Written by TJ McGlinchey
The New Abnormal, the seventh full-length record from NYC’s The Strokes, their first since 2016’s Future Present Past EP, is a solid effort by, at this point, career rockers. Julian Casablancas’ voice is roomier than ever. The guitar riffs are as staccato as you want them. The backbeats are back. There are a few surprises here which point to new territory for this bunch of downstroke strumming, kick-hi-hat-snare drumming, four-chord-song writing veterans. There are moments when this sounds like a whole new band. Keep your ears open for evolution.
The first single (track 6), “At The Door,” was released in February and features a fantastic animated video written and directed by MikeBurakoff. In the video, an animated child Julian Casablanca is led on an outer-space fantasy featuring evil rabbits, dying astronauts, a skeleton in a long black cloak, some kind of crystal-like empress, a space station, and little Julian eventually being led back home. The song is possibly even more fantastic than the video in its deviation from the norm of what this band does so well. There are no drums on this song. Repeat. No. Drums. This is a synth-laden dreamscape narrated by Casablancas crooning more than it is a proper song. The only thing tying it to solid ground is Julian’s verses which all sound like choruses. This is a real left run for them, and I like it a lot.
The second single (track 4), “Bad Decisions,” was released a week later and is a return to form. The tune has a The Cure-esque intro which returns, it flies into a hook that resembles a Billy Idol tune which I’ll do you the favor of not naming. The video features the band in various formats performing in a living room, on a game show, a telethon. Eventually, their faces melt and it ends up they were clones like a certain bad guy from a certain outer-space-opera movie. Classic Strokes material. Nothing wrong with a formula that works.
The third single (track 03), “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus,” starts out with a smattering of synth riffs that make me wish I had taken more of whatever chemicals would make me want to hear this mix of timbres. The verse is… a verse. The chorus goes back to classic Strokes territory. The guitar part in the middle section quotes Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days. In the chorus, he sings “I want new friends, but they don’t want me.” Poor guy. He can’t make new friends. I guess he’ll just have to write a song about it and go play it for fashion models on some back alley runway in Soho. This one is… meh. It’s a song.
This album marks a new direction for the band and expands on motifs, styles, and themes that populate all of their work. If you like The Strokes, you will love this album. If this is your first introduction, I recommend you visit their previous albums before diving into their latest.