The Strokes are one of if not the most popular bands of the modern era thanks to their fast paced guitar riffs and the raspy vocals of highly idolised lead singer Julian Casablancas. Since their debut album, Is This It, was released in 2001 they took a short amount of time to rise to supreme levels of popularity, headlining festivals and releasing chart topping songs such as Reptilia, Last Nite and Undercover of Darkness. Now they are back after a 3 year absence with this EP release which came completely out of the blue and excited fans beyond compare. Can one of the world’s biggest bands continue their legacy with yet more mind blowing and compelling music? Or will we see them go one bridge too far in this another bold style transition from the band.
Drag Queen – 3/10:
Patient build up on the drum beat before a strange sounding array of instruments begin to join in. The vocals of Casablancas sound like they’re coming through a walkie-talkie throughout the song and more often than not is drowned out by the instruments. A seemingly vary basic guitar chord structure which is painfully dull until the second verse where an out of key guitar bridge is added for about 10 seconds. I just don’t have a clue what’s going on really it’s all an absolute mess. Enough to drive the most stable of men clinically insane with its ridiculous variety of sounds, and that ridiculous isn’t a good thing. By the end it just sounds like a noise contest between the guitar and vocals to see who can make the loudest and most painstakingly poor tones. On first listen it was atrocious, on the tenth listen it’s still atrocious.
OBLIVIOUS – 5/10:
Decent funky guitar riff which I really like the style of twinned with that fantastic drum beat. This is horrible to listen to, witnessing the bizarre style changes of Julian Casablancas and what appears to be a mental breakdown before our eyes. I mean at times this song does sound very good with his vocals involved, in a way I quite liked the strain he had in the chorus, almost this desperation to free the shackles and sing without limits. But I just can’t help but feel he has been completely outshone by the brilliant instrumentation on this track. The walkie-talkie vocal didn’t work on the first track and doesn’t here either. The pre-chorus is very melodic, however and provides a catchy part of an otherwise bizarre and indifferent song. His elongation of words here goes way too far and almost ruins the chance of it being a good chorus. The guitars on this song are phenomenal, truly magnificent and make the song what it is. As a whole, the song is fairly good and has that Strokes sound to it but there are a few too many times where Julian’s vocals are destroyed and of a low standard.
Threat of Joy – 7/10:
Smooth guitar riff, makes you want to sway along to the beat. The lyrics and vocals are much clearer and of a better standard for this kind of Strokes song. I do feel the song takes a turn for the worst in the chorus which just has limited depth to it and hardly any memorability. I do really like the verses though and they remind me of an Angles B-side for fans to enjoy. Julian does a decent job at altering the tones of his vocals and gives the song a fair bit of life but the chorus makes for grim listening and so will be a downgrade on the overall song rating. All in all, it’s quite a jolly song and one which fans of The Strokes will be happy with. If they are to release and album, more like this please.
OBLIVIOUS (Moretti remix) – 4/10:
This remix makes Julian’s vocals even worse (if that’s possible) and makes the song sound like something out of a Japanese sci-fi film. Just seems like a really basic remix which relies heavily on the drum beat on the original song which is lazy work for a remix which should completely change the dynamic of a song and how to sounds, not to mention the audience that listen to it. Not much to say on this song that I haven’t already on the original cut, but this remix does sound very oriental with a mixture of xylophones and steel drums providing the verse backdrop. Seems like a pointless addition to the project for me, maybe Moretti is his mate and he owed him a favour.
Overall – 4.5/10:
So, The Strokes are back but it isn’t a triumphant return unfortunately. I do think there are minor signs of potential within this project that would provide a very good album should the rumours be true. But sadly there are just too many messy transitions in the songs and Julian Casablancas’ vocals are just all over the place. When The Strokes were at their peak, there was no stopping them because they had this raw edge to their sound, vocally and instrumentally they were note perfect and provided a real rock and roll sound. As the time has gone on they’ve attempted to be a bit more experimental with their sound and for the most part it worked. Angles was a fantastic album, for example, with an electronic influence to their music. This, however, is just a mesh of noise at times, particularly in the first track and the remix and it’s a step too far for their highly extravagant and experimental minds. Future, Present, Past? It should really be the other way around, because that would be a more firing order for the quality of music from this band.