I like the Strokes. If you’ve listened to my show, you may have heard me say that I think Is This It is objectively the best album of the 2000s, and I stand by that. Now of course, when someone says they “like the Strokes,” they mean the first two albums. Plenty of people probably don’t even know they’ve done anything since their second, Room On Fire. The camps are nowhere near as split as with Weezer, but fans’ opinions generally range from “there’s worthwhile stuff on the later albums” to basically forgetting about everything post-Room on Fire. I fall more so into the former camp, so I was going in hoping that The New Abnormal, their first full-length since 2013, would be the return to form they said it would be.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite. Most of the tracks are mid-tempo and ballad-like, and although none of them are really bad, they fall flat on first listen. The album’s instant highlight, “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” doesn’t quite hit the quality level of “Under Cover of Darkness”, their best post-RoF number.
But the album isn’t a disappointment either. This is the first time in almost 15 years that they sound like they’re trying to switch things up. On all of the band’s previous post-RoF releases, the choice cuts have been the ones that sound like a lost track from one of the first two albums. But none of the songs on this album could pass for having been from that early era—the band are clearly making an effort to change their sound for the first time in their history. And in fact, they’re actually starting to be serious for the first time in their history: they’ve scrapped the happen-what-may attitude of the early stuff for a more mature, worldly outlook, as indicated by their performance at a Sanders rally.
The New Abnormal isn’t their third best album (at least not on the first try), but it does show the band finding their way into the future rather than trying to riff on the past. Even if it’s not a thrilling listen, it gives hope that the Strokes may finally release another album the skeptics will count as their third.