After seven years quiet, The Strokes have released a new album, The New Abnormal, in the midst of Covid19, on 10th April 2020 via Cult Records / Columbia. Their sixth studio album was recorded at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu and produced by Rick Rubin. With a movement away from that dirty bass sound we know so well of The Strokes, the band sound vastly different with this new record, perhaps their new abnormal.
The Strokes are singer Julian Casablancas, guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr, bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti. The band rang in 2020 with a show at New York’s Bar-clay’s Centre, and performed in London’s Round-house in February to spread the buzz about their imminent return and fire up some of the excitement. The sleeve itself is a focal point with the cover artwork being a painting by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird on Money. They have truly gone all out with the latest from them.
It takes a couple of listens to assess the nature of the music, as it is a big change from what we have come to know of The Strokes. And perhaps this comes with the change in times. Conceptual? Who knows. The opener, The Adults Are Talking immediately throws us, with head nods to artists like Little Dragon and also Belle & Sebastian. With copious amounts of guitar, some things remain the same but overall this is a massive turnaround for The Strokes with higher notes reached from Casablancas on the vocals.
Selfless is a ballad that uses much rhyme in it’s lyrics, “I am not scared, just don’t care, I can tell you what and where.” Eternal Summer is anthemic, an up-tempo catchy track that seems to broach this pandemic. Bad Decisions kicks off like a well-known Joy Division track and Why Are Sundays So Depressing is so far from this, another upbeat Summer song, there is an obvious shift for the band.
The personal standout for me is Not The Same Anymore, which kicks off with repetitive guitar and drums in the throes of a James Bond anthem with lyrics such as “you’re not the same anymore, you’d make a better window than a door.” Rhyming yet again, this time with metaphor. Ode To The Mets begins like an episode of Stranger Things before the guitar kicks in. Although clearly well-polished and with high production values, The New Abnormal is lacking something, and I think it’s that repetitive sound and those alto notes. An ambitious shift and highly abnormal for the band, the title fits, but aside from The Adults Are Talking there are few tracks that their fans will be able to feel hooked in. All in all though, a great reminder of the band’s talent.
The New Abnormal is out now, via Cult Records.