The New Abnormal is the first album The Strokes have released in over half a decade on April 10, 2020. Fans woke up that Friday morning to 45 minutes of pure indie rock bliss. Originally from New York City, they’ve been making music together since 1998, and are now considered quintessential indie rock. A few of the songs on the album had been previewed at live shows over the last couple of years. Listeners will find that this album has a bit of a different sound compared to previous albums, but surely will not be disappointed. If you’re looking for an indie modern take on 80s British Rock, this album is for you.
The Adults Are Talking – The opening track of the album starts with a catchy riff followed by lead singer, Julian Casablancas, hazy voice. The message seems to have a double entendre, those two interpretations being the political climate of the world or a relationship with a love interest. Although the phrase “the adults are talking” is never stated throughout the song, it can be thought that there’s a group consistently referenced that consists of the “adults” or people that act like they know better than Casablancas. The song is upbeat, and definitely has a different feel compared to previous opening tracks by The Strokes, maybe best described as a little more summery.
Selfless – The second track is a moody love ballad of sorts. With twinkling synths overlaid on an electric guitar, this song can easily be put on repeat for hours. The theme of yearning is prominent throughout the song, and can be heard in the chorus, “please don’t be long, ‘cause I want your love. I don’t have love without your arm. Life is too short, but I will live for you,” (https://genius.com/19557808). It emulates the feeling so many of us go through when we put more into a relationship than we’re receiving.
Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus – The song is like a peek into the past, both musically and lyrically. Throughout the song 80s synths can be heard and even verses that question what happened to the 80s music. On a more serious note, Casablancas discusses the dizzying struggles of adulthood, and how it seems like all the efforts he makes in different areas of life don’t seem to be enough. From struggling with his friends and bandmates to his recent divorce with his wife of fourteen years, Juliet Joslin, Casablancas seems to be in a reflective state.
Bad Decisions – This track reminds me so much of Modern English’s “I Melt With You”. As stated with previously, the album as a whole reminds me a lot of the British Rock scene that captivated the world in the early 1980s. The lyrics seem to talk of the struggles of admiring someone and being annoyed with them at the same time, thus “making bad decisions with you”. This can be viewed as the blinding effects love has on a person. Casablancas’ voice is sticky and staticky, some fans would even describe it as “toffee-like”.
Eternal Summer – In theme with the name, this track is the longest song on the album. Its slow and consistent drums lull the listener into a place that feels like a sticky hot summer evening where the sun is sinking into the sky. I’m realizing that the adjective is coming up often – “sticky”, but doesn’t anyone else feel like that while listening to The Strokes? It’s just so sweet you can’t seem to get out of it! For some reason I think of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton while listening to this song. The lyrics reflect the meaning of the album’s title. In an interview with New Musical Express, Casablancas says, “The new abnormal’ was something [Brown] said during the Malibu fires [in 2018], and there’s a parallel between global warming and the coronavirus. A similar kind of threat to your reality,” (https://www.nme.com/news/music/the-strokes-julian-casablancas-new-abnormal-fourth-favourite-record-2646068). The lyric, “this is the eleventh hour,” displays the sentiment that the planet is going through difficult times both environmentally and politically.
At The Door – The sixth track on their sixth album was originally released as a single on February 11, 2020 at a Bernie Sanders rally. It’s definitely one of the more emotional tracks on the album. According to Genius, there are allusions to two of their older songs in this track, “Games” from their 2011 album, Angles and “On The Other Side” from their 2006 album First Impressions of Earth (https://genius.com/The-strokes-at-the-door-lyrics). It’s a bit melancholy, but honestly describes low places that everyone goes through, especially times of waiting.
Why Are Sundays So Depressing – Personally, I find this song less depressing than the previous track, but the lyrics can sink your mood if you’re recently experiencing a breakup. Casablancas sings of the loneliness of no longer experiencing everyday life with someone you love. His beginning lyrics seem quite contradicting, because he sings of people not missing each other, but the rest of the lyrics seem to mean the opposite. His voice resembles The Cure’s Robert Smith in this song.
Not The Same Anymore – This song sounds moody and sultry, with Casablancas crooning the first verse about how a lover has changed. Honestly, the song seems like one of those backhanded apologies where he’s saying he’s sorry, but continues to wallow in “woe is me” type self-pity. The last minute of the song is an instrumental outro with a soft drum beat in the background and the faint sounds of a bass and church-like synths.
Ode To The Mets – I love when the last track on a record ties up a story, and “Ode To The Mets” executes that perfectly. The title is in reference to the baseball team, the New York Mets, because that’s the state where the band originally got together. The song itself seems like a goodbye or a moving on of sorts. Throughout the album, listeners can see the themes of doors closing and yearning for lost love, but with lyrics like, “gone now are the old times,” Casablancas is finally moving on, though he explicitly states it is not easy (https://genius.com/19508106).
I really enjoyed this album from start to finish. Personally, I don’t think there was a “bad song”. Though the sound does not perfectly match previous albums by The Strokes, it is nice to see how they are experimenting with their music. It’s interesting to listen to an album that’s written by someone who is far into their adulthood experience, and it reflects throughout the lyrics. Rather than being about new young love and excitement, it seems to reflect more on opportunities that have been missed, changes that could have been made and the difficulties of moving on. It’s a grown-up sort of indie rock if you will. I think one of my favorite lyrics out of the entire album comes from the opening song, “But then it don’t make sense when you’re trying hard to do the right thing, but without recompense,” (https://genius.com/The-strokes-the-adults-are-talking-lyrics). It just shows how kindness or goodness can be overlooked in the world, but that shouldn’t stop people from being kind and good. I don’t know, I’m probably just going off on a tangent now. Overall, I would give this album a four and a half out of five Spinnaker Sails.
“The Adults Are Talking”, “Selfless” and “Eternal Summer.”
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