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The Strokes return to form on ‘The New Abnormal’

With a seven-year gap between proper album releases, the New York outlet unloads nearly two decades worth of upbeat and longing nostalgia on their latest release, The New Abnormal.

Perhaps it’s catching up for lost time, or what it really sounds like: a band getting their groove back.

They gave us an EP in 2016, but that was hardly enough to tide Strokes fans over. Comedown Machine released in 2013 was the last “official” word from the band. You either love that record, praising it for its ambitious and infectious soundscapes, or hate it, attacking the cardinal sin of changing one’s sound.

Comedown Machine falls higher in my ranking of The Strokes’ catalogue due to the fact that it’s such a justified and interesting departure. The New Abnormal may cherry pick the best elements of albums like Room on Fire and First Impressions of Earth, but like Comedown Machine, it crosses it’s own skyline.

“The Adults Are Talking” is the right way to enter this album. It doesn’t attempt any flimsy foreplay and gets straight to the point, seemingly comparing the questionable actions of a former lover to those in positions of power.

Julian Casablancas croons in his signature hushed tone before an earworm-worthy chorus takes off around him. The melody throughout the song is infectious, yet probing, with Casablancas trying to find answers even if he’s unsure of the questions.

The first single, “Bad Decisions,” sees the band taking a stab at new wave. The opening chords are almost exact to Modern English’s track, “I Melt with You,” acting as transport to a candy-coated lounge. It feels a little too on the nose for The Strokes, but it works just fine.

The Strokes may be sticking to their comfort zone in parts of The New Abnormal, but they also make room to expand .

“At The Door” is a prime example of this, and one of the standout tracks. The boys take a cue from Casablancas’ side project, The Voidz, and adopt some dystopian energy. We find him in a broken state, waxing melancholic poetry.

You begged me not to go, sinking like a stone. Use me like an oar and get yourself to shore.

The accompanying video echoes this beautiful, mind-bending state.

The Strokes also use genres they’ve never touched thanks to the hand of guru producer, Rick Rubin. He gives them a Californian edge on the disco and reggae fusion, “Eternal Summer.”

At first, it’s a jarring mix, but Casablancas and the rest of the crew have enough self-awareness to make it work. They even drop in some of their nonsensical quirk, with Casablancas shouting: Hercules, your service is no longer needed.

The most moving song comes in the form of “Selfless,” a delicate love song. Casablancas cries out his declarations while lamenting on how society has treated his muse. Nick Valensi drops in some heart strung chords.

The Strokes dedicate the final track to another muse: New York City.

“Ode to the Mets” is a sorrowful anthem, looking to fact-check the highs and lows of the glory days with notes of nostalgia and melancholy.

The past may haunt them, but there’s nothing they can do about it. They’ve survived the people and place that may have tried to break them down, but one that fostered them, too.

The New Abnormal is true to its title, and gives The Strokes satisfaction in the story that’s escaped them and the one they’ve written in scrawl.

Rating: 4.5/5

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