ALBUM REVIEW: The New Abnormal by The Strokes

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WRITTEN BY: AnnaMarie Otor

The Strokes released a fairly fitting sixth album amidst the current chaos that is COVID-19 last week: The New Abnormal. Though the name was in the works pre-pandemic, its situational relevance to the state of the world is uncanny. This work marks their first album since 2013’s Comedown Machine, and first general release since their four song 2016 EP, Future Present Past. 

So far, it’s been a good year for The Strokes. Between performing at a rally for Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire (notably with fans rushing on stage for a rendition of their 2001 song “New York City Cops” as police tried to shut it down) and starting to make a comeback after a lengthy period between projects, fans were more than willing to take what the band gave with open arms. In terms of this new album in particular, lead singer Julian Casablancas shared that it was his “fourth favorite record I’d ever been a part of,” according to the Los Angeles Times

The current work was prefaced with three singles: the fairly underwhelming “At the Door” came first in mid-February, but the group quickly redeemed themselves in a week with the release of second single “Bad Decisions.” Just four days before the album’s release, the final single “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” was put out as a final teaser. Coupled with album artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat (specifically his 1981 painting, Bird on Money), The Strokes delivered nine new songs for listeners to bump during this time of quarantine and social distancing. In what some fans on social media are calling Comedown Machine’s “cool older brother,” The Strokes continue to do what they do best: leave fans wanting more.

Opening with “The Adults Are Talking,” listeners are met with muted guitars and a slow build to climax. Attentive fans will remember the song from the band’s May 2019 show at the Wiltern Los Angeles, where they played it for the first time. It’s a good opener – a familiar but revamped instrumentation complemented by Julian Casablancas’ subdued vocals and lyrical content of defiance and rebellion. 

“Selfless,” a calmer track that feels like the biggest nod to Comedown Machine era Strokes, leads into the more upbeat “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus,” which is perhaps the best song on the album. The song feels like a cluster of tunes you’ve probably heard before (maybe New Order, maybe a slight hair of Gloria Gaynor), but its electrifyingly sharp synths solidify what may be the most fun song to hear live from this album’s tracks.

“Bad Decisions” pulls from a similar melody from the ‘80s, specifically from elements of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” to create a thrilling mix of their classic sound with a blast from the past. They continue this trend with “Eternal Summer,” the six minute new wave-esque track (and drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s favorite song on the album) uses elements of ‘80s song “The Ghost In You” by the Psychedelic Furs. 

The second half of the album takes a notably lowkey and slightly slower shift in tone. Beginning with lead single “At The Door,” and ending with lengthy tracks “Why Are Sundays So Depressing,” “Not The Same Anymore,” and “Ode To The Mets,” this latter half feels more nostalgic for the group’s past experiences. “Ode To The Mets” in particular takes a stab at connecting the band to their roots in New York City with simple instrumentation throughout and a fitting, grandiose outro.

Though this new album is not the best out of all The Strokes’ discography, it is definitely a satisfying body of work after years of waiting on the part of their fans and listeners. Even though the band cannot tour at the moment to promote the work due to the state of the music industry amidst COVID-19, rest assured listeners will be more than excited to hear the songs live whenever things begin to calm down. The New Abnormal is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services. 

Tracklist:

  1. The Adults Are Talking
  2. Selfless
  3. Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
  4. Bad Decisions
  5. Eternal Summer
  6. At The Door
  7. Why Are Sundays So Depressing
  8. Not The Same Anymore
  9. Ode To The Mets

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