THE PRESS RELEASE: “The New Abnormal is The Strokes’ first new album in seven years. The band debuted the first new song and Mike Burakoff-directed video, At The Door, during their performance at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ University of New Hampshire rally. The New Abnormal is The Strokes’ sixth studio album and was recorded at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu and produced by Rick Rubin. The album’s cover artwork is a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird on Money.”
MY TWO CENTS: Speaking of abnormal: It feels a little weird to think of The Strokes as a classic rock band. And I suspect Julian Casablancas and his cohorts might take umbrage at the notion. But like it or not, the NYC indie-rock hipsters fit the bill of a successful heritage-rock outfit. They’ve been together for a couple of decades now. They’ve amassed a catalogue of chart-topping albums and hits (along with the mandatory slate of so-so solo albums). They’ve influenced countless bands in their wake. They’ve gone on hiatus and come back. They’ve maintained their original lineup. They’ve obviously got an instantly identifiable sound. And like the old pros they are, they know when it’s time to quit dicking around and give the fans what they want. That seems to be the credo behind their sixth full-length disc and first album in seven years, the excellently titled The New Abnormal. After the uneven landscape of 2011’s Angles and its subdued 2013 followup Comedown Machine, this compact, cohesive and confident nine-song set feels like something of a deliberate return to more familiar form. The guitars chug and chime and clang. The rhythm section is tight and punchy. Casablancas busts out his familiar mix of scratchy crooning, anthemic warbling, falsetto excursions and deadpan Lou Reed observation. The songs are mostly catchy and pitched right down the middle, with plenty of ’90s indie-rock nostalgia on display — along with enough new ideas to keep it from feeling like a rehash or a cash-in. Admittedly, for my money, it could use a few more upbeat numbers and a few less moody tracks. Even so, this is the most accessibly Strokesy Strokes album to come along in a while. And if that’s the new normal, it should be pretty easy to get used to. It will be even easier if they don’t keep us hanging several more years for the next one. Though that would be classic Strokes.