New York post-punks’ return
Post-millennial NY rock-resurgents, The Strokes, have recently reformed after a seven-year hiatus to toss out their sixth full-length album – The New Abnormal – amid fear that they’d been RIP for good after allocating to other projects. What seems like a meta-commentary on itself, the album unabashedly siphons that ambrosial ‘80s new-wave nostalgia into their soundscape, straying from their typical bona fide indie sound. With a runtime of 45 minutes and a modest nine songs, this long-awaited reunion of the titans of the new rock advent has relit their putatively dead fire to appease the terrific crave for a Strokes resurrection (maybe this is why it was released on Good Friday).
Album opener, “The Adults Are Talking,” instantly transports back to their signature doo-doo-doo guitar picking and the softly effeminate and abrasively angst-laden singing the protean frontman, Julian Casablancas, employs. From just the song title alone you can easily deduce these blasé beauts are back in their original environment while his “maybe not tonight” refrain accompanies the beautifully ornate guitar riff to fade out.
And, as per usual, Casablancas’ deftly alternates between his signature croon and melismatic falsetto, even imbuing some subtly savory trills and squalls in “Selfless” and “The Adults Are Talking.” Be wary, intrepid auditor, these catchy melodies have the potential to incessantly resound in your skull ad infinitum. Prepare yourself to hum to the point of choler.
Tapping into their original, widely-fetishized aura, it sounds faithful to the sound fans are familiar with. Yet they keep it fresh with a newfound penchant for synth-driven symphonies like in the bad-tasting “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus,” the flat, repetitive “At The Door” and the rhapsodic denouement “Ode To The Mets.” It’s a new incarnation, but that is still intrinsically the Strokes.
They’ve settled on purloining all those pre-established sounds that have already garnered all the clout they redeploy, and shamelessly so. You can hear an echo of Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” and Modern English’s “I’ll Melt With You” in the seminal single of the album, “Bad Decisions.” Casablancas has assimilated the prototypical new-waver in this one.
Looking beyond the music itself, the album cover backs this poetic theft notion – it’s a Basquiat piece they’ve just slapped on the front. If anyone digs Basquiat, they’re surely going to be drawn to it which is also a bit of a cop-out, but not one they aren’t unaware of. It functions as another recalcitrant jab at themselves and their semi-posthumous status as a broken band scrambling up all the cheap tricks to revive their halcyon days.
Overall, The Strokes may or may not be back. It’s unlikely that this may be their farewell album, it seems they want the audience to know (and that they know) this is a come-back, not something to be seriously dissected and scrutinized. Like something unoriginal in an original way. So, instead of sneakily interpolating their influences, they fully embrace it and consciously, almost sardonically. It’s up to you to decide if it’s apropos.