By Gustavo Buenrostro
A laid-back tone with catchy choruses, The Strokes come back after seven years with “The New Abnormal.”
The two singles that were released prior to the album’s release, “At the Door” and “Bad Decisions,” made it difficult to tell what tone the new album would have, with “At the Door” having a more somber tone and “Bad Decisions” being more upbeat.
Although with the third single’s release,“Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” sounding similar to “Bad Decisions,” it made it a bit more conclusive as to where the album was in terms of tone.
The album does have some tonal difference with the more lively songs being at the beginning and the moodier songs being at the end, it actually meshes well and flows into it. There aren’t any jarring tonal shifts and it feels like a natural progression.
The best way to describe it is old friends meeting up for a party and hanging around, laughing about old times and as the party winds down, the mood becomes mellow and somewhat existential, but yet still nostalgic.
There are a couple of songs in the album that sound a lot like The Strokes like in“Not the Same Anymore” and “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” that have strong guitar over the chorus of the songs as well as similar chord progressions to their previous song “Someday” from the band’s first album “Is This It.”
Many of the songs on the album have an electronic sound somewhere in the background like “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” or even in the forefront like “At the Door.” What is interesting is when it gets to “At the Door,” the album shifts from that upbeat start it had with little to no electronic sound to a more somber, somewhat tired feel with more electronic instruments being used throughout the rest of the album.
Julian Casablancas shows some range in his voice in songs like “Selfless” and “Eternal Summer” where he goes into a falsetto voice. It’s not unusual for him to go there, but since his voice type is more of a baritone, it’s nice hearing some of his range.
One of the reasons that “The New Abnormal” has a laid back feel to it is because some of the songs have background noise or interjections from Casablancas at the beginning of the songs. At the end of “The Adults are Talking,” the chatter in the recording booth is heard as the band is preparing to start the next song, which in fact helps the flow of the album. Another example of this is in “Ode to the Mets” where Casablancas is already singing and he tells Fabrizio Moretti to start playing the drums and then continues to sing.
According to Albert Hammond Jr., the band’s guitarist, they had started sharing ideas with each other and the producer Rick Rubin before they actually started to record. It feels like they just came in together and were just making music with no real direction. And that can be seen as one of the album’s detriments.
The album isn’t trying to break in the fact that the Strokes have returned in full form. It feels more like it’s a transition from not being a band to just coming together and creating some music and seeing if it still works. And because of it, it doesn’t have the “in your face” vibe some people may have been expecting.
This is a good album that has some great songs but it may not be what people wanted from The Strokes after the seven year hiatus.