The New Abnormal
The Strokes have always kept their feelings at arm’s length, but there are traces of deeper introspection on their sixth album, which – despite itself – is something of a crowd-pleaser.
When The Strokes performed at the Roundhouse in London, Julian Casablancas told the rapturous crowd: “I know what people wanna hear, and I hate giving it to them.” Is this flash of self-awareness a sign that The Strokes, now all in their late thirties and early forties, are finally growing up?
It’s been 19 years since their seminal debut ‘Is This It’, and with album number six, ‘The New Abnormal’, they’re still five of the slickest white men in guitar music – but now they’re older and wiser, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I am having a selfishly good time,” Casablancas admitted at that gig, before double-checking: “But are you also having a good time?”
The answer, applied to ‘The New Abnormal’, is an easy yes, as while the album explores a few new directions, it’s still often fairly recognisable. The best stuff sounds familiar – few people ever have, or ever will, write a better riff than that of ‘Last Nite’ – and the worst, only peppered in small amounts, feels beyond experimental, as if pointedly ignoring what everyone else in indie rock is doing to stay fresh nowadays. Instead Julian and co. often settle into an afterlife of cantankerous synths only belonging to The Strokes.