The Strokes' new Single: Is it Better to Stay the Same, or Try the Wrong new Things?
Some bands never stop trying to solve the first problem critics point out. 10 years ago, now, the Strokes were accused of not having enough ideas--of going back to the well for a follow-up, Room on Fire, almost exactly as streamlined and deadpan as their debut. The similarities were exaggerated, but there are places, even now, where it does sound more Is This It than Is This It--more streamlined, more deadpan.
The Strokes No band has ever been photographed looking unmoved in more dark rooms.
Then they released First Impressions of Earth, and some critics pointed out that it was overstuffed, and undercooked, and a little too different from Is This It. Five years passed and they released Angles, which was, for another change, covered in retro synths and written collaboratively.
Now--two more years later--they've released "One Way Trigger," an overstuffed song with even more synths, pervasive falsetto, and another co-writing credit. So: Would we be better off if the Strokes had stayed the same, instead of trying willfully to be different? You should listen to it first:
Draw your own conclusions about whether it's a good or bad omen re: their next album; personally I'm in favor of falsetto, but a little ambivalent about falsetto-whispering. But it's a long way from Is This It, or even First Impressions--the matter-of-fast vocal take and the robotic drumming are mildly familiar, but the dueling guitars only make their appearance during the solo, with the second one buried apologetically in the back of the mix.
So The Strokes have successfully solved the problem critics had with Room on Fire. They could have continued to release albums filled with three minute songs and exotic guitar tones and scowling and I would have bought all of them, but they didn't--and in doing so they've released two albums and a single that those same critics have not really enjoyed all that much. (Their loss.)
Well, that's critics. If we knew as much about music as we hope to convince you we do, we'd be The Strokes. But enough bands find themselves in this situation to suggest the phenomenon might exist even when you're not the last decade's great rock hope.
So maybe it's not exclusively a matter of critics being dumb or Julian Casablancas being acutely sensitive to criticism. Maybe we're talking past each other.