Ram Jams: ‘The New Abnormal’ Is New but Not Abnormal




Genre: Indie rock, post-punk revival

On a playlist with: Arctic Monkeys, The Voidz

The deets: After seven years without an album release, The Strokes are back with “The New Abnormal.” It’s filled with guitar riffs that hearken back to their debut “Is This It,” plus references to ’80s rock, using segments from other songs, such as Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” Though most songs are slower than regular rock, this album is enjoyable for its lyric value and instrumental polish. 

The album begins with “The Adults Are Talking,” a throwback track sounding remarkably like older Strokes songs, but with Julian Casablancas’ vocals at the forefront, not hiding behind guitar. The chorus resembles that of other Strokes discography as well as Casablancas’ work with his other band, The Voidz. His falsetto on this song, as well as on “Eternal Summer,” is clear and more refined than on 2013’s “Comedown Machine.”

“Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” the third single off the album, is catchy, and I love it for its New York title (as well as that of “Ode to the Mets”), the lyrics and the keyboard rhythm. Casablancas reflects on his relationships with friends, “I want new friends, but they don’t want me,” as well as with his ex-wife, “Juliet, I adore,” while reminiscing about the greatness of ’80s bands. 

The Strokes debuted “Bad Decisions” at a Bernie Sanders rally in February (a bad decision to do that then and there?). It’s not my favorite, listed as a “valley” only because I don’t think it’s as strong as everything else on the album. Its music video reflects the album’s nostalgia for the past, improving the song with a ’70s-themed story. I highly recommend the music video for “At the Door”; its graphics are beautiful and the story within is moving. 

The penultimate song, “Not the Same Anymore,” could fit right in on Arctic Monkeys’ “Humbug” — listening to this track right after “Fire and the Thud” is disconcerting for their similarity, but it’s also heartwarming. After Alex Turner opened his latest album with the line “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes,” The Strokes may have responded with a song that’s melodically and lyrically reflective of Arctic Monkeys sounds. “You’d make a better window than a door” is the sort of oddball lyric Turner would write, but it’s sung by Casablancas. 

“Ode to the Mets,” the first single which hinted at the album’s release back in December 2019, is a “fab”-ulous track, with Casablancas’ spoken “Drums please, Fab,” directed at his drummer, Fabrizio Moretti. It’s slow yet catchy, and Casablancas’ vocals show his full range, low to high and whisper to belt. It was the best song to release first in terms of content and atmosphere, and it’s a beautiful close to the album. 

My biggest disappointment with this album is its length. After seven years without an album, listeners deserve more than nine songs. I wish there were more to obsess over. Some have complained about the album’s production and how it is compressed to be too loud, but it just sounds like a more polished Strokes album — we can finally hear Casablancas’ words instead of mumbling, and most songs don’t lose the Strokes-like quality.

This album is for fans who love The Strokes but might be apathetic to The Voidz — it’s much less experimental than the latter, but it’s still less garage-rock than the former. 

The bottom line: It’s been too long since The Strokes were together, but their time apart has brought us a more cohesive album than their previous releases. I’ll be singing along for the foreseeable future, much to the chagrin of my parents.

The peaks: “Selfless,” “Eternal Summer,” “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus”

The valleys: The album’s length, “Bad Decisions” 

The verdict: 9/10