The Strokes’ sixth album, The New Abnormal isn’t labeled as such due to COVID-19, quarantine and social distancing but to the band writing all of their songs together instead of having Julian Casablancas write the album and the rest of the band add their distinct personalities only by playing their parts. The New Abnormal has all five members of the band putting in songwriting input and the result is nine satisfactory songs that are mellowed out garage rock and perfect listening for a cloudy afternoon indoors.
The Rick Rubin-produced album sounds amazing, of course it does, but the sonics of the album are still interesting. There’s a constant tug-of-war dynamic between the band’s fuzzy roots and their current fascination with the heroes of 80’s new wave. It is a curious sound that results in a fuzz-infused new wave sound that resembles Adam Ant mixed with Billy Idol. All the instrumentation here is fascinating to listen too. Sometimes they incorporate a lot of space and sometimes they let the bass do most of their work with the guitars adding all the personality. Casablancas’ vocal also does some interesting things here. There is the falsetto and the higher range stuff for sure, but there is more of the monotone vocal than on the past few releases. Everything is on the dynamic side of things and it is such a fun listen because of it.
Lyrically, these songs are all pretty point-of-view. You could say that about every song, but that term just seems more fitting than the word ‘personal’ here. These lyrics belong to Casblancas and they cover everything from not meeting expectations, to getting older, to climate change. They are not incredible in that standing, but they are certainly not bad. More likely this album seems to need dozens of listens to properly digest them and then you will still change your opinion on what exactly Casablancas is saying. Just enjoy the music when you need it and interpret it how you want too.
The New Abnormal might not be the best Strokes album, but it is not meant to be. The biggest takeaway from it is that it is a meaningful album that is worth listening to. How you interpret it is up to you.