ALBUM REVIEW: ‘THE NEW ABNORMAL’ BY THE STROKES
The comeback album from The Strokes. Packed with nostalgia, excitement, and just a hint of electronica.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
‘The New Abnormal’ artwork featuring the 1981 painting ‘Bird on Money’ by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
It’s hard not to automatically assume what was on The Strokes’ mind when they named their most recent album, The New Abnormal… Of course, I’m not claiming that they are psychics, but the eerie familiarity with what is currently going on with the state of the world is laughable.
This nine-track album was announced the second we entered the 2020s, with the words that every Strokes fan has been wanting to hear: “The 2010s, whatever the fuck they’re called, we took ‘em off… And now we’ve been unfrozen and we’re back.”. It didn’t matter what kind of Strokes fan you were: whether you’re the one who barely knows the words to "last nite", or cried over people trash talking "Angles", this album release was bound to cause excitement for everyone.
The endorphin boosting opening track "The Adults Are Talking" proves they haven’t lost their touch. Yes, they may not be as charismatic as they were during their golden years, but the hooks in their tracks just seem so familiar; so nostalgic, it makes it difficult to dislike music like this. You can see the maturity of their music ability, playing with this new slightly electronic sound, with the use of the reversed cymbals, but intertwined with such catchy melodic lines, reminiscent of their early 00s releases. It made me actually feel quite melancholic: as if no time had really passed at all.
The NME critic Ella Kemp referred to this album as a “crowd pleaser”, and I have to agree. Tracks such as "Eternal Summer" and "Bad Decision" do just that. Yes, they could be condemned for being too predictable, but is that such a bad thing? Going into their 20th year of being a household name, after the release of their debut album This Is It, they have accumulated a cult following of dedicated fans. So surely, retaining their quintessential sound would only help appease their devoted fan base that has been waiting for new music for almost 7 years.
However, I must admit that while I did enjoy the older elements of the album which were reflective of The Strokes’ iconic sound, I do wish that they either tried harder to fit their music into this new modern electronic focused sound, or just didn’t try at all. Their use of lo-fi drum machinery unfortunately just sounds like an after-thought, compared to something that they tried hard to integrate into their well-loved sound. It’s clear to see that they’re trying to attract a new age of audience that may appeal more to this electronic sound. I appreciate the intention; I just wish it was better executed.
It’s important to stress that it did take me a while to get to grips with the album. The final track "Ode to the Mets", allowed me to realise that this is something that needs time to grow on you, with the melodic ballad creeping in after a false sense of pulsating electronica. Maybe it’s this slow burn that makes the album such an enjoyable one. Something that exemplifies what makes The Stokes such a distinctive part of the early 00s alternative scene is this begrudging likeability, and this is clearly projected in the music that they produce.
Writing by Tamzin Kraftman