The Strokes

The New Abnormal

Written by: PP on 24/05/2021 00:47:32

Here's another review in the series of records that we failed to cover last year but probably should have done. After a seven-year pause, The Strokes returned with their sixth studio album "The New Abnormal", and showcased yet another musical twist in the never-ending megalomaniac storm raging within the rock star character of vocalist Julian Casablancas, and won a Grammy in the process. So let's take a look.

On previous record "Comedown Machine", they referenced distinct musical eras ranging from the 60s all the way through to the early 2000s targeting a sort of encyclopedic look at styles as seen through The Strokes' inherent garage/indie-rock lens. Here, the focus is much more narrow. We're back within the indie rock world, albeit this time mixed with electronica effects and other pop elements, suggesting a weird sort of amalgamation between debut album "Is This It?" and something we haven't heard from the band before.

Songs like "Bad Decisions" and "The Adults Are Talking" channel the same playful guitar tones drenched in garage rock distortion as you remember from the early output by these guys, but a track like "Eternal Summer" incorporates copious amounts of indie pop and electronica effects in what feels like a minimalistic, less rowdy soundscape than what I remember from the band. It allows Casablancas to traverse his range from the highest pitch falsetto down to the middle as if just to show off what he can, which is fine because he does it in such majestic fashion. Or take its immediate successor "At The Door", a proggy piece that relies entirely on electronics and light guitar, where drums and other percussion is purposely omitted to not remove focus from his stellar singing ability, Matthew Bellamy style (Muse).

That said, neither song is particularly strong, which regrettably is the story of the second half of the album. While "Why Are Sunday's So Depressing" carries the trademark light guitars and soothing vocals of The Strokes' early days, it just doesn't leave you wanting for more like the songs on "Room On Fire" did. The same applies to the slow buildup of "Not The Same Anymore", which is more like an art piece than it is a popular rock song to be perfectly honest. Here, we get to observe Casablancas & co slowly build up an atmosphere, which is fine for variety, but it's not exactly the song you'll carry with you from this record.

This is to a large degree the underlying problem with "The New Abnormal". There just aren't enough great songs. Most songs are decent but distinctly less fuzz-laden and garage-styled than their earlier output. "Selfless" is a great example: had they just sped it up a little and cut down on the electronic effects, it could've been a brilliant track. Now it just stands as a decent one. "Brooklyn Bridge To The Chorus" is the polar opposite: here the band embraces their alternative rock side at least during the chorus, and the result is immediately satisfying, even if the experimental electronic keyboards in this song are a turnoff.

Overall, "The New Abnormal" has some good parts of The Strokes and might even be better than its predecessor "Comedown Machine". But is it better than "Angles"? "Room On Fire"? "Is This It"? Not by a long shot. Alas, it'll fit in somewhere near the middle of their discography without flair or much notoriety years later.


Download: The Adults Are Talking, Bad Decisions, Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
For the fans of: Kings Of Leon, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire
Listen: Facebook

Release date 10.04.2020
Cult / RCA Records

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