‘The New Abnormal’ struggles to break out of The Strokes’ past

Band’s newest outing is a mismatched LP, tries too hard to be two albums at once

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Artist: The Strokes

Album: “The New Abnormal”

Label: RCA

Release Date: April 10

Rating: 6/10

If “The New Abnormal” makes one thing clear, it’s that The Strokes are no longer the young New York City rock heroes they were in 2001.

They’re now a seasoned group of musicians who are more interested in going for a darker and more experimental project that reflects on their two-decade-long career.

From the album’s opener “The Adults Are Talking,” it’s clear that the group wants to go back to the past, with Fabrizio Moretti’s fast and thoughtful percussion opening the project. 

But in trying to branch out and become more experimental, the moments where they return to their roots fall short in comparison to their previous work. The drums on the opening track sound too much like 2001 and remind listeners of beats from their debut album’s tracks “Take It Or Leave It” and “Hard to Explain.” 

But judging by other efforts on the record to change their sound, The Strokes seem to know they’re too old to be repeating what made them famous.

The third track “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” solves a few problems made in the album's introduction but fails to solve others. This mix of too familiar and too different is echoed in vocalist Julian Casablancas’s lyrics, when he shouts, “I want new friends.” It sounds like a cry for help, as if he wants to change up his style but continuously falls into new habits.

It’s obvious through Casablancas’ shining vocals and Albert Hammond Jr.’s excellent guitar playing, though, that the album’s biggest flaw is not musical ability but something much worse: repetition.

Despite these issues, there are definitely strong highlights. On “Selfless,” Casablancas’s vocals are as emphatic as ever, as he sings, “Time we lost, that’s all my fault.” But these regrets are gracefully converted into a beautiful anthem for the many broken hearts who wasted years on unrequited love, singing, “I waited for a century, waste my breath, no lessons learned.”

On the drum and guitar-heavy “Bad Decisions,” the group evokes the unmistakable sounds of the ‘80s. The Strokes give Billy Idol writing credits for the song, which shows clear inspiration from its writer’s “Dancing with Myself” and Modern English’s 1982 hit “I Melt With You.” These outside influences shine beautifully, unlike the failed attempts to repeat their own styles on much of the album.

The modern New York rock sound this group practically invented is everywhere on the album, but in some cases, is its downfall. The group shows a clear level of experimentation across all tracks, from the electronics on “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” to the psychedelic flare on “Eternal Summer,” but it doesn’t always work.

Nineteen years after their critically acclaimed debut album, The Strokes have come far, but it is a shame to see them spending much of their newest album trying to recapture the spark of their early 2000s output.

Despite some attempts to branch out, and strong efforts to incorporate their original styles into this jumbled project, not all experiments succeed. We can only hope that they learn from these mistakes.

The arts desk can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com