Album review: The Strokes – The New Abnormal

THe Strokes

THe Strokes - Credit: Archant

NYC legends pull their socks up for this Rick Rubin-produced return

The Strokes

The Strokes - Credit: Archant

Seven years is a long time in anybody’s book, but many Strokes fans could’ve been forgiven for giving up hope they’d ever release a sixth album after 2013’s stuttering also-ran Comedown Machine, which received a commensurate lukewarm response.

Even their last release, 2016’s Future Present Past EP, pre-dated Trump’s presidential era by a few months.

This year, their gig in support of Bernie Sanders’ campaign perhaps hinted at a new, politicised, direction for singer Julian Casablancas’ droll drawls, but a well-received show at Chalk Farm’s Roundhouse in February leant heavily on nostalgia instead, giving little away.

And while The New Abnormal could reference the shifting-sands, post-truth era we’re still adjusting to, you’d be hard-pressed to nail down where.

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The cover art could be a clue or a distraction – a 1981 painting by NYC street-art legend Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird On Money, his tribute to jazz musician Charlie Parker.

And musically, The New Abnormal is more reinvigoration than a reinvention. The first song to be previewed, At The Door, boasted fat, undulating synth vibes and offered a thoroughly enjoyable blast of dusky ‘70s sunshine, while still channelling a cool nonchalance.

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It perhaps points to more fertile ground for the future, while Bad Decisions, the second track to be released, was soaked through with the needly, fuzzed guitar and melodic turns that won the five-piece such huge acclaim in the early 2000s.

The rest sit between these posts, some winning out, others not.

Closing gambit Ode To The Mets strives in vain to be an insouciant anthem, and brash synth stabs pepper the flesh of Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus with ‘80s theatrical drama - an acquired taste.

The jangle-pop chassis of The Adults Are Talking is better, dressed in brittle drum and cymbal, and off-kilter effects put a woozy, disorientating slant on opener Why Are Sundays So Depressing.

But it’s arguably Selfless, a pained soliloquy of unrequited love in which the fairytale keyboard motif hints at a happy ending, one day, that is the record’s hidden gem.

3/5 stars

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