Album reviews

Strokes angle off in new directions

(Jack Plunkett/Associated Press)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / March 22, 2011

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Is this it?

Don’t feel ashamed if that’s your initial reaction to the Strokes’ new album, the natty New York rockers’ first in five years. Stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded with a record that’s completely oblivious to expectations and past glories. If the Strokes felt any pressure to make a splashy comeback, you certainly don’t detect it on “Angles’’; it’s as strange and singular as it wants to be, with nary a hit song in sight.

It’s the Strokes’ fourth album and the follow-up to 2006’s “First Impressions of Earth,’’ which suggested the quintet had lost its way. In the intervening years, four of the five members released albums either solo or with a side project, each one brimming with slivers of the band’s hallmarks. “Angles’’ might not win back the skeptics, but it’s refreshing to see the Strokes exploring new ideas, even when they backfire.

Aside from “Under Cover of Darkness,’’ the bouncy, guitar-driven first single designed to remind you of the Strokes of yesteryear, the album splinters off into new directions and moods, from rock-opera pomp (“Metabolism’’) to Thin Lizzy-like riffs (“Gratisfaction’’) to robotic math rock (“You’re So Right’’).

That’s not to say the Strokes have abandoned the pinwheel of impeccable hooks that made them stars a decade ago with their debut, “Is This It.’’ Songs such as “Machu Picchu’’ and “Taken for a Fool’’ burrow deep in your brain, the most head-on moments on an album that zigs and zags. As singer Julian Casablancas wails on the closing “Life Is Simple in the Moonlight’’: “Don’t try to stop us/ Get out of the way.’’ It’s best to mind the man. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Under Cover of Darkness’’