EP Review – The Strokes – Future Present Past

image

One of the few defining groups of the 21st Century in The Strokes have released their first material in over three years with their new EP Future Present Past which has been streamed all day and is expected for proper release on June 3rd. When discussing it, Julian Casablancas said the songs could be part of a full album if ‘the collective will can be found’. But for the moment, we have three new tracks and the primary single is  ‘Oblivious’. It has shades of their first two albums to it, particularly in Nick Valensi’s slightly distorted lead guitar licks and the rough edged recording of Julian’s vocals. As well as this, it has that crashing chorus and heavy melody to it. It is different in its greater sense of depth between verse and chorus and a general production direction that has the song pulling in one, bigger wave of sound. There’s also flashes of Julian’s work with the Voidz in the instrumental section with heavily modulated vocals and guitars.

‘Drag Queen’ is certainly more evocative of this more gritty, yet encompassing sound with the extended bass lines and rhythm sections. These break out into greater areas  of light with the open, thrashing guitars and ringing lead elements. The track has several sections as well as a melodic, anthemic interlude towards the songs conclusion and is demonstrative of the new avenues they may take. ‘Threat of Joy’ is a light, airy track with simple, jangling rhythms which, with added gradual reverb merge with Julian’s washed out vocal before swinging back to its more pepped up sound. Nothing new to learn here though. It’s an EP of different approaches and for the most part these work effectively with signs of familiarity mixed with recent and new approaches. It remains to be seen whether this balance will be altered but it should be an intriguing listen nonetheless.

 

Owen Riddle

 

Sunday Suggestion – The Strokes – What Ever Happened

My next suggestion if from a decade ago. From a band that were on top of the world at that point. The band of the lips of everyone after their game changing Is This It? in 2001, which is already a cult classic. As much as I admire their debut and recognise there wasn’t a monumental shift up a gear that all the critics piled upon them with Room On Fire; I personally prefer the album. I think cleaning up the production slightly really worked for them and in general they had honed and refined the sound they produced at the very start of the millennium. There’s equally some great hits off Room On Fire. ‘Reptillia’ and ’12:51′ being the most popular perhaps. However, for me my favourite track was the first. ‘What Ever Happened’ opens with the spikey and reluctant riff and the cymbals before Julian leads the other elements into a sudden progression of the song with a more tuneful yet at times more gruff vocal from him while the churning chord progression of the rhythm guitars and bass create a simple and effective melody. It then shifts again with the lead guitar fizzling its way through to the next verse after the chorus before Julian effortlessly leads Albert’s rhythm section back to the second phase. The grouping of instruments and the vocals from Julian make the song immediate and leave you vulnerable to its simple hooks and melodies as do the shifts in the songs progression. Its certainly a song for someone wanting to reminisce about their original sound or even a bit of a history lesson. Many of the bands that emerged from the subsequent decade can trace their immediate influence to The Strokes and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

http://youtu.be/LolgWoRnzT4

Image from passionweiss.com 

The Strokes – Comedown Machine Review

Comedown Machine has sort of an odd feeling about it. It hasn’t came completely out of nowhere like Bowie had sensationaly done this winter; but there has been next to nothing from The Strokes in the way of promotion. No interviews, a video full of vintage footage of the band, no tour or any shows announced and even the album cover is bare and more of a promotion for RCA records. Too much shouldn’t be read into this. This is The Strokes last album on their RCA contract so maybe this is them giving them the middle finger. Talk of tension between the members is cheap and not credible.

There is certainly no hidden agenda’s or lack of interest on the album itself though. The taster track for the album, ‘One Way Trigger’ caused a hell of a lot of controversy. Some critics of the tune said it sounded like A-ha with it’s 80’s type synth the driving force in the song. Additionally Julian Casablancas’ different, higher pitched vocal delivery was criticised as being a ‘fasletto hell’. These types of comments are a little hasty. Some fans or general by-standers of The Strokes have been kicking up this sort of fuss in the desperate hope that they recreated the sound they made with their debut ‘Is This It’ in 2001 and to some extent ‘Room On Fire’ from 2003. In some way it’s understandable with The Strokes being labelled as having ‘Saved guitar music’ with these albums and also created a legacy that has spawned the likes of The Artic Monkeys, The Libertines success, Franz Ferdinand and Kings Of Leon. This gave The Strokes legendary status by their second album which means it’s hard for a band to shake off the sound that granted them that. BUT they can’t be expected to keep plodding along and recycling this sound until it’s worn out. They are re-iventing themselves and developing as now highly experienced musicians with a wider range of influences than in 2000. These shine through ‘One Way Trigger’ brilliantly with Casablancas extending his vocal range to what was already a talented vocal ability. There are even some elements that are reminiscent of their initial garage revival sound like with their single ‘All The Time’ with Julian’s traditional vocals shall we say with similar rhythm, lead guitar elements as was the case with the bass and drums so maybe they shouldn’t despair so much. The track 50/50 may also please them as it goes across the other end of the spectrum to a more straight up garage tune with punk riffs along with Julians rough, more screamier vocals. ‘Partners In Crime’ takes their original sound and adds a more jumpier rhythm section from Albert Hammond jnr and a similar vibe from Nick Valensi on lead. ‘Welcome To Japan’ has a slight retro theme in the way of disco but i’ll be cautious with that term, it also has a lighter shade of the garage style which borders on indie pop but in it’s most sophisticated form. Other songs like ‘Chances’ are like that from Julian’s solo effort as alot of elements from Comedown Machine are. There are one or two weak links in ‘Slow Animals’ but overall the album is a solid effort with a different look at music from their perspective from which they have developed. People have to get used to this fact. I don’t think that Comedown Machine is the finished article from The Strokes either. Their next venture will sure up any average elements and I think will be their most innovative album yet as I believe they’ll go for it with all their influences to make a huge album. They’ve certainly freed up alot of studio time for themselves and i can’t wait for the result.

The Strokes – Comedown Machine = 8/10

(Images from http://lostinsound.org/ / http://www.rollingstone.com/ )