Back some nearly 20 years ago, The Strokes had the CD release of their famed debut Is This It? delayed and a TV performance cancelled in the massive security sweeps following 9/11. Now with a far more proliferated internet, social media and a plentitude of streaming services but everyone stuck inside on account of the coronavirus, was The New Abnormal going to face a similar fate? Absolutely not. Besides, how could they wait any longer when Comedown Machine was seven years ago? Let’s spare ourselves such trivial questions and get on with it.
The New Abnormal kicks off with an uptick number, “The Adults Are Talking”, a “She’s So Cold”-esque mix of straight-forward indie strumming and short-of-breath Casablancas vocals set over simple electronic drums. “Selfless” moves into mesmerizing, psychedelic tones more akin to dreampop than early Strokes; “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” shifts gears into the realm of the utterly danceable. “Bad Decisions” rides on many of the prior dynamics of “The Adults”, albeit with a bit more punch.
Who cranked up the groove? “Eternal Summer” slips sensually into the pocket while floating ethereally in the clouds, a good 6 minutes and change of euphoric abandon. “At The Door” back-burns the back-bone for a fuzzing, pulsating collage of synthesizers, while “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” dials down to the knob to a tone of weary striving for escape. “Not The Same Anymore” slides even further down this path with contrasting energetic choruses, leading to the closer “Ode To The Mets”. A swirling, beating cataclysm, “Ode” starts out as a subdued nudge, an implication if you will and works its way into a conclusive shove. Then just like that, the whole thing’s over- all of 9 tracks but still engaging and entertaining nonetheless.
The New Abnormal shows further signs of musical evolution for The Strokes, but if we’re being utterly honest the content of the album is not necessarily what its title implies. If anything, it is more of a return-to-form for The Strokes after a string of middling albums and a long break since the last one. It would be illogical and incoherent to return entirely to their previous form in the early 2000s, as it would be for any artist; ergo this is an album perfectly sensical and suited for where The Strokes find themselves in their career. Hopefully this trend continues and it doesn’t take quite as long to deliver the goods.