“The New Abnormal” is The Strokes’ first album in seven years. An ode to ‘80s artists, the album sounds like a hand labeled, Billy Idol mixtape you would discover in your parents’ attic.
However, this isn’t to say that it is a completely standout album. Rather, it meanders with its separate messages. Some tracks rebel, such as the opening “The Adults are Talking”. Some meditate, such as in “Selfless” and “Bad Decisions.” The album is only cohesive in its ‘80s-inspired and reflective undertones.
The nine-track album opens with “The Adults are Talking,”which the band premiered during their so-called global comeback show in Los Angeles. Casablancas’ voice begins hushed before gradually increasing with an urgent tempo. It also adds to the old mixtape feel of the album with a bit of studio talk at the song’s end.
The second track, “Selfless,” is a personal favorite. It is one of the few songs on the album that clearly portrays a relationship, with Casablancas lamenting the fact that he can not live without his lover. The lyrics alluding to body-shaming, however —“How did this fit in your story / why’d you let them judge your body?” — contribute to the album’s meandering messages.
Another personal favorite is the tongue-in-cheek “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus.” The track is reminiscent of not just ‘80s bands, but old Strokes music a la the early 2000s.
What truly cements “The New Abnormal” as a love letter to the ‘80s is the album’s sampling of iconic tracks from the era. The Strokes’ “Bad Decisions” borrows the main instrumental track from Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” The Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” is sampled in the album’s “Eternal Summer.”
The emotional ballad “At the Door” is perhaps the saddest song on the album. The song’s narrator speaks of a goal always out of reach, which supports the idea that this album represents The Strokes’ current state of mind. With the quiet strings and Casablancas’ inimitable falsetto, the song is perfect for that nighttime, long drive home.
Two more introspective tracks close out the album. With the simple guitar strings and nostalgic lyrics, “Why are Sundays So Depressing” is reminiscent of the late Tom Petty. “Not the Same Anymore” alludes to many different interpretations: that the band can not please the fans; that Casablancas has caused the end of several relationships; that the band members have evolved over the past seven years. Contrasted to the quiet, reflective “At the Door,” “Not the Same Anymore” instead features grueling questions from Casablancas, his voice no longer soft, but gurgling rocks.
“Ode to the Mets” ends the album. The final song is not just a love letter to New York, but also the band members’ history together. It is truly the best song to end such an introspective album.
Overall, “The New Abnormal” is reflective of the Strokes’ current state of mind: hopeful, but still stuck in transition, trying to find their footing after seven years’ hiatus.