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The Strokes – The New Abnormal Review

How long have The Strokes been announcing their return to music for? I swear its been well over a year since they first announced their reformation and return to the music scene, and only in recent months have we received any new material from them. The New Abnormal is their latest album, their first new material in seven long years. After a trickle of underwhelming singles, my confidence and expectations were all but shattered for the return of the guys that once brought us the great Is This It debut album.

Riding the underwhelming train all the way into their opening song, The Adults Are Talking, The Strokes had me truly worried as to whether or not The New Abnormal would even be worth the listen. It was never going to be perfect, especially with the singles clogging up two of only nine songs on the album. Thankfully, what surrounds this underwhelming open and misfired singles is nothing short of great. Sandwiched between miserably boring and generic indie tunes comes Selfless and Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus, both heavily relying on the supremely enjoyable return to form Casablancas’ voice has found.

Neither single has improved upon a second listen, not even in terms of how they orchestrate the album. Neither song is all that interesting, and they overstay their welcome by around five minutes collectively. Bad Decisions in particular sounds like a song that’ll be stapled to coming of age films twelve years down the line. A real earworm, but not in an interesting or engaging way, simply mediocre with a standard guitar riff and some painfully generic storytelling to its lyrics.

It’s hard not to engage/to engage with the rest of the material on offer though. The Strokes have moved further and further away from their initial image as a soft rock sound and entered into the terrain of synth-pop, indie tones. A mixture of The 1975 and Tame Impala can be found on their track Eternal Summer, and that’s not a favourable compliment. What made The Strokes so engaging to listen to is lost entirely to some generic sounding staples and an uninvitingly cold palette of generic song topics. Again, a catchy earworm with little more than a palatable first listen.

At the Door is still an absolute slog to get through, the inability to cut it down to a decent, listenable couple of minutes leads to an overbearing presence of trying hard to bring an artistic merit to the song. It’s not possible, with those few synth notes and the pretentious echoes of meaningless lyrics dragging The Strokes kicking and screaming away from their usual territory and into garbage that is oversaturated by countless other artists that have been doing it a lot longer and a lot better than they can.

Not entirely the return I had in mind for a band that floundered their way through twenty years of musical history, but it certainly could’ve been worse. There’s still talent hidden among the vacuous guitar riffs and attempt at reviving the post-punk scene. It doesn’t come across as smart as they believe it to be, but The New Abnormal will be a strong contender between hardcore fans of modern indie pop songs. The New Abnormal is really just an attempt at heaving the old normal into existence once more, with drastically mixed results.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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