Unsung Rock: Return Of The Strokes

They were the band that kick-started last decade’s indie-rock revival – but can New York’s finest now replicate the brilliance of their iconic debut? Dan Jenko looks ahead to The Strokes’ fifth studio and, as ever, brings you rock’s best new tracks with the ‘Picks of the Week’.
Around two years ago I remember being blown away when The Strokes unveiled Under Cover Of Darkness, the lead single to 2011’s Angles. The blazing two-chord intro; the rock ‘n’ roll music video; the sing-a-long chorus – everything about that song made me uncontrollably excited. I was convinced that the album would go to Number 1, that The Strokes would be begged to headline every single festival, and that the music scene as we know it would be rife with guitar bands once more.

That’s the rare power of The Strokes: they have the potential to define musical eras, and even change popular culture. They did it in 2001 with their brilliant debut Is This It?, and while their last effort didn’t have the impact I originally predicted, any new material they release is always going to get me excited.

I say all that because Julian Casablancas and co have recently unveiled snippets from their latest record, Comedown Machine. Alongside this announcement came One Way Trigger, which I described as a “genuinely catchy pop song” in the last edition of this column. But this week saw the reveal of the lead single:

With the likes of Hard to Explain12:51 and the aforementioned Under Cover Of Darkness the opening releases from previous Strokes’ records, new track All The Time is in esteemed company – and on first listen it’s not hard to see why the band chose it as their first single.

Unlike the synthed-out departure of One Way Trigger, the New Yorkers’ latest track feels very much like a Strokes song. As ever, the distinctive sound comes from the combination of  Valensi and Hammond Jr’s guitar strokes, with Casablancas delivering an excellent vocal performance on the chorus. The star of the show, interestingly, is actually the gutsy mid-song guitar solo – which doesn’t just play back the melody but actually deviates from the rest of the songs structure.

It’s not necessarily stand-out enough to be considered a ‘return to form’ for the band – who took a five year hiatus after their third album was released in 2006 –  but ultimately, the quality of the full LP will be a truer judge, and All The Time hints at the record’s potential greatness.

The music scene seems to be on the cusp of another indie revolution, so this is an ideal time for The Strokes to produce a quality album. An improvement on Angles could see the band cement themselves as hot property for modern festivals, and as they embark on an inevitable arena tour a strong batch of new tracks could see them become one of the biggest acts in the world again.

For now at least, we can hold our breath and hope Julian’s got another masterstroke to deliver. To help pass the time until then, here’s the ‘Picks of the Week’:

The Courteeners – Lose Control

The ‘new look’ Courteeners enjoyed a mid-week UK Number 1 with their latest studio recording ANNA, and the highlight of the record is undoubtedly big-chorused lads anthem Lose Control. This is the best the band have ever sounded, and could be absolutely massive live.

Born Blonde – The Architect

Unsung Rock interviewees Born Blonde are one of British indie’s best kept secrets, and if you’re going to buy anything this week their debut album What The Desert Taught You would be my instant recommendation. It’s a record oozing with quality,  and the highlight for me is this wonderful track. Combining simplistic strums of acoustic guitar with synthesized melodies, it’s simply magnificent.

You can recommend songs for the ‘Picks of the Week’ by e-mailing Dan at unsungrock@rocketmail.com, or by commenting below.

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