The Strokes are feeling the Eighties and I’m here for it. Their first full-length since 2013’s unfortunate but aptly named Comedown Machine, The New Abnormal stands as the first Strokes release in a very long time that I felt the need to relisten to after the first exposure.
Of course, this is not going to sit well with the folks who got into the band’s more electronic side, or have been anxiously awaiting the return of Is This It?, because this ain’t it. Still, there’s much to love for some of us oldheads in the audience.
Therein lies the controversies. Second single “Bad Decisions” mixes Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” “Gloria”-era U2, and a healthy dose of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” So much so, in fact, that Idol and his collaborator Tony James have been credited as co-writers. Richard and Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs get the same treatment for “Eternal Summer,” so it may be The Strokes took the bona fides a bit too far.
Still, I really like “Bad Decisions.” I think “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” may be one of the best Strokes songs in many moons, and “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” is the ’80s homage Beck keeps trying to make but doesn’t quite hit.
The centerpiece of the record is a keyboard-driven dirge, “At The Door,” which debuted a month ago with a creepy animated video recalling both the Heavy Metal movie and Fantasia’s “Ave Maria” closing sequence. It is at the same time not what you expect from the band but, thanks to Julian Casablancas’ laconic delivery, so “Strokes” you can’t avoid it. People use the descriptor “haunting” a lot, but this truly meets that criterion.
I’m not sure how I feel about the production. Coming from the one and only Rick Rubin, it is dry, loud, and compressed. I have to expect that if you’re going to fork over the funds to get him, that’s the sound you’re looking for. Just know that if you buy this digitally, the sonics do not play well with others and frequent volume adjustments will be necessary.
If Comedown Machine disappointed you, yet you are still ready to reengage with an open mind, I think you should give The New Abnormal a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and, at the very least, you’ll put some additional money in Billy Idol and the Butlers’ bank accounts.