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The Strokes Are Back!

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The Strokes THE NEW ABNORMAL. Cult Records/Columbia/RCA

The Strokes have released their first new album in seven years, THE NEW ABNORMAL, out now via Cult Records/Columbia. THE NEW ABNORMAL is The Strokes’ sixth studio album and was recorded at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu and produced by Rick Rubin.

The album’s cover artwork is a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird on Money. The Strokes debuted the first new song and Mike Burakoff-directed video, ‘At The Door’, during their performance at Senator Bernie Sanders’ University of New Hampshire rally in February, with second song, ‘Bad Decisions’, following shortly thereafter.

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Review

The album opens with a fast-paced and melodic rocker, ‘The Adults Are Talking’, with Casablancas travelling the vocal scale in various styles in expounding the anger of youth: “They will blame us, crucify, and shame us/We can’t help it, if we are a problem/We are trying hard to get your attention/Climbing up your wall…”. With dominant guitars and isolid bass rhythm, It’s the sort of track that bode well for the rest of the album.

‘Selfless’ follows in more conventional conversational style. It’s a love ballad with a monotone vibe and slower pace which is not altogether convincing. Lyrically, it also fails to impress: “Please don’t be long/’Cause I want your love/I don’t have love/Without your arm/Life is too short/But I will live for you.” ‘Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus’ is more convincing with its more traditional instrumental arrangement and Casablancas’s expressive vocal which reveals a touch of crooning and even some telling falsetto moments. Melody is also strong while lyrics tell a more interesting story: “I want new friends, but they don’t want me/They’re making plans while I watch TV/Thought it was you, but maybe it’s me/I want new friends, but they don’t want me.”

With the next track ‘Bad Decisions’ I’m beginning to question Rick Rubins’ production which results in a mess of imprecise noises redering this track almost unlistenable. It’s fast, highly rhythmic but aimless. ‘Eternal Summer’ slows the pace, ups the melody while Casablancas provides an effective falsetto performance before reverting to a heavier rock vocal. It’s a good and adventurous track although the lkyrics are a tad mystifying. ‘At The Door’ has a simpler keyboard backdrop, huge melody, and my favourite vocal on the record. Lyrically it also scores: “I can’t escape it/Never gonna make it out of this in time/I guess that’s just fine/I’m not there quite yet/My thoughts, such a mess/Like a little boy/What you running for?” Their are some highly effective brass flourishes in the song’s last moments. It’s my highlight of the record.

‘Why The Summer’s So Depressing’ is mid paced with moving lyrics: “I sing a song/I paint a picture/My baby’s gone/And I don’t miss her/Like a swan/I don’t miss swimming/All my friends left/And they don’t miss me.” The vocal is hugely expressive and believable. ‘Not The Same Anymore’ is a glacially paced ballad with Casablancas giving a jazzy, crooning style vocal which is occasionally struggling against a badly arranged and produced instrumental chorus. It still survives as another very good album track with a door-opening melody and hook-laden chorus. Lyrically it’s also one of the better songs: “You’re not the same anymore/Don’t wanna play that game anymore/You’d make a better window, than a door.”

The record ends with a strong ‘Ode To The Mets’ which seems to echo the band’s past and lowest moments as a team: “I was just bored/Playing the guitar/Learned all your tricks/Wasn’t too hard/It’s the last one now/I can promise you thatI’m gonna find out the truth/When I get back.” And then: “Gone now are the old times/Forgotten, time to hold on the railing/The Rubik’s Cube isn’t solving for us/Old friends, long forgotten/The old ways at the bottom/Of the ocean now has swallowed/The only thing that’s left/Is us, so pardon/The silence that you’re hearing/Is turning into/A deafening, painful, shameful roar.” The melodic refrain, simplistic instrumental backdrop and powerfully expressive vocal that travels the scale reminds me of the most moving, epic French ballad. Hell, it’s another favourite track. The album is something of a mixed bag but after several listens there are far more highs and very highs than lows. It’s also one of the band’s best records to-date.

4/5

THE NEW ABNORMAL track-listing:

The Adults Are Talking
Selfless
Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
Bad Decisions
Eternal Summer
At The Door
Why Are Sundays So Depressing
Not The Same Anymore
Ode To The Mets

www.thestrokes.com
www.facebook.com/thestrokes // www.instagram.com/thestrokes // www.twitter.com/thestrokes

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Biography

The Strokes are an American rock band from Manhattan, New York. Formed in 1998, the band is composed of singer Julian Casablancas, guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti. They are one of the most prominent bands of the garage rock and post-punk revivals, aiding in the resurgence of indie rock in New York City.

After the release of their EP THE MODERN AGE in January 2001, a bidding war ensued among major labels in order to sign the band. Eventually, RCA Records signed them and released their debut studio album, IS THIS IT, later that year. It earned them international commercial success and critical acclaim, appearing on several year-end and all-time album lists. It was followed by ROOM ON FIRE in October 2003 and FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH in January 2006, both receiving similar commercial success. They then entered a hiatus for several years.

Toward the end of their original record deal with RCA, the Strokes released two albums in three years with ANGLES in March 2011 and COMEDOWN MACHINE in March 2013. Both received lukewarm responses from critics, with the latter being their worst-performing album commercially. They released their first collection of material after their departure from RCA, THE FUTURE PRESENT PAST EP, in June 2016 through Casablancas’ independent Cult Records label.

Later that decade, the Strokes began working with Rick Rubin on a new album. In April 2020 they released their first studio album in seven years, THE NEW ABNORMAL, through Cult and RCA. Critics generally considered the album a return to form.


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