Caleb M. S. — Staff Writer
Seven years since their last album, New York based alt/rock group The Strokes have returned with a brand-new album. Their first since the aptly-named Comedown Machine in 2013, The New Abnormal is lackluster but has bright spots. The biggest win off the album is the fact that the guitar line off the opening track “The Adults Are Talking,” has been stuck in my head for over a week now. However, the album seems to be devoid of true artistic passion, a claim substantiated by the album crediting Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” in “Bad Decisions.” Note for note, as a matter of fact. Despite the lack of excitement or extreme creativity within the album, it is not a flop or unpleasant to listen to. There is a time and a place for massive, swelling riffs, and aggressive vocals, but that has never been the aim of The Strokes as a band. The New Abnormal fits well into the group’s lineup and is at home in the more chilled-out vein that newer albums from well-established groups seem to fall into (i.e. Weezer).
Each song on this new project hovers around the five-minute mark, a little longer than the established norm in the mainstream world. The album itself sits comfortably at 45 minutes even, not a chore to listen too, but not short to the point where you finish and think: “Oh that’s it?” Only nine tracks on the album makes it shorter by song than most of its length, but the thoughts and movements of the piece feel well articulated though the sub-ten track listing.
Musically, the album does piece together classic Strokes melody and rhythm, with a little help from some legends of the business. Besides Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” is credited for “Eternal Summer.” Aside from the album opener, and “Ode to the Mets,” no instrumental moment shines alone in this project. Rather, the strength comes from the blend and balance all throughout.
Lyrically, there are no overtly aggressive moments in The New Abnormal. The band has shied away from making political music, and prefers to stick with inoffensive topics: a past lover, reminiscing on days gone by, ballads of love for their home city, etc etc.
The most listening hours I clocked on this most recent project from The Strokes were while I was at work in the factory, in a noisy environment. I didn’t feel like I was missing much for lyrical content, but the cohesiveness of the project makes for an easy listen, all the way through. Each song, for better or worse, sounds just similar enough to the previous that there is no real dissonance when going from piece to piece. Similarly, I logged two hours of straight listen to The New Abnormal while playing Minecraft, and the album felt plain good in that activity. The Strokes have created a project which will be sure to be played in coffee shops and restaurants for years to come. The music, lyrically and sonically, is non obtrusive, inoffensive. It does not detract from its surroundings, but does not command to be listened to without interruptions, as some projects I have examined this year do (IGOR, Norman F***ing Rockwell). No, The New Abnormal is anything but what the title suggests, and that is ok. There is a place for non-obtrusive music, and a growing need, really. The album feels mature, and comfortable. After all, as the opening track reminds us: “The Adults Are Talking.”
Instead of giving you a song breakdown this time around, I want to encourage you, as a writer and critic, to enjoy the music you may want to enjoy. I’m not naïve enough to think anyone takes my 600-800 words every two weeks as gospel, but if you read this portion regularly: thank you. Spend your summer listening to music you love, music that makes you happy. Take this time of relative isolation to explore new artists, listen to old favorites, and share music with those you love. If you want to talk music or anything else, reach out. I’d be happy to delve into intricacies of my favorite albums I never got the chance to share this year, or share in enjoyment with you. As for me, I’ll be listening to plenty of Lorde, Tyler, Lana, Ruralists, and more until I have the pleasure to write for you again. See you next August.