The Strokes - The New Abnormal Music Album Reviews

The NYC band’s first album in seven years is sluggish and slight, rendering their signature sound as background music.

Just as the clock struck midnight on a new decade, Julian Casablancas delivered the news that Strokes fans had been waiting to hear. “The 2010s, whatever the fuck they’re called, we took ‘em off,” he announced at the band’s New Year’s Eve show in Brooklyn. “And now we’ve been unfrozen and we’re back.” No matter where the last 10 years have left you—Angles defender, Voidz apologist, Meet Me in the Bathroom nostalgist who gave up hope a long time ago—it was easy to feel a trickle of excitement. After all, what Strokes fan wouldn’t want to believe this band’s spotty recent output was the result of a long-dormant period and not because, you know, they all hate each other and have a dozen other projects they’d rather focus on? And what better time to launch their comeback than a holiday marked by great expectations and even greater partying?

The New Abnormal, the Strokes’ sixth album and first in seven years, mostly just feels like a hangover. It’s sluggish and slight, and the strongest hooks are so familiar that they require additional writing credits for the ’80s hits they copy note-for-note (Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” in “Bad Decisions,” Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” in “Eternal Summer”). Of course, the Strokes have never been subtle with their references—that’s part of the fun—but they’ve become increasingly uninterested in the tight, classic songcraft that once felt entirely their own. With producer Rick Rubin, a presence so hands-off as to feel merely symbolic, their signature sound is rendered as background music, a set of bleary-eyed mood pieces, all hovering around the five-minute mark before fizzling out with a shrug.

A generous read is that it’s a style they have never attempted before: pushing their songs to their limits, maintaining a state of Zen in their machinelike interplay. In the nearly 20 years since Is This It?, the Strokes have never quite found a way to successfully expand on their blueprint. There are the loungey, drum-less ballads you can expect to find about halfway through all their tracklists (“Ask Me Anything,” “Call Me Back,” this album’s first single “At the Door”). And then there are the proggy, metallic experiments that Casablancas now seems content to channel through Voidz, a project he has plainly admitted is where his passion lies. Historically, neither mode has led to anyone’s favorite Strokes songs. And so the best moments on The New Abnormal, like the genuinely pretty “Ode to the Mets,” feel like a step in the right direction. When everything locks into place, it’s like watching an old pinball machine light up, one level at a time.

Another small victory is that Casablancas’ falsetto has improved. What once felt like a novelty (at best) actually leads to some striking moments. The verses of “Eternal Summer” are sleek and exciting—that is, until the unfortunate Austin Powers impression of a bridge waltzes in to kill everyone’s buzz. “The Adults Are Talking,” with its steady build and soaring climax, adds to their legacy of great album openers. After his distracted performances on Angles and Comedown Machine, Casablancas now sounds tasked with keeping spirits light; from the slurred Sinatra croon in “Not the Same Anymore” to his pop-punk sneer in “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” he seems up for the challenge.

But the spark fades quickly, and you’re left with a set of promising ideas for Strokes songs with their fire stomped out. Casablancas has spoken about a politicized edge to his recent lyrics, but his allusions to the climate crisis (“Endless Summer”) and body-shaming (“Selfless”) fail to inspire much urgency in his bandmates. And while their trademark fuzz once made their albums sound like well-loved mixtapes handed down through the decades, the same quality now makes you feel like they’re piecing together scraps. Disjointed songs like “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” and “Selfless” literally grind to a halt and start over after each chorus, like they tried to figure out a better transition and then just gave up.

“You’re not the same anymore/Don’t want to play that game anymore,” Casablancas sings in a ballad near the end of the album. And why should he? No band deserves to be held to the standard they set in their 20s, and no fan should want to hear their heroes rehash old poses for a quick paycheck. The current democratic nature of the Strokes (the music is credited to “The Strokes,” while the first three records were credited exclusively to Casablancas) means that simply bringing ideas to fruition requires more compromise—that is to say, more work. It also means that a band who should be settling into their legacy is still suffering from growing pains. “There was never a feeling of: we fucking made it! Roll credits!”, Albert Hammond Jr. recently confessed about their rise to fame. “It was always this kind of half-anxious, half-exciting ‘What the hell is happening?’” For all its faults, The New Abnormal might capture how the Strokes are feeling: not ready to fade out, not primed for a comeback. Right now, they’re just way too tired.


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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Strokes - The New Abnormal Music Album Reviews The Strokes - The New Abnormal Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, April 17, 2020 Rating: 5

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