Album Review: The Strokes – The New Abnormal

The Strokes are 22 years into their musical career as a band and with their 2020 release The New Abnormal, they’re showing no signs of slowing anytime soon. This is the New Yorker’s sixth studio album and it has all the elements of a typical Strokes offering.

Opener The Adults are Talking has an infectious little riff throughout, which contrasts from vocalist Julian Casablancas’ dry, almost monotone vocals. This track has reminiscent feels of their first album Is This It, the building melodic synth-y guitar tone in the chorus balances well with the fast paced vocal melody line. There is a little guitar solo towards the end of the track, it has a sweet distorted tone to it which fades out into what sounds like a rehearsal for the band, instruments crash and there is some faint talking between band members.

This leads into Selfless, a eighties sounding track with possibly the highest vocals from Julian on the entire album, but it’s single Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus that begins with classic eighties synth that has a melody infectious you can’t help but to move to it. It’s the type of track that you can picture at a festival (if they return anytime soon- thanks Covid-19!). 

I want new friends, but they don’t want me, they’re making plans while I watch TV, thought it was them, but maybe it’s me, I want new friends, but they don’t want me

The chorus has a rather sombre undertone to it that doesn’t compare to the musical styling of the song at all, but this is what is so great about Julian and co, they’re great at disguising negative lyrics within an upbeat sound.

Samples taken from Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself is the first thing that jumps out to the listener during Bad Decisionsthe chorus line echoes the same melody as the Idol classic with Billy being cited as a writer on the song. The track is a bona fide classic and a great single for the band. Wonderfully produced by legend Rick Rubin, the Strokes have managed to come out on top again; after their previous release Comedown Machine (2013) didn’t seem to capture the heart of the loyal fanbase they’ve built up over the past couple of decades. There are more 80’s throwbacks during Endless Summer with nods to The Psychedelic Furs (again the Butler brothers noted as writers of the song). At The Door has a wonderful synth-y start to it but it constantly feels like it’s building to a huge chorus or wall of hallucinogenic noise but it unfortunately never gets there, which personally seems like a missed opportunity.

Unfortunately this is where the album starts to drop intensity and interest, aptly titled Why are Sunday’s so Depressing is a tedious ballad that doesn’t quite fit with the entire feel of the record. Not The Same Anymore has a James Bond theme feel to it, but with the happiness of a funeral, Casablancas can really suck the life out of a track, but his monotonous tone is so captivating that you can’t help but be hypnotised.

Closer Ode To The Mets has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, it could be that the “Mets” are a metaphor for old memories, it’s beautifully haunting to start and the lyrics reflect the tone in which they are sung in. 

The standout feel to this album is that The Strokes don’t care who is watching or listening, they’re not writing music for the radio or mass listens, they’re getting their emotions and feelings across in only a way they can. One thing that massively stood out within the record was that there was never a real show of musicality within the musicians, barely a guitar solo and no stand out drum fills or basslines. Maybe this was intentional but it’s a shame as on second or third listen it possibly feels like a Julian Casablancas solo album with the other “Strokes” as hired guns? However, overall there are definitely some great standout singles and new classics, a solid effort from one of the pioneers of the 2000’s indie scene.

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