The Strokes – The New Abnormal (Album Review)

Formed in 1998 with Julian Casablancas (vocals), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), Fabrizio Moretti (drums), as well as Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. (guitars), The Strokes was born in New York City. A part of the Garage Rock resurrection, they independently releasing their EP The Modern Age in 2001, soon signing on with RCA Records, creating a buzz, and releasing their debut full-length Is This It later that same year. A big hit for the band, and ushering in a new era where Garage Rock was popular, they went on to release four more albums throughout the next decade.

Naturally growth ensued for The Strokes, as heard on 2005’s First Impressions of Earth and 2013’s Comedown Machine, but since the 2016 EP Future, Present, Past, it has been relatively silent. So where has The Strokes gone? Will they return? Fear not, because they are back in full force with The New Abnormal, their first full-length album in seven years.

Out on Friday, April 10th, 2020 via Cult/RCA Records, The New Abnormal offers up nine brand-new songs. Long overdue and highly-anticipated, the Rick Rubin produced LP pops alive with “The Adults Are Talking,” a pleasant intermingling of melodic plucking on an acoustic, the low tides of an electric guitar, and brief eccentric twinges. Exciting to hear, Casablancas’ vocals are wispy and heartfelt as Moretti’s percussion snaps and slaps in the background, keeping the song alive and upbeat.

Then a repetitive, fluttering refrain opens “Selfless” and overlaying it is the aroise singing of Casablancas. Meanwhile, Valensi and Hammond stir their guitars in a vacillating harmony, all while Moretti taps on the high hat. Next, the flowing composition “Bad Decisions” offers up the catchy hook, “Uh oh, making bad decisions / making bad decisions for you.” A single initially released back in February, it is wonderfully easy to sing along with and the entirety of the track offers an ease that is anchored in Fraiture’s swinging bass line.

Sitting right at the midpoint of the album is “Eternal Summer,” which is just as bright as the season itself. Here, the vocals hit a soprano in the beginning, but switch off and on for a more aggressive rasp as the song goes on. Similarly, the drums pack a punch as the mosaic of guitars explore a variety of sounds. Next, the synth-driven single “At The Door” is a bit of a somber, if sincere, exploration into the inescapable aspects of beingness. Its instrumentation takes an explorative route, whether it be the usage of dramatic, robotic sounding auto-tuned vocals or the epic ambiance set by its keys. With a strange cartoon music video to boot, “At The Door” is the most radically awesome song on The New Abnormal.

Some song titles need utterly no explanation. Case in point, “Why Sundays Are So Depressing” is far too relatable to question. Quick and multi-faceted thanks to its use of whirring synth to the rebounding rhythm of both keys and guitars, the song follows the end of a relationship. Lyrically, it explores the more emotional aspects of the break-up with lines like, “Don’t ask me questions you don’t want the answers to.” This is before the conclusion of The New Abnormal which arrives in the form of “Ode To The Mets,” a track that builds together some odd pieces for its multi-colored masterpiece. In this, the album winds to its finale with the low crooning of Casablancas dancing beautifully alongside stirring keys and guitars.

In short, The Strokes build a pleasant auditory journey with The New Abnormal. Casablancas’ singing is often mid-toned with an ease he rarely leaves behind, unless he is rasping in frustration or hitting the high notes in a chorus. Additionally, the drums are distinct because of the snappy, brilliant tones they provide, while the guitars play in a flurry of harmonic plucking, oscillating rhythm, and brief, higher-pitched melodies. An enjoyable ride that is apt to thrill their many fans, Cryptic Rock gives The New Abnormal 4 out of 5 stars.

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