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The Strokes - The New Abnormal (Album Review)

Thursday, 16 April 2020 Written by Graeme Marsh

“And the ‘80s bands, oh, where did they go?” Julian Casablancas sings on Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus, a highlight from the Strokes’ comeback effort ‘The New Abnormal’. Take a look at your own album is the obvious answer—on the song in question, is it any coincidence that its staccato keyboard chord sequence mirrors that of New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle?

Whether it is a mere snippet reminding us of that decade, or a full blown song (step forward Bad Decisions, which is a dead ringer for Generation X’s Dancing With Myself) it’s pretty clear where the Strokes' influences lie. The only surprise here is that producer Rick Rubin had no involvement with any of the originals, as the nods to the past continuously crop up like thinly veiled tributes.

Warm keys dominate the largely minimalist At The Door, for example, until there’s a burst of unmistakable, undulating synth chords lifted from Visage’s Fade To Grey.

The closer Ode To The Mets, meanwhile, makes the New Yorkers sound like Interpol attempting to play the melody from Abba’s Lay All Your Love On Me. It’s the oddest moment here. It’s not only the distant past that’s recalled, either, as the smooth Eternal Summer finishes off with the band’s best Tame Impala impression.

Aside from so many obvious likenesses to days gone by, there are several classic Strokes moments to plug the gaps. A trademark guitar hook adorns Why Are Sundays So Depressing, while the brooding Not The Same Anymore boasts a melody taken straight from the band’s well-worn playbook. 

The LP’s finest achievement, though, is the fantastic opener The Adults Are Talking where a vintage Strokes guitar melody and a techno-like beat provide the basis for an infectiously catchy cut. Its jangly chorus is an obvious standout as Casablancas sings: “We are trying hard to catch your attention.”

‘The New Abnormal’ is the sixth studio album from the Strokes and, despite the blatant lack of originality on show, it’s comfortably their best since 2003’s sophomore effort ‘Room On Fire’. It may not have a song as brilliant as Reptilia among its ranks, but this is one nostalgia trip worth taking.

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