We are living in a strange time. Years from now these will be the weeks we look back on and say “that is when the world changed…” And it feels like no one really knows how to deal with change at the moment. Some of us are running toward news and science, seeking to understand everything. Others are running away from everything and completely disconnecting. Me, I ran toward my headphones. They have been my warm Spotify has been my warm safety blanket. Allowing me turn my brain off even for fleeting periods. And if you are anything like me you looked for that one sound that would be your quarantine mix. For me that is The New Abnormal by The Strokes. An album that came out at the perfect time for me because it’s mix of low-fi recording and vague 80s synth pop made me feel like I was putting on a comfortable old hoodie. It may have taken them seven years and the recording genius of Rick Rubin but it was worth the wait.
The lead track The Adults are Talking, feels familiar and new all at once. The unstrained vocals of Julian Casablancas still sounds equal parts piercing and lackadaisical. The second track selfless has a Beach Boys Pet Sounds quality but the real genius of the album starts in its third track Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus. It’s self aware and poignant; it has fun with melodic riffs and the vocals at time are more instructional letting the audience know what is coming up with breaks and lines like “Can we switch to the chorus right now.” The refrain of that chorus is “I want new friends but they don’t want me” which plays like Morrisey at the peak of the Smiths. From there the album mixes it’s New York sound with every one of the bands influences from The Cure to The Clash.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is that The Strokes have rebelled against the trends of their contemporaries. Bands like the Arctic Monkeys felt compelled to change and grow. If I hear one more band wax poetic about exploring their sound because they sell out and write a country album I am going to lose my shit. The Strokes haven’t discovered a God Damned thing in 20 years. Even the album cover borrows some of its style cues from Is This It . They haven’t evolved or discovered, they have just done what they do better. And I fucking love it.
The TL/ DR version of this is that this band changed my life once upon a time. They are one of those bands that will always get a free pass for some of the less remarkable shit they have done because, when you really need them, they produce an album like this.
Return to the low fi indie punk sound they built a reputation on