The New Abnormal
2020 / RCA – Rock
Instead of the band’s latest album, The New Abnormal, being exciting and promising, it ends up being dull, boring and seems to last longer than it really does.
In the early 2000s, many journalists and critics praised The Strokes and called it “the salvation of rock music” and “a new beginning for a new trend”. In a way, they were not wrong. The visual style of the band, a mixture of marginal rock and Harvard starch, in harmony with the sound of amateur teen rock, the creative combination of garage instruments with a stylized vocal as if it had been recorded on a poor quality microphone, made that the band stood out in a great way. The group’s first album, Is This It, was the combination of the best of both worlds: violent New York rock and soft catchy pop songs. And this style created by them was extremely influential in the decade to come. In fact, the beginning of their career was not only important for them, but also for the movement they were creating.
However, from their debut album, The Strokes went on a roller coaster that only goes down. Even though at some points during the band’s career they managed to do some interesting projects, like the album Room On Fire, which ended up being more intense than the first, and Angles, which was an experiment that put modern pop into an emphasis, all the projects seemed to follow the same essence that they presented in their first project, thus giving the impression that the band did not really advance. In fact, the sound they presented on their first album was promising, innovative and provocative, but its saturation and prolongation has made it lose its impact over the years. Instead of the band’s latest album, The New Abnormal, being exciting and promising, it ends up being dull, boring and seems to last longer than it really does.
Most songs are boring. They present the same instrumental all the time — there was a time when it became difficult to distinguish whether we were on a bridge, verse or chorus. In reality, the worst thing is not only that the individual tracks sound totally monotone, without variations in their vocal or instrumental expression, but the fact that the entire album does not have a climax and does not have a track that stands out more. The lyrics, in turn, are dull trying to be something they are not. These are full of metaphors and external connections at the same time, which in the end, none ended up being fully developed. Basically, this is what defines a track on this album: an instrumental monotone throughout the duration of the track together with lyrics full of information that the band barely had time to develop and that the listener barely had time to digest.
The best example of this is already on the first track, “The Adults Are Talking”. The title seems to come straight from a debut album by a rock band that thinks: “adults are boring and fuck the world”. Ironically, The Strokes are these boring adults, the difference being that they still pretend to be a beginner band (or at least, a mixture of that with a more responsible touch). They start the track by saying “They’ve been sayin ‘you’re sophisticated / They’re complainin’, overeducated” referring to the criticisms they received at the beginning of their career related to the fact that they were privileged taking the place of unprivileged people. In short, the track is a critical response and a rebellion against the superiors, however, with hundreds of references in the middle of the lines that make the whole message difficult to understand. Instrumentally the track is not so exciting. Despite the different moments composed by electronic synthetic samples, the base ends up being the same making the track long and boring.
In general, this is repeated in almost the entire album. “Eternal Summer” has an interesting intro and chorus with Julian’s voice very high and has occasional synthesizers doing a nice job, but the rest of the track is pretty boring. In addition, the lyrics seem undecided between placing your priority in a relationship or in any climate issue on Earth. The morbid “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” also has its positive moments in the high voice and synthesizers. Other than that, the track sounds pretty indifferent to everything and at times it seems that Julian seems to sing as if he has no life — and it is not even in a positive way that it would add to the concept of the track. Although “Not The Same Anymore” has an instrumental that seemed to be a good move to be a good thing, the lyrics ended up being quite confusing and forgettable.
Of course, there are some tracks here that ended up being more pleasant. “Selfless” is the most atmospheric thanks to the almost harmonious mix between Julian’s voice, nostalgic synthesizers and drums. In fact, this is one of the most memorable tracks thanks to the moment in the chorus that Julian makes his voice very high when he sings: “But I will live for you”. Furthermore, the vocal performance is incredible in this track that talks about him not wanting to live without his lover. “Bad Decisions” also has a nostalgic tone that ended up fitting with the very repetitive and direct montage of the lyrics. “At The Door” also ends up being one of the most characteristic on the entire album thanks to the greater use of synthesizers. However, the biggest moment of the track is in the chorus in which we have Julian with his very sentimental and sincere voice that is raised by a shy celestial choir in the background while he sings about an unforgettable relationship. This probably ended up being the best on the entire album.
In short, The New Abnormal turned out to be quite tedious. Even in tracks that are more different or lively, there are times when they become monotonous and boring. Ironically, they are not bad, in reality, they are very decent, however, they do not go beyond this mediocrity. And this coming from a band that has already had great influence on Rock is very disappointing. Even tracks that have a cool rhythm and had a certain potential, like “Ode To The Mets”, ended up being spoiled by The Strokes still trying to do something very similar to what they did on their first album. In fact, even with the nice songs, this album ended up being pretty uninteresting.