Artist: The Strokes
Release date: 10 April 2020
Producer: Rick Rubin
Anyone who has been a fan of The Strokes will know that the wait has been excruciating. Though the band peppered the 2010s with LPs and a couple of albums, they never quite hit the mark like their first two legendary albums. Then again having the bar set this high could often falter any band, I suppose The Strokes too saw that happening with them. The lack of interpersonal relationships within the band, the constant falling out and the lack of a direction made it highly unlikely that they would even play together let alone come out with new material. Each member branched out into their own independent projects which are a happy melody in itself.
So here we are seven years later with the latest album amid a global pandemic. The title eerily reminiscent of the current times, The New Abnormal. If you are anything like I am, having grown up with Someday and Last Nite (Is This It (2001)), you would know this is more than just a refreshing throwback to the quintessential band of the 2000s.
With the riotous plunge unto the album with The Adults Are Talking, the band announces their arrival from the unsung hibernation. With each passing song, they seem to garner and progress into their familiar tones and grooves. There were many speculations when this song first hit the airwaves as more often than not there is a preponderance over lyrics and its metaphors and meanings. It is pretty straightforward in that it is about love and pining. The monotony of a sustained beat and tone makes for something that is adequate for the under-the-table foot tapping to set in motion.
Selfless brings in the ever so fascinating falsetto and high notes that makes most of The Strokes catalogue transcendental in its essence. The theme of pining for love and the hope that the lover would come soon enough and relieve him of the aching heart. The pain of not having to share the joy of life and its moments with the lover seems all too difficult and characteristically put together.
The songs Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus and Ode to the Mets are forgettable at best. Yet it manages to capture the essence that is this album. The former being an ode to the 80s music with the heightened use of the synth and the typical progression of what is defined as a “80s song”. Moving past this would be the best option as it is simply a minute too long for comfort. The Ode to the Mets is nothing but a long pretentious attempt at avant-garde tonalities. If you are a New York Mets fan maybe this would be something you would appreciate.
What follows are three well packaged songs that bring out what The Strokes do best. Turn the low foot taps into stomps until you want to break into a mindless dance. With the loud drums and the definitive guitar sound along with the rapturous Casablancas’ vocals, one is ushered into the imaginative dance floor with Bad Decisions. The song preemptively credits Billy Idol and Tony James for their seminal classic (if you haven’t heard that one, get on it!).
In Eternal Sunshine what might sound like a rock heavy version of Feels Like Summer by Childish Gambino, the songwriting veers into conspiracy-theory territory. This song is a fascinating take on climate change the last impact of the abuse meted out by humanity. This is the doomsday prediction set to the 80s groove just so that you might miss out on the lyrics and carry on with the step-dancing from Bad Decisions.
At the Door is my personal favourite in this album. The lazy crooning of Casablancas with the typical nature of music that is followed through which would most definitely taking you on a journey that the song sets forth. The galore of metaphors that are thrown into the lyrics is too much to decipher and I suggest a couple of listening session before you would like get into it. The need to escape from an uncomfortable situation and the difficulty therein is what I seem to decipher from this song. The discomfort and the struggle can be felt as he yearns and calls out in the chorus. The atmospheric meditations are adequately utilised in this song to add to the mystique of the situation.
In Why Are Sundays So Depressing, one can see an almost obvious Lou Reed influence in songwriting that has been something Casablancas himself holds close to his sleeve. It has an similar narrative as the other song in the album Not the Same Anymore. The matter of fact nature of the lyrics make for an engaging discussion of love and the appreciation of time and its inevitable passing. The idea of how the character wanted to waste no time pondering but spend whatever time he has with the woman he loves in is expressed in the former. Not the Same Anymore has the familiar childish cringe that is sometimes found in The Strokes. For a band that incorporates an adequate amount of metaphors (even this song) there is a value of cringe without which The Strokes album seems incomplete.
If the Basquiat cover art wasn’t enough indication of the newness, the band’s homage to the pathbreaking artist Jean Basquiat is an enjoyable addition. As we cower under the pandemic in dimly lit rooms across the world, maybe a headphone concert isn’t all that bad. Turn the volume up, clear the bedroom floor and escape into the 80s with The Strokes. It might not be a masterpiece and genre bending album like their 2003 album, Room on Fire. But if it is nostalgia of the outdoors that you’re yearning this album is a healthy and much-needed breath of the proverbial fresh air.
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