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The New Abnormal / Cult Records

April 12, 2020

TEST SPIN | ‘The New Abnormal’ Preserves Rock

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The New Abnormal is a mixed bag of both familiar and new styles of The Strokes’ sounds. Some songs are toned down or varied in pacing compared to their most renowned tracks. Meanwhile, songs like “Bad Decisions” evoke the raw essence of concentrated, upbeat sunshine and bliss that The Strokes are known for on some of their earliest jams. Twin guitars from Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. vitalize the track with raw energy yet also maintain its celebratory atmosphere effortlessly. In “Bad Decisions” and throughout much of the album, Julian Casablancas proves himself as a capable melody maker. From guitars to the pounding percussion and careening vocals, “Bad Decisions” a tune that easily gets stuck in your head. It is moments like these that define The Strokes entirely: They are inseparable from the image of classic rock — by emulating it, they have immortalized themselves and the previously dwindling genre of rock itself with yet another solid record’s release.

Casablancas is known for his entrancing vocal melodies and crisp delivery, but the instrumentation cuts through like tufts of clouds ruling a bright, pink sky. “The Adults Are Talking” hosts spurts of genius guitar blasts that call and answer to one another. The vocals on this track in particular are sufficient but nothing incredibly astonishing, compared to the rest of the album.

The grand music and otherwise tremendously unmatchable vocals trade the spotlight sometimes, yet many of the tracks like “Selfless” and “At The Door” boast all parts’ elements unifying to create beautiful and breezy obelisks of rock. It’s easy to forget one’s worries to the tune of The Strokes’ bubbly, electric journeys — they truly nail the vibes on this album. This is supported by “Selfless,” but even the more serious nature of “At The Door” feels like a call to something greater. Its strategically placed synths and backing vocals give it a sense of scale that feels uplifting to an ethereal degree. Nonetheless, “At The Door” captures the immense momentum that is key to The Strokes’ previous work including “Hard to Explain,” “Reptilia” and “You Only Live Once.”

“Why Are Sunday’s So Depressing” pivots from “At The Door” by borrowing its climax’s melody and taking an unmistakably lighthearted and carefree detour. The guitars ring out beside Casablancas’ summertime verse vocals, and synth-accompanied guitars turn the rest of the song’s all new guitar melodies into reflective, sublime moments of untamed audial joy. Similarly, “Not The Same Anymore” reaches deep into the depths of The Strokes’ releases in order to pull melodies from “Is This It,” an acclaimed track off of their debut studio album. The choruses pay tribute to “You Talk Way Too Much” off of Room on Fire. It’s an ode to the past and a bit of an outlier on The New Abnormal in that it is rather glum in tone. Sad, bird call-like synths tie the song together nicely at the end and provide a silver lining of hope as the vocals vacate for the outro.

Songs such as “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” and “Eternal Summer” combine attributes of The Strokes’ older work and that of their newer 2016 releases. In “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” zapping synths provide a neo-retro vibe; the chorus’ drop introduces a blissful break that feels like a mighty dip away from the more nostalgic verse progressions, yet the chorus still links seamlessly with the verse to formulate an epic, dynamic jam. In contrast, “Eternal Summer” uses vacant sounding guitar strings and incredibly dynamic vocals to produce an airy tone that evokes an energy even more dated than that which The Strokes typically rely on. Both songs sound good, and the amazing “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” is a staple of the album, but I could see “Eternal Summer” outliving its magic due to its extended track length.

The Strokes have certified once again that their signature sound is going nowhere fast, and have simultaneously proven that they are readily able to experiment with their music as well. The New Abnormal will please both those looking into the past and those looking to the future. Overall, The Strokes are successful in preserving their massive legacy of lightning tunes once more and they continue to defibrillate the rock genre before it can ever slip away.

 

Cory Koehler is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ck594@cornell.edu