Rick Rubin get The Strokes back on track with 'The New Abnormal'
It’s been almost 20 years since The Strokes achieved almost overnight success with their debut Is This It, and ever since then, their hit singles have been staples across all indie clubs night across the country. It is the opinion of many that the New York-based group have never quite lived up to what their early success had promised, with nearly every record since 2003’s Room On Fire receiving mixed reviews. But with much of the 2010s being spent working on side projects and collaborations, a new decade spawns a chance for The Strokes to come back stronger with a brand new album, The New Abnormal.
The opener, “The Adults Are Talking” is a cracking start to the record. Tight percussion is met with intricate guitar licks on the off-beats, reminiscent of some of the math-rock inspired indie music coming out of the UK in the late 2000s. Julian Casablancas’ voice is somewhat reigned in here, which despite being very well calculated, isn’t particularly indicative of what the rest of the record has in store.
Vocally, this album is undoubtedly a new peak for The Strokes. Casablancas hits new heights on cuts like “Selfless” and “Not The Same Anymore”, where his voice seems under much more control than it has been in previous releases, while still maintaining the boyish charm which has been ever-present across their discography.
Lead single “At The Door” could be a decent shout for the worst promotional single choice for any album in 2020. The track sticks out like a sore thumb on the record, with mundane synths attempting to build up towards a pay-off which leaves the listener with a less than satisfactory indie ballad.
Collaborations with the likes of Daft Punk, and his side project The Voidz, in recent years have helped Casablacas’ songbook expand greatly. This really shows instrumentally, with The Strokes taking more risks than on any other album. And although not all of them stick the landing, (notably the incessant “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus”), for the majority of the project, there’s a fair bit to get your teeth into. Rick Rubin’s production qualities shine particularly well on “Eternal Summer” and the garage rock slow-burner “Why Are Sundays So Depressing?”.
The Strokes’ aren’t reinventing the indie rock wheel with this album, but aside from a couple of forgettable cuts in the tracklisting, The New Abnormal provides us with somewhat of a return to form, and a multitude of stylistic avenues for the band to travel down in years to come.