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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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“The New Abnormal”: The Strokes Exceed Expectations With a Mature Masterpiece

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PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE THE STROKES

The Strokes have a roller-coaster of a discography. Their much-hyped debut album “Is This It” basically cemented the rock group as one of the most influential groups of the 21st-century. By the time the group’s third album was released, Julian Casablancas and the gang took a darker approach,  beginning the separation of opinions within the fanbase. In the 2010s they released the mostly fun but slightly uninspired album “Angles,” followed by the generally underwhelming “Comedown Machine.” Then the band of New York-natives disappeared with no signs of life for seven years. However, despite the musical and personal bumps in the road that its members experienced during the band’s hiatus, The Strokes have returned with “The New Abnormal,” a 45 minute, nine-song album some of the longest songs in their discography. They teamed up with producer Rick Rubin this time, and boy, was their return worth the wait. 

The first song on the album, “The Adults are Talking,” sounds like a classic Strokes song with an added instrumental section and a softer, more eerie surface. That is, until Casablancas’ falsetto breaks the walls and opens up the entire song with a powerhouse of an opener. 

Casablancas’ falsetto also shines on the next song, “Selfless,” a short and sweet ballad without a ton of lyrical depth. Although the compressed high-pitched synths were initially a turnoff, the third song, “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” which talks about the difficulty of friendships with a sticky and punchy chorus, is also a great track. Up next is “Bad Decisions,” which is a fun, 80s-inspired cut with a Billy Idol songwriting credit. There are a few songs on this album highlighted by that same  80s sound. 

The latter half of this album hits elite territory. It starts with “At the Door,” which kicks off with this crunchy keyboard sound, eventually adding Casablancas’ melodramatic vocal performance. Between the guitars coming in at the chorus, the hauntingly beautiful choir, and Casablancas’  piercing lyrics and singing, this track truly delivers a tear-jerking chain of events. This song is minimalistic but it goes to show how stellar songwriting and composition can trump any production technique. This also cements the opinion that Casablancas has never sounded better on an album in his career.

“Not The Same Anymore” is another personal and powerful cut on the track list that deals with nostalgia and the pain and regret that may come with it. The last song, “Ode To The Mets” wraps everything up perfectly. With themes of disappointment, age, memories and callousness, it combines the ideas of the entire tracklist in one song without feeling rushed. 

For a band that is about 20 years old, six albums in and hasn’t made an “amazing” album since their second, this album is the best you could have asked for, and then some more. They know who they are at this point in their career. This album might not be widely considered as groundbreaking but it is unique, and it is so obviously The Strokes’ trademark sound, with some added synths that they featured in “Angles.” With no bad song on this tracklist, this was a mature album that faces the reality of getting older and the soreness of change throughout our lives. 

As we all go through this dark time in light of the pandemic, there will be both physical and mental obstacles that we must face. Know that you are not alone and change is happening for all of us. This album will help me cope with the darkness that is our reality –  hopefully this can help you guys too.

 

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    Themi MichalakisMay 12, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    Read this after listening to the album. Loved it and I love your review of it. I haven’t listened to the band in a while but this is really some of their best work

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