Ever since The Strokes broke out in the biggest way since Nirvana, with 2001’s Is This It, every subsequent record has been seen as a pale imitation of their hit. We might have felt something similar about every record after Nevermind had there been more, or Never Mind The Bollocks, but it still was especially tough that the band that brought indie-rock back had nothing more to say. The group also seemed to sag, more interested in their side-projects than what brought them there, not to mention internal difficulties. But we’ve all still pined for something like the return of The Strokes that we fell in love with, and The New Abnormal is just about that.
Rivaling Grouplove’s Healer (QRO review) for the most accidentally appropriate corona virus-era album title, Abnormal starts with perhaps the best Strokes song since It, “The Adults Are Talking”. Yes, it’s classic Strokes, but absolutely great classic Strokes, singer Julian Casablancas’ laid back cool, but also resign, matched excellently with Albert Hammond Jr.’s stark, catchy guitar. No other piece quite reaches that high, but “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” is almost as good, and of course The Strokes have song about “Bad Decisions”. There is still probably too much synth on Abnormal (this is 2020, not 2000), but Casablancas is also finally able to look back with the wistfulness we all have for that era on songs such as “Not the Same Anymore” and “Ode To The Mets” (even if the latter doesn’t actually reference the most tough luck sports franchise this side of The Knicks).
For a long time, it seemed like the world didn’t need any more Strokes, that new records were just shadows, that new tours just chances to hear the old stuff. But we actually did need new Strokes, not Is This It 2.0 (that’s been tried too many times), but a new age of The Strokes that keeps as much as possible of what made the old days so good. Welcome to The New Abnormal.