Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #75: "Under Cover of Darkness" -- The Strokes

Despite being one of the most anticipated albums of 2011, The Strokes' Angles faltered, according to some circles. The reasons for this failure could be disputed for days, but most of all, the album seemed phoned-in. This was not the sound of a band that really enjoyed playing together. It was the sound of a band that recorded new material for whatever reason, be it an obligation to fans or someone else, whoever that someone might be.

Not that Angles was a bad album, but when you have a rock band that basically kickstarted the indie rock movement in the early 2000s with a string of highly successful and critically acclaimed records, that band is almost always going to be judged based on its past achievements. C'est la vie.

But even when frontman Julian Casablancas sounded downright bored or apathetic (see: most of the record), there were times when he and the rest of the crew showed why they were and are as popular and well-respected an act as they tend to be. As an example, let us take "Under Cover of Darkness."

"Under Cover of Darkness" was the band's first single off Angles, as well as the only song that really did anything commercially. To say it's classic Strokes wouldn't be totally accurate, but close enough. These days, getting The Strokes to both actually sound like The Strokes and seem to enjoy doing it is a battle in itself.

The song's centerpiece is its dueling guitar work from Valensi and Hammond. It's always refreshing to see a band with two guitarists that can contribute soundly. Neither is really the rhythm part here. Both seem to be trying desperately to be heard, sometimes meeting midway in harmony.

The chorus is where the fist-pumping begins. I wouldn't necessarily call The Strokes a band known for its catchiness, but here they take anthemic indie rock and perfect it to a t.

2011 will be known as a slightly disappointing year for The Strokes, but with "Under Cover of Darkness," the band showed that they still have a little in them -- when they want to show it, of course.

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