The Strokes return with their sixth album, 19 years on from their much lauded debut. The New Abnormal is released via Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records.
Label: Cult Records
Released: 10th April 2020
Format: CD / LP / Cassette / Digital
Another day, another oddly prophetic album title. “It feels so prescient because of the parallel between something like coronavirus,” says Julian Casablancas “but the name came from the [2018 California] fires, when Malibu basically burned down. Everything right around the studio where we were working burned down.”
It’s amazing how one person’s crazy can apply so perfectly to your own special alternative universe.
So welcome to Strokes album number 6. A whole 19 years on from the world collectively wetting themselves at the sheer agonising coolness of 5 guys from Manhattan in leather jackets and skinny black jeans. A time during which the collective band members have released 13 albums through side and solo projects. So prolific then, but just not quite in the way you might expect. And given the somewhat unenthusiastic reception to their last album (2013’s Comedown Machine) possibly not a surprise that a bit of reflection was required before this one.
Enter Rick Rubin. Genre-straddling producer of everything from hardcore to hip-hop to Adele. Renowned for a little bit of reinvention or revitalisation so seems a good fit for a bit of Strokes regeneration. But how to make The Strokes matter again?
Long gone are the halcyon days of being garage rock saviours and indie disco darlings. This band has undoubtedly struggled to find their place in the world in recent years. But (whisper it) ‘The New Abnormal’ seems to show signs of them finally beginning to figure this out.
There are some belting pop tunes on offer here. And a little bit of something for everyone from post-punk to synth-pop to glam rock. Opener, the aptly titled ‘The Adults Are Talking’ kicks us off with swaggering beats and lackadaisical Casablancas vocals. So far, so Strokes. Then the massive intro to ‘Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus’ kicks in. It’s one lawsuit away from being ‘It’s My Life’ by Dr Alban but seems to be a statement of intent. We are going to try and have some fun here! This is further evident in ‘Bad Decisions’, a ‘knowing re-write’ of Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’. In finding themselves, The Strokes have certainly tapped into a rich vein of late-century pop influences.
Possibly the best indicator of where The Strokes might (hopefully) be heading is ‘At My Door’. The lead single off the album finds the band in plaintive mood reflecting – ‘I’m not there quite yet. My thoughts, such a mess’ over minor chord synths and distinctly cinematic crescendos. There is an almost coherence here though. A togetherness that has been missing. Hold onto this and the next album could well be a bonafide belter.