Courtesy of pitchfork.com
By Jared Prenda
The 7-year-long wait is over for fans of The Strokes as the New York rock band released its sixth studio album, The New Abnormal on Friday, April 10. The album only contains 9 tracks– adding up to around 45-minutes long– but it is a perfect soundtrack to the humdrum and bleariness brought about by social distancing.
The album is far from the band’s best work of the early 2000s, but no band should be constrained to the standard and sound of what it made when the members were in their 20s. The New Abnormal is, however, far and above the bands last two albums, 2013’s The Comedown Machine and 2011’s Angles. Both of the band’s prior albums were panned by both critics and long time fans alike. The album is a return to the greatness which earned the band accolades as one of the most distinct and iconic sounds in rock.
That being said, this album shows that the band is still working its way back to its former glory. Having industry legend Rick Rubin produce the work shows that the band can still make great, original music when it is focused on the task. The bleary-eyed feel and late-night vibes are in tune with its early work, but some overly synthesized tracks and clear lack of focus pervades the sparks of greatness sprinkled throughout the album. It feels like the band has just woken from a long sleep of the 2010s.
Lead singer Julian Casablanca’s deep, moody voice and signature and unmatched falsetto shines throughout the album. The first track, “The Adults Are Talking,” is added to The Strokes’ long repertoire of great opening songs. The song begins with a slow, moody tone before growing into a shining climax of poppy guitars and Casablanca’s can’t-sing falsetto crooning with nostalgia. Beyond this, the album is filled with flashes of brilliance that hearken back to the garage band feel that propelled the group into the spotlight.
The band is never shy to wear its inspirations on its sleeves, but the new album feels like it is ripped straight out of the 80s. The fourth song of the work, “Bad Decisions” has the same chords and cadence in the chorus as Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” while “Eternal Summer” is a blatant homage to The Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You.” This was entirely intentional, as Casablancas croons, “And the Eighties bands, where did they go?” on “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus.”
There are plenty of moments that are reminiscent of the band’s earlier stages. The melancholy ballad “Ode to The Mets” is an over-the-top, pretentious, depressing lounge song, but no great Stokes album is complete without it. The band also has the same signature static over all the songs to give the work the low-fi feel of a homemade cassette mixtape. There are plenty of great guitar riffs and bass lines that serve as a canvas for Casablanca’s voice. Tracks like “Why are Sundays so Depressing,” “Not The Same Anymore,” and “Selfless” are prime examples of what The Strokes are supposed to sound like when the band cares.
The New Abnormal is not the band’s best work, but it is a step in the right direction after failing to meet the band’s lofty expectations in its early works. The album feels more in place with the greatness of The Room is on Fire and Is This It? than either of the albums, the band released in the 2010s. Though it leaves plenty of room to be desired, it gives fans hope for the band’s future.