- 10 Apr 20
Solid Enough Return From The New Yorkers
While Julian Casablancas might have laid on the New York cool a bit thick at last year’s Electric Picnic, The Strokes’ performance reminded all present of what a great rock n’ roll band they are. People might easily have forgotten this, given that their last recorded output was back in 2016, and that was a mere E.P. The band admitted as much themselves, with Casablancas recently saying, “The 2010s, or whatever the fuck they’re called, we took ‘em off”. When your debut album revitalised guitar music all on its own, perhaps it’s easy to feel you’ve done enough.
It’s been a while coming, then – the last album was 2013’s Comedown Machine - but has The New Abnormal been worth the wait? Well, kind of. When the first single arrived earlier this year - ‘At The Door’, all fat analogue keyboards and minor scale riffs – it was a bit disappointing. “Not trying to build a dynasty,” sang Casablancas, “I’ve lost this game so many times before” It seemed they might be about to lose again, but things improved immeasurably when the second release arrived a week later. Music fans of a certain age couldn’t help but hear a bit of The Billy Idol/Generation X “classic” ‘Dancing With Myself’ in ‘Bad Decisions’ and this was a good thing, as it made for a superior song. “Making better decisions”? Indeed they were. It should also be noted that Billy Idol and Tony James receive their deserved credit. The song itself is the sort of tight, angular rock/pop that we were hoping for.
‘Eternal Summer’ – another highlight – has you reaching for the credits again as ‘The Ghost In You’ by Psychedelic Furs is there in the verse melody, earning the Butler brothers an unexpected payday. When Casablancas sings “your silence is no longer needed” you can’t help but agree with him as these two songs recall what was so great about The Strokes in the first place.
‘The Adults Are Talking’ – open hi-hat, muted guitar, inventive solo – and ‘Selfless’ – nice line in falsetto from Casablancas – and the bright keyboards of ‘Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus’ are all worth hearing too, as is ‘Why Are Sundays So Depressing’. That song taking things at a slightly slower pace with guitarists Hammond and Valensi copping some of the slovenly chords of 70s Keef N’ Ron, albeit with Lou Reed subbing for an on-holiday Jagger.
Things end poorly though. ‘Not The Same Anymore’ goes nowhere, and takes a while to get there, and ‘Ode To The Mets’ is another dirge, despite the amusing request for “drums please, Fab”. Casablancas moans, “I was just bored, playing the guitar” which might be part of the problem.
Still though, there are more hits than misses overall. Is The New Abnormal anywhere near their first couple of records? No, of course it isn’t, but there’s enough here to justify their continuance as a going concern.