves? Tune into Subcity Radio and find out…