The new abnormal indeed
11 April 2020-
The Strokes' 6th studio album was released just yesterday, i.e. Friday April 10th 2020. In other, perhaps more favorable circumstances, this would have been a big deal: after all, the Strokes stand as one of the most prominent rock outfits out there, and have done so for the better part of two decades now. Which is a feat in itself, given the transient nature of entertainment in general and music in particular these days. There is a reason for that: since their 2001 debut, the revered Is this it, they successfully introduced their very own sound into the global mix, beautifully combining various sorts of musical trends and inspirations into a highly distinctive — and appreciated — sound.
Which explains why the ever so aptly named The new abnormal had so many music aficionados waiting: the band had not released any new albums since 2013’s Comedown Machine, whose relatively lukewarm reception left many slightly unsatisfied. Granted, they issued an EP back in 2016, with encouraging material on it, but 3 tracks are sadly not enough to make a vocal fanbase happy. Also, frontman Julian Casablancas has been keeping busy in all those years, releasing a number of projects including a noteworthy appearance on Daft Punk’s record breaking Random Access Memories, also in 2013. That only meant that people were more excited at the prospect of the 5 New York kids being reunited for a full LP…
And that growing excitement was (finally) answered with a highly satisfactory musical offering: 9 tracks with rich and diverse textures and stylings, following in the band’s tradition of electro and 80’s rock elements mixed in a rather unique blend of post-rock / indie / post-punk melting pot. Helmed by legendary producer Rick Rubin to cap it off, the band clearly worked on refining these various musical threads: “At the door” is a somewhat experimental electro-pop bit which nicely highlights Casablancas’ ever smooth vocals, “Not the same anymore” and “Ode to the Mets” offer denser, heavier sounds while keeping very harmonic and ever so slightly melancholic, “Bad decisions” is essentially an ode to 80’s MTV rock, and latest single “Brooklyn bridge to chorus” (nice pun, by the way) acts as a beautiful reminder of what that decade had to offer, complete with far more contemporary guitar riffs and expertly placed faux distant vocals…
All in all, this album is a quintessential Strokes creation: it cleverly mixes the old and the new, crystal clear production and old keyboard beats, upbeat and softly somber songs, making a lot of references along the way (from Billy Idol to MGMT to the Arctic Monkeys to… the list goes on) yet sounding very much like… themselves. And that is perhaps the biggest bit of criticism one could make about this album: it sounds too much like a Strokes release, meaning it doesn’t explore genuinely new territories all that much… Which is always sad considering the sheer talent these guys possess and their de facto position in contemporary music.
Yet again, let us not make the even greater mistake of being ungrateful in these times of need, and let us instead enjoy these 45 minutes of beautifully crafted music as was intended and as is very much recommended… Ask your doctor.